How This Austin Company Aims to Create a Workplace Where Everyone Feels Respected
Driving diversity and inclusion is key to fostering respected workplaces. And while more companies have begun focusing heavily on diversity and inclusivity (D&I) in recent years, many still fall short when it comes to equal representation.
According to Built In’s 2021 State of DEI in Tech Report, 73 percent of all tech employees surveyed said they’ve experienced discrimination or been treated unfairly in the workplace because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or some other aspect of their identity.
Nevertheless, there are steps that organizational leaders can take to promote respect and civility within the workplace.
According to Jason Perry, president and CEO of the web development company ENGAGENCY, respect and civility — and, by extension, diversity and inclusion — should be practiced before employees even join the company. By ensuring the people you hire align with your company’s values, you’ll be able to cultivate an inclusive company culture, he said.
Built In Austin caught up with Perry to learn how his team has created a respectful workplace and uncover the steps they’ve taken to make inclusion a top priority.
What is the most important thing company leaders can do to promote and/or improve respect and civility in the workplace?
If you want a culture based on respect and civility, simply hire the right people. You’ve got to create a recruiting strategy and candidate evaluation process that allows you to identify people who have done the work, own their stuff and know how to communicate and work through challenges and conflict in a healthy, respectful way. If your company has to promote civility and HR has to sit down and have interventions with people on a regular basis, then you’ve got an HR and recruiting problem. It all starts with who you let in.
How have you created a culture where everyone — regardless of their background — feels empowered to voice an opinion and confident that their opinions will be heard, valued and respected?
First, ENGAGENCY is a flat organization by design. Hierarchy is actively discouraged by avoiding language like "boss,” “employee,” and “report up to.” Our goal is to empower everyone to think like an entrepreneur and care about the company like it’s their own family because it is. We ask everyone, “Trust your gut and speak up. We’re depending on you to share your insights and help the collective evolve.”
We actively encourage everyone at every level in the organization to share their opinions, concerns and insights. We recognize that the greatest insights come from the people who are working in the trenches every day. With regard to personal, political and gender identity attachments, we’ve established a common understanding that ENGAGENCY is a judgment-free zone where everyone’s perspectives and life experiences are equally valued and we all have something to learn from each other. Despite our differences, we all share dignity and respect for one another. We carefully select each person to join our team based on their demonstrated commitment to this organizational agreement.
Despite our differences, we all share dignity and respect for one another.”
How are you tracking, monitoring or measuring employee sentiment when it comes to things like feeling respected and valued, and how are you using this data to inform future HR initiatives?
To measure employee sentiment at ENGAGENCY, we formed a “voice of team” committee, which launched an annual survey. The survey is anonymous, so it’s been a great way to get an honest view of our team’s needs and desires. Our management team reviews responses from the entire group and looks for patterns and common themes that we can act on immediately. We use this feedback directly to make decisions and create action plans regarding new benefits, work style changes, ways to enhance culture and more. Our 2020 survey led us to completely change how we think about where we work. Going forward, everyone will have complete freedom to work from home, from the office or from the road while they’re traveling, if they wish to.