Building A Diverse And Inclusive Work Culture

Krista Nikkari,

Do you know the difference between diversity and inclusion? They are often mentioned together and maybe that’s the reason they are often mistakenly presumed to be the same thing -  but they are actually two very different things!

Diversity means understanding that each individual is unique. Recognizing the individual differences we have regarding gender, culture, religion, ethnics, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, political beliefs, or other ideologies.

Inclusion is the achievement of an environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.

Hand in hand - but not the same

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) in the United States has described diversity and inclusion (D&I) as follows: “Think of diversity as being similar to selecting people for a chorus who have different musical backgrounds, vocal ranges and abilities. The inclusion piece of D&I means making sure that those different voices are heard and valued and that they contribute to the performance.” This definition sums up how a diverse organization isn’t necessarily an inclusive organization. Companies need to focus on both sides of the coin; namely hiring diverse talent and focusing on creating and maintaining an inclusive culture. 

D&I topics have been getting increasingly popular in recent times and rightly so. It’s no secret to anyone working in the Human Resources domain that diverse teams lead to better innovation and performance at work. And this is exactly what we have experienced at TrademarkNow! Working together as a team of over 40 people, from more than 10 different nationalities and backgrounds, has enabled our company to thrive and made us what we are today. We couldn’t be more proud of our whole team!

TrademarkNow Team in Lisbon

TrademarkNow team on the 2018 company retreat in Lisbon 

Start as you mean to go on

Often companies fall into the trap of launching a big D&I program with the very best of intentions, but they fail to nurture it. Simply writing a D&I policy, cascading it amongst their colleagues and then thinking their work is done is not enough. That might be a good way to underline the importance of D&I in a company as a starting point, but it becomes so much more important to focus on D&I activities on a regular and daily basis within a workplace in order to nurture it. There is no point in simply adding a new company D&I policy to all the old ones. It must be used as an integral part of the day-to-day practice and workings of a company. 

At TrademarkNow, our D&I program has never been static. It is continually evolving. We have been continuously enhancing our program since the company was founded in 2012, based on the results of feedback polls from our employees and examining what further steps the company can take in order to support D&I at work. And, as Head of People and Talent, I make sure that D&I is at the forefront of any recruitment drive.

Building diversity by hiring right

When building any team, a proper hiring strategy is needed. The same principles apply when building out diverse teams. Here are a 5 things to keep in mind when building a sound recruitment strategy:

  • Unconscious bias
  • Correct targeting
  • Diverse interview panel
  • Structured interviews
  • Culture additions 

1. Unconscious bias

We all have different inherent biases and those are sometimes very hard to notice. I would highly recommend taking a free Harvard’s Implicit Association Test (IAT) to help you to more readily understand and identify your own biases. 

In the hiring process one way to minimize bias is to create a “blind system” of reviewing resumes in your application screening process, so you don’t see the candidates’ demographic characteristics at an early stage of the recruitment process.

2. Target the right candidates

It’s impossible to build a diverse team if you are not attracting a diverse group of candidates. Focusing on the right channels and keeping your language neutral is key. One practical tip is to rewrite your job descriptions so they are gender neutral.

3. Diverse group of interviewers

Consider using a group interview structure at work. Your interviewer panel should be also a diverse group, representing different perspectives from within your company. (It’s also easier to compare views when there are multiple interviewers).

4. Structured interviews

Only way to compare candidates fairly is to have structured interviews and keep the conditions the same for everybody. In every interview the same skill based interview questions should be asked and in the same order. And, every interview answer should be scored as soon as it is provided. After the interviews the answers of the candidates should be compared horizontally, across each question, instead of comparing candidates holistically to each other.

5. Focus on culture addition

When recruiting it is better to focus on the skill set needed instead of who you bonded the best with during an interview. Think more about what the candidate can add to the team rather than trying to match similar characteristics you already have in the team.

Building an inclusive culture

It’s just not enough to hire and build diverse teams. Without inclusion you just have employees with different backgrounds. Diversity means nothing if your employees don’t feel that they are a part of the company and can be themselves. Inclusion means creating a company culture where people feel they are heard, respected and appreciated. 

Feeling part of the company

Like with anything in life everything starts with feeling safe and being respected. When people feel safe and are not afraid they are more open to sharing their ideas and thoughts. At TrademarkNow we focus strongly during the onboarding phase to make sure that our employees know that if they have any questions, concerns or ideas, we really want (and also expect) them to speak up. When people share their ideas openly you get wider collaboration also between the teams.

Being themselves

Employees should feel comfortable that they can be who they are and be able to bring their “full selves to work”. Clothing can represent many personality traits and it’s always interesting to see the huge variety of what people like to wear. For example at our HQ Helsinki office you can see all sorts of different styles - from high heels to woolen socks and dresses to sweatpants! And at this time of year (Midsummer) anything goes!

Maintaining inclusion

Inclusion at work is an ongoing process. Focusing on working with people rather than writing policies on how things should be is the key to successfully building on what you have in place. The little things are often the things that matter most. Like how we communicate with each other and act with each other. Your employees’ daily experience with their colleagues tells more about inclusiveness than anything else.

Inclusivity is often seen by others to be part of HR’s remit alone. But, as long as it’s seen this way companies can never be fully inclusive! It’s everybody’s responsibility to do their part. Each interaction you have with your colleagues during the day either strengthens or weakens the feeling of inclusiveness and can affect your colleagues’ feelings.

Have an open feedback culture where feedback is given across teams, anonymously, as well as face to face. It is crucial to get continuous feedback from the employees on how to improve things at work. At TrademarkNow some of the feedback channels we use are team meetings, one-to-one meetings, quarterly catch-ups, monthly “all hands” meetings, as well as anonymous pulse surveys. But, just as important as asking for feedback is taking concrete action based on the feedback you get. Otherwise nothing evolves.

Final thoughts

Finally, giving recognition can’t just be a top-down practice. At TrademarkNow we empower everyone to give recognition to each other. We gather anonymous “kudos-shout outs” that are then revealed in our monthly company wide meeting. And, peer feedback is part of our quarterly catch-ups, and we continuously share personal wins and gratitude in our internal slack channels. All of this enables a broader look as to what “good” work looks like.

In summary, building diversity and inclusion at work is an ongoing, everyday process for all businesses, regardless of their size. 

This is not a one-off project where there is a clear start and finish line. Tactics and goals need to be targeted and changed based on the current and potential talent in any team.

Thinking of a career in legal tech?

TrademarkNow runs on a flat organization model, where everybody is approachable and everybody’s thoughts matter. We have been able to build a team that is both international and cozy - and that’s quite something. Why not take a look at our Instagram feed or Careers page now and get a taste of what working at TrademarkNow is like! 

And, of course we keep on growing our awesome team. So if you feel you might be a good fit at TrademarkNow, please don't hesitate to get in touch!

By Krista Nikkari
Krista Nikkari, Head of People and Talent at TrademarkNow, is an experienced HR professional with a solid background when it comes to making a difference in tech startups and growth companies. She is responsible for people operations globally for all three TrademarkNow offices in Finland, Ireland and the USA. She spends most of her time planning and implementing people processes and better ways of working - as well as boosting the development of the company culture - while juggling everything related to talent acquisition and employee lifecycle. She holds a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership. During her free time Krista likes to listen to podcasts and enjoys outdoor sports.