Why your company should have an inclusion toolkit — and how Bravely can help

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In March, note-taking app Evernote revealed a slew of new initiatives demonstrating their commitment to Inclusion and Diversity. (We love their intentional reversal of the more common “Diversity and Inclusion” moniker, reflecting their priorities as an organization committed to fostering a workplace that works for everyone.) They shared that they had achieved gender pay parity, released their internal diversity statistics, and announced the launch of a program designed to cultivate male allies in the workplace.

At the same time, the company’s Head of People told Entrepreneur that they were rolling out Bravely: emphasizing that “the implications for inclusion are clear.”

When we started building Bravely, we set out to build a resource that would help employees navigate stressful situations by having better, more productive conversations with their colleagues and managers. We had a hunch that it would appeal to female and diverse employees, but we were blown away by how often sessions were being booked by women, people of color, and those who identify as LGBTQ+.

Two things quickly became clear. First, we saw the power of Bravely to help people deal with workplace issues specific to their identity — and how those issues impacted their sense of belonging. Second, we saw first-hand that different employees dealt with different levels of intimidation when it came to having difficult conversations around performance, colleague or manager relationships, and organizational change. For employees who aren’t white or male, everyday issues felt more acute.

A dialogue around this concept of identity, inclusion, and belonging has started bubbling up the surface. Yet while companies engage in measurable efforts to hire diverse talent — which, of course, is critical — they’re doing less to support these diverse employees once they’ve been hired.

The results from The Kapor Center for Social Impact’s “Tech Leavers” Study do a good job of summing up this problem, driving home that tech companies suffer from a “revolving door” of talent. “Workplace culture drives turnover,” the study concludes, “significantly affecting the retention of underrepresented groups, and costing more than $16 billion each year.”

The takeaway: the case is pretty clear for the need to invest in work environments that prioritize inclusivity at every level. Now the focus most turn to policies, programs, and practices that organizations can adopt to create this kind of environment — something we like to refer to as a company’s “inclusion toolkit.” And at Bravely, we believe that open, honest conversations should be at the core of this set of tools.

A 2017 study from Paradigm reaffirms the importance of conversation in working towards a more inclusive workplace. It highlights practices that ensure “that all employees feel like they have a voice” as key pillars of inclusive leadership, concluding (much like we did) that demographic attributes such as gender, race/ethnicity, age, and cultural background can prevent entire groups from being heard. “Employees from underrepresented backgrounds often face unique barriers with respect to voice, as they are often less empowered to share ideas, given less speaking time, and interrupted when they do share.”

Similarly, a 2017 study from Culture Amp and Paradigm zeroed in on the power of cultivating “trusting relationships” among colleagