Fostering Inclusion in Tech: Focus on Culture

As we continue our work to improve inclusion practices here at Lullabot, here are some suggestions specific to creating a more inclusive company culture that we hope will help others in their efforts.

As we continue our work to improve our inclusion practices here at Lullabot, we've rounded up the following tips that work for us as we build a more empathetic and understanding company. In part four of this series, here are some suggestions specific to creating a more inclusive company culture. 

Value precise language

Words make a difference: put care and attention into words in public-facing and internal documents. Standard EEOC language in all hiring and human resources information is a must. It's important to be clear that the organization does not discriminate based on existing EEOC prohibited employment practices.

By being reflective about common idiomatic expressions, we may also choose to value more inclusive communities. Consider changing the wording. For example, a common phrase such as, "Hey, you guys" could be changed to "Hello, folks" or "Greetings, colleagues." The upside to this approach is that it's more empathetic and presents a shared understanding of who's receiving the message. (From the Drupal issue queue: Why "guys" isn't gender-neutral in our community")

Other challenging word choices (e.g., "let's pow-wow," "he's crazy") are easily replaced by research, which then leads to more understanding about indigenous rights, mental health, physical abilities, women's rights, economic issues, marginalized populations, and more. Handshake offers guidelines on how to respect people through inclusive language better.

Promote and vet ideas

Rely on each other's judgment and expand the difference between people evaluating the situation. When doing a web search for "marketing mistakes" or "recent PR blunders," you can find a plethora of commercials, photoshoots, ads, and other promotional items that didn't hit the desired mark. In some cases, these blunders created public relations crises.

It's helpful to give the team options to participate and pitch their ideas: good brainstorming requires bringing everything forward. Make sure there's careful vetting: tone-deafness, misogyny, racism, gendered language. These types of issues and others can surface so you can address them, but only when the team feels empowered to call out potential problems early and often. Careful deliberation leads to a more well-calibrated end product, which leads to a better outcome for the business. Hold space to listen to feedback, even if it is painful, and respond to flagged issues.

Remove silos

Countries are changing, populations are changing, and responsiveness to change means continually reaching beyond existing comfort zones. In general, individuals hire others who behave, make decisions, and look like they do (this herd mentality makes us feel comfortable and safe); however, homogenous teams act as silos and rarely become reflective of, and adapting to, modern demographics. 

Expand connections. For example, at Lullabot, we've made it standard practice to include sites such as when promoting new job openings. It's important to think about where silos are potentially decreasing, rather than increasing, the company's reach.

Establish benchmarks

By defining benchmarks — including roles, responsibilities, and a regular review plan — you'll remove confusion and clarify unspoken norms.

  • How will staff know they're achieving expectations? 
  • How will middle managers grow into new responsibilities? 
  • How do executive team members expect compensation? 

At Lullabot, we schedule employee reviews after the first 90 days and annually after that. With clear guidelines, it's easier to motivate, work from a shared understanding, be empathetic, and keep individual producers on track.

Recognize achievements

Everyone benefits from enhanced visibility both inside and outside the organization. Consider having a monthly profile to highlight noteworthy examples or tell stories about the work and achievements of staff members: an award ceremony, spotlight, certificate, or newsletter with recent accomplishments may be beneficial to morale.

We have a "karmabot" inside Slack where our team can give karma points to any other person, place, or thing. Giving karma provides immediate recognition, and a running total of karma points demonstrates the helpfulness, collaboration, and culture of sharing inside and outside the company. 

Humanize the business by paying attention to the people who make everything happen. After all, we all appreciate recognition for our hard work!

Thanks to James Sansbury, Marc Drummond, and Andrew Berry for their thoughtful comments and feedback on these suggested tips.

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