Working towards increasing diversity in the tech industry and creating an inclusive workplace have always been our priorities for Monterail,not only as an organization but also as a group of people who care about making their immediate environment a better place.
In the recent webinar organized by the team at a mentoring program, Dare IT, our co-CEO, Bartosz Rega had a chance to talk about our approach to diversity and inclusion as organization-building measures, and how these values are inherent to how we operate on a daily basis.
Bartosz was joined by Susanna Romantsova, former D&I lead at IKEA and DEI consultant, and Maja Zabawska, Tax Consulting Partner and DEI lead at Deloitte. The Dare IT co-founder, Aleksandra Bis was moderating the discussion.
Watch the video from the webinar on March 1st below:
Here are the key findings from the event, with actionable advice on the initial steps you could take to start implementing DEI best practices at your organization.
1. Audit Your Organizational Structure
Before you jump on implementing DEI best practices that worked at other workplaces or organizing D&I events targeted at marginalized groups, the essential first step is identifying what's the organizational structure of your company by checking who works there, if and how you can segment these people, and what their needs may be.
When I worked at IKEA, the crucial element that helped me map identity networks for 6000 employees and identify what these groups need, was the fact that I had full support from the company’s board of directors, with one of these people acting as a DEI evangelist on all board meetings.
This type of audit requires both a qualitative and quantitative approach, including looking at the data about the employees with your HR team but also conducting in-depth interviews with the people working at your organization to help establish how they feel and what kind of support they expect to get from the leadership team and other team members.
This will help you create a map of our organization and see how different groups may be undervalued or - systematically and/or subconsciously - discriminated against.
2. Listen to What Other People Have to Say
It’s a no-brainer and a crucial leadership skill: listening to what other people say about their needs and how they experience things is what you should be actively doing if you want to successfully introduce and complete any DEI-related process at your organization.
It’s important to remember that diversity and inclusion are not abstract concepts but instead they are continuous practices expressed by not assuming what other people think and how they want to be treated on a fundamental level, as human beings.
3. Ask Questions
Again, asking questions is something that should happen at each organizational level but leaders play an essential role in making sure it becomes an everyday practice. If you’re in the position to do that, ensure that - before you implement a certain policy - you ask your team members what their expectations are, and how you should address them in terms of the pronouns or grammar forms they use to refer to themselves.
The rule of thumb here is: don’t presume that you know how other people think and feel, ask about their experiences instead.
4. Support Internal Initiatives
At Deloitte one of the first D&I activities implemented was an internal call to action amongst the employees and encouraging them to get involved in then enacted company support groups and networks. This action was quickly followed by the support from the management team and access to resources, including the time that can be allocated towards DEI activities and the budget that can be spent on these practices.
Once Monterail hit the 100th employee mark, the top-down approach proved to be ineffective in dispersing our internal values. It then was and still is down to the people who work at different organizational levels to live and breathe these values and share them with others this way.
Before you start implementing different practices top down, check if any groups or individuals would like to take on ambassador roles for certain overlooked issues in your organization and drive internal initiatives. Maybe internal meetings are already happening and you just don’t know about them?
5. Help People Gain New Competencies
As it’s the case with all new approaches, DEI as a practice may need some time to branch out at your organization, so give the employees space and time to learn and adjust to new routines and processes.
Helping people gain competencies related to D&I and become aware of systemic issues won’t happen without the top-down approach and setting the tone from the leadership. This way, it can move down and influence different teams and groups within your organization.
Over to You
To recap, here are the top 5 DEI practices that you can start implementing at your organization this week:
Audit your organizational structure
Listen to what other people have to say
Support internal initiatives
Help people gain new competences
In short, it’s all about asking questions, listening to what other people think, feel, and need, and then responding to these needs while supporting your teams and providing them with space to move at their own pace and grow.