Building an Inclusive Culture
With 80% of our team working remotely from somewhere on this planet, Amazee Labs benefits from having colleagues from all over the world and of different backgrounds and mindsets, bringing their perspectives together. This is something which both benefits us as a company, but also makes it pretty fun to work here, to be honest.
It also means that we actively require inclusive processes to function as a business and to make the most of these advantages. Today we’re discussing some simple tangible steps towards an inclusive environment which we have found work for us. But first...
What is inclusion?
An inclusive environment is one where everybody – no matter their characteristics, traits, or otherwise – feels respected for who they are as an individual, and has a voice that is heard. It is impossible for a company or organisation to be truly diverse or inclusive if people feel they can’t express themselves or that they aren’t valued as individuals.
Why be inclusive?
Being inclusive allows for diversity of ideas and mindsets. It allows people to say what they really think, and to feel comfortable being themselves at work. This is naturally objectively a good thing for employee wellbeing. No one wants to constantly feel like they have to be someone else or have to hide their thoughts and questions.
It also allows us as a company to better innovate and ask the questions a more homogenous workforce wouldn’t ask, to challenge the status quo. It has positive effects on hiring too. By continually supporting an inclusive environment, you can have access to a much wider talent pool than may otherwise feel comfortable working or even applying to your roles.
Being inclusive isn’t just a benefit for underrepresented groups, it benefits everybody at a company and within that company’s sphere of influence. It increases possibilities.
But what does it mean in practice? We aren’t experts and continue to learn, but we have found some tangible steps towards encouraging inclusion.
Solicit feedback, and act upon it
A transparent and open feedback culture is essential. This usually, but not always, comes alongside a relatively flat hierarchy, or at least an easily approachable management team. Ideas and feedback have to be encouraged and listened to seriously if colleagues are to feel valued.
To make this work, it has to come from the “Top”. Employees need psychological safety to give the most honest and useful feedback, so having the clear backing of the management team is important. It has to be clear through communication and behaviours that feedback can be given without risk.
Use the right tools
Feedback is solicited regularly and in a number of ways. It’s sought by our leads at weekly 1-2-1’s and at team meetings as a group. Polls and debates are often held on our Slack channels too.
One specific tool which has proven valuable is OfficeVibe, which we use as a team engagement platform to obtain, track, and respond to regular anonymous feedback from our colleagues. We also use it to proactively send out custom surveys to the team, asking them to comment on specific topics, further encouraging an atmosphere of safe, transparent communication. As with any form of feedback, it's important to respond and act upon it, else your team will feel neglected, and may stop responding altogether.
Listening to everybody’s feedback is a pretty clear path to an inclusive and open feedback culture, but an inclusive environment is also achieved through certain operational setups too.
One of our key operational tools relating to inclusivity at Amazee Labs is flexible hours
Flexible hours means that where feasible, employees have the freedom to plan their work hours around life commitments, and we operate on a policy of “make people aware, but don’t ask permission” if a colleague needs to step away from work for some time. This can help accommodate parents, those in a caregiver role or with religious commitments, and general employee wellbeing, removing the pressure of a 9-5 workday.
Another powerful tool is remote working. Most of our team work remotely, and whilst it has operational advantages for us as a company, it also supports an inclusive environment.
Remote working can be a game-changer for an employee with a disability, or physical or mental health concerns, who may struggle to make it into a physical office. It empowers people to live where they wish, and frees others from the financial strain of living in a high-rent city near an office.
It’s also beneficial to members of our team who maybe work often from the office, but want a few days of focused work at home, or maybe they live away from their family in another country, and want to fly back and visit them without using a year's supply of annual leave doing so. By encouraging remote work, employees can feel empowered to manage their work/life balance more easily, supporting inclusivity, no matter the personal circumstances.
Both flexible working hours, and remote working come with certain operational requirements.
How we communicate is key to our strategy to be inclusive. For us, inclusive communication means communicating in a way in which everyone can understand and feel comfortable with. Naturally, this begins with respectful communication to one another, but that's a minimum.
We chose English as our operational and team communication language, as it's a common language we all understand. We try to keep updates clear and free of local slang or references which may not be understood by all. The biggest step though is when it comes to information sharing.
Sharing information correctly can encourage inclusivity in a few ways. Firstly, it's essential to have clear communication when operating a remote work model, and you can’t very easily call everybody into a room to receive a consistent message, a clear and consistent message which you want for an inclusive environment.
To allow for both a consistent message and remote/flexible working, a lot of our communication and debates take place on Slack, which means it’s documented, so colleagues don’t miss information due to being remote, or working flexible hours meaning they are away at the time it’s given. We also record all of our company meetings, and share these recordings with the team, so everyone can have access to the same information, no matter where they are, and when.
Inclusivity starts with the values of the company itself, and it’s a bigger topic than one blog would do justice, however these have been some of the tangible methods we encourage at Amazee Labs. To summarise:
- Open and transparent feedback culture with regular short syncs
- Correct use of tools to constantly track and respond to employee feedback
- A flatter hierarchy, to blur the divide between employees and decision-makers
- A flexible hours model to allow for lifestyles or circumstances which don’t fit the usual 9-5
- Remote working for a better work/life balance
- Documented and clear communication
Continuing this topic in future blogs, we will shortly be looking at employee onboardings, and the steps you can take to make them effective in preparing the new employee for success, team integration, and in further developing and ingraining a culture of inclusivity.