How to Build a Workplace That Supports a Diverse Team

by Janey Zitomer
January 22, 2020

Creating a workspace that supports diversity requires a multifaceted endeavor. Companies must combine education-based initiatives with resources that allow employees to feel accepted as individuals. 

We recently spoke to five Seattle company leaders about in-house daycare programs and plans for gender-neutral bathrooms. They told us of dedicated mother’s rooms, a well-being stipend for remote employees to set up their office spaces and adjustable workstations. 

Providing tangible resources is important, but they would be mere standalone benefits if executives didn’t also focus on increasing minority representation and encouraging ongoing inclusivity training in the workplace. Find out how these companies check both boxes, below. 
 

Trupanion
Trupanion

The leadership team at Trupanion emphasizes the importance of “adhocracy,” or forging one’s own path, whether that be on client projects or internal committees. 

In 2017, Recruiting Manager Amy Kirsch created the company’s first employee resource group, TruPride, with that value in mind. The group has since created benefit resources for transgender team members and hosted education classes on gender inclusivity and allyship. 

Content Manager Marissa Villegas told us more about how Trupanion offers its employees a space for consistent growth, below. 
 

Diversity is important, but it's only the first step. What actions do your team and leaders take to ensure all your employees have the support they need to thrive?

I appreciate the open office hours that our director of people operations hosts every week. You can come to her to discuss any topic in a safe space. The leadership team at Trupanion has also been supportive of emerging employee resource groups. I think it’s key that Trupanion encourages continuing education. As part of our learning and development effort, we continuously host CE classes about how to be an effective workplace ally to all diverse populations. 

Do away with the bureaucracy you may find in other organizations.’’

Of these actions, what has been most impactful in creating a workplace that supports diversity?

Trupanion team members often get a kick out of one of our more unusual company values: adhocracy. Do away with the bureaucracy you may find in other organizations. Instead, our goal is to allow team members to determine the direction of projects, their future and the company as a whole. Because of the commitment to this value, individual contributors organically created important ERGs like our TruPride and TruLOVE groups. Every person is given a voice and should feel empowered to be loud and make an impact.

 

What physical aspects of your office are designed to support a diverse team? 

Trupanion has multiple private wellness and mother’s rooms to support team members throughout the day. We also have an on-site daycare that comes as a benefit to working parents. One child can attend daycare from 6 months to 3 years of age for free.

 

OpenMarket
Openmarket

VP of operation isn’t Seujan Bertram’s only title at OpenMarket. She’s also the executive sponsor for the company’s employee-led diversity, equity and inclusion group. As such, she oversees both committee and company-led efforts to make OpenMarket as inclusive as possible. This year, the team plans to bring in expert consultants to help them work out the most effective long-term roadmap for their D&I mission.

 

What actions does your team and leaders take to ensure all your employees have the support they need to thrive? 

The name of the diversity, equity and inclusion group signifies the different aspects of our mission. Diversity means having representation of a variety of voices in our workplace. Inclusion means creating a culture that invites everyone to participate. Equity ensures fair treatment, equality of opportunity and fairness in access to information and resources.

Over the past few years, we’ve worked to increase the percentage of women at OpenMarket by function, managerial level and overall — and to attract more applicants from other underrepresented groups. 

We also provide our staff with information and educational opportunities to promote a diverse and inclusive environment. And we engage with communities to support under-represented groups that want to enter tech.

Inclusion means creating a culture that invites everyone to participate.’’

Of these actions, what has been most impactful in creating a workplace that supports diversity? 

Last year, we hired a global head of recruiting with expertise designing programs that attract candidates who may have been traditionally excluded from common recruiting practices. We have also been reviewing the tools and processes we use to evaluate candidates so we can move from looking for cultural “fit” and focus on cultural “additions.”

 

What physical aspects of your office are designed to support a diverse team?  

In our new Seattle office, we offer adjustable workstations for each employee and a variety of food that meet diverse dietary needs. Gender-neutral bathrooms are in progress.

 

Limeade
Limeade

Hayley Mesojednik, recruiter at Limeade, Inc., is a member of the company’s D&I council, Kaleidoscope. She told us that Kaleidoscope council members partner with the people team on D&I initiatives throughout the organization. 

 

What actions does your team and leaders take to ensure all your employees have the support they need to thrive?

One of our main focuses is creating an inclusive work environment where everyone can bring their whole selves to work and feel a sense of belonging. We do this by encouraging authentic manager and leader relationships where employees feel heard and supported with life at work and outside of work. We also hold regular D&I training for managers and employees so that everyone is able to continuously grow their knowledge in the space.

