How to Build a Workplace That Supports a Diverse Team

by Alton Zenon III
January 15, 2020

Office layout plays an important role in dictating how welcome individuals feel at work. That’s why companies are altering their spaces to support the needs of team members on more personal levels. For instance, Amazon has 100 lactation rooms for nursing mothers at its Seattle headquarters. Nike’s New York office has dedicated meditation rooms where staff can take group courses and workshops on the practice. 

Chicago companies have embraced this idea as well, with Trunk Club, GoHealth and Sprout Social offering their staff spaces for prayer, breast-pumping, quiet solitude and more. 

But creating those types of spaces and implementing other inclusivity initiatives isn’t possible without open dialogue between employees and company leaders. When employees are given the time and resources to offer feedback, team members feel valued and heard. 

 

Sprout Social team chatting
sprout social

Amanda So said Sprout Social’s diversity, equity and inclusion guild meetings are valued by employees at the social media management company. The director of recruitment said the monthly gatherings are opportunities for any employee at Sprout to learn about important topics in the world of DEI. 

 

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

Diversity is extremely important to us, but it is only one aspect of our larger commitment to creating an inclusive and equitable workplace. To achieve this, we have implemented numerous initiatives with our team’s feedback. We hold monthly diversity, equity and inclusion guild meetings that provide ongoing learning opportunities on topics including unconscious bias and allyship. We also have a variety of employee-led resource groups, such as [email protected] and [email protected] that offer a space for traditionally underrepresented communities to build relationships across the organization and focus on personal and professional development. 

We ask all new hires about any accommodations we can provide to set them up for success.”

 

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

One area we have seen overwhelmingly positive feedback from is our monthly DEI guild meetings. These meetings create the space needed to address systemic challenges that our team and community regularly face. Guild meetings are open to the entire organization and are an opportunity for anyone in the company to learn, participate in open dialogue and make stronger connections with fellow team members. They are run by different volunteers from our team each month, with the support of our executives. This level of involvement from team members at every level helps ensure we have representation from across the organization.

 

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

In conjunction with feedback from our team, we’ve worked cross-functionally to help ensure our office physically supports the needs of a diverse team. This includes our “rescue room”, a private space to proactively minimize stress, parenting rooms, gender-neutral bathrooms and quiet spaces throughout the office to accommodate uninterrupted focus time.

Additionally, as part of our onboarding process, we ask all new hires about any accommodations we can provide to set them up for success. This may include providing accessible workspaces, like standing desks, specific technology or relocating to a quieter part of the office.

 

Trunk Club team member working
trunk club

Engineering Manager Lauren Daniels said team members at Trunk Club are given multiple avenues to express their opinions, concerns and requests. And Daniels said their input is taken seriously and often, put into action.

 

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

It starts with being willing to do the work. Trunk Club is the first place I’ve worked that promised communication and collaboration, then delivered on those values through a willingness to change and by listening to employees. There are formal channels for feedback like employee surveys, scheduled one-on-ones and all-hands meetings, and informal ones like community Slack channels and coffee walks. 

Quality of life improvements can start with individual actions like adding your pronouns to your Slack bio to normalize sharing them, or they can be organization-wide changes. For example, we recently transitioned all of our non-single stall restrooms from binary (women’s/men’s) to all gender.

Quality of life improvements can start with individual actions like adding your pronouns to your Slack.”

 

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

Fostering a community of participation and acting on the suggestions. This shows that our opinions are not only welcomed, but taken seriously. More people are encouraged to share, increasing the variance in points of view. 

 

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

Our offices acknowledge that people have different work styles. As an introvert, I was worried that the open floor plan would be something I’d need to overcome. But quiet, tucked-away places like our pairing and pop-in rooms provide places to work alone. You can also find a quiet corner on the roof deck. But for those that are energized by the hum of a full room, there are couches and communal tables that will put you in the center of the action. 

 

GoHealth team in conference room
gohealth

Christa Gochenaur, director of HR, said GoHealth offers spaces for employees to pray, get some alone time and breast pump, and is making strides in improving its hiring processes.

 

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

We are in the process of building our employee value proposition, which encompasses building supportive engagement for employees of all backgrounds and interests. In addition to our belonging, inclusion and diversity recruiting efforts, we are also building out infrastructure to support employee resource groups, environmental awareness and social responsibility.

We have various work nooks in our offices, like prayer rooms and nursing rooms.”

 

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

The focus we have had on diversity in our talent acquisition efforts has created the biggest impact. We hired more women into our tech department in 2018 than we ever have. This is in large part due to our expansion of recruiting partnerships with organizations focused on diverse candidates. We also ensure we have a blended representation in our interview panels so candidates coming in can get a good understanding of our culture and population. 

 

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

We have various work nooks in our offices, like prayer rooms and nursing rooms that are available to new moms. We also have phone booths set up for privacy that employees may need throughout the day. A big favorite with employees is a large meeting space set up for ping-pong and lounge gatherings. We are also excited to introduce greenery throughout our Chicago offices in 2020 to enhance the aesthetics of the office.

 

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