We sponsor quarterly engagement and inclusion surveys using our own product. We then analyze the data and leverage it to arm managers so they can lead conversations with their teams and make changes. Our people team creates custom activities based on the results.

We sponsor quarterly engagement and inclusion surveys using our own product.’’  

Of these actions, what has been most impactful in creating a workplace that supports diversity?

We work really hard to make our employees feel cared for and enable them to bring their whole selves to work. Whether it be developing strong relationships in one-on-ones with managers, joining an ERG or having the support of people team coaches, we truly want every employee to feel like they can be exactly who they are at work. We strive to continuously create a culture that supports that.

 

What physical aspects of your office are designed to support a diverse team? 

We have a combination of collaborative workspaces where people can brainstorm and quiet spaces for heads-down work time. We encourage flexible schedules and work-from-home days so that employees have the flexibility they need to be successful inside and out of the office. 

We also have a private mother’s room at our HQ for those nursing. We provide our distributed employees with a “well-being” stipend they can use to help set up their home office exactly how they like. We do our best to make sure employees who are not in our office still feel like they are a part of the Limeade culture.

 

 

Zipwhip
Zipwhip

 

Zipwhip’s SVP of People, Kirsten Spoljaric, said the company continuously evaluates their hiring processes by looking for ways to ensure candidates feel they would be supported in Zipwhip’s office environment. But how does she make sure that same attention is given to current employees? By relying on committees that represent the group makeup as a whole. 

 

What actions does your team and leaders take to ensure all your employees have the support they need to thrive?

At Zipwhip, we are committed to building an environment where individuals feel included, respected, empowered and connected. We recently launched (and are now expanding) an employee-led D&I council with individuals representing various backgrounds, perspectives, experiences, departments and identities. 

Zipwhip pays for employees to have access to The Riveter’s co-working spaces, diversity programming and learning and development opportunities. We also launched a campaign with The Riveter celebrating women in the workplace. The #WMNWORK campaign debuted a career-advice text line that encouraged women and their supporters to text questions on how to expand and elevate their careers. We also hosted a female-driven panel focused on “The Power of Women at Work” for our employees and the community. 

Last year, we held an interview training program for managers and employees. There, we introduced unconscious bias and diversity awareness in the workplace. Our L&D programming is expanding this year to include inclusive leadership and a deeper unconscious bias program. 

We tested everything from chairs to lighting options with this team.’’ 

Of these actions, what has been most impactful in creating a workplace that supports diversity?

Giving employees the opportunity to openly share their struggles and fears without risk of repercussions is one of the most impactful things we can do as an organization. That’s why we invest so heavily in regular surveys. When we identify issues and common trends, we take action to address them immediately so that we can maintain a supportive and positive culture for all.  

 

What physical aspects of your office are designed to support a diverse team? 

In 2019, we moved into a new office space. Knowing it was important to consider our diverse team, we launched a “leadership move committee” and an “employee move committee” with representatives from all teams and various backgrounds. We tested everything from chairs to lighting options with this team. We surveyed employees on their preferences and ways in which they work. The office space is now made up of large meeting rooms, private one-on-one rooms (decorated by employees’ local photographs), meditation rooms, a training room and lactation rooms.  

Weekly, we turn our training room into a yoga studio. We will be adding group meditation starting next month. In addition, we’ve set up the office to feel inclusive to those who want to join in on more quiet activities like puzzles and games. 

 

MediaAlpha

When Director of People Operations Anna Goranson interviews potential candidates at MediaAlpha, she’s looking for more than specific skills in their applications. Goranson said that the company evaluates all potential team member’s curiosity for learning, a value that’s important to the organization as they continue to grow. 

 

What actions does your team and leaders take to ensure all your employees have the support they need to thrive?

Our team is a diverse group of talented engineers from different backgrounds and experiences. Our lean, flat organization ensures that each person is respected, supported and challenged as an individual. A growth mindset connects us all and our open environment facilitates learning from each other. We encourage authenticity and individualism. 

Our interview process is designed to evaluate candidates on their curiosity for learning, clear communication and growth mindset.’’ 

Of these actions, what has been most impactful in creating a workplace that supports diversity?  

Our interview process is designed to evaluate candidates on their curiosity for learning, clear communication and growth mindset. We want to work with people who find their role interesting and want to contribute to our business in a very visible way. We solve big problems together if we use our diversity to our advantage.

 

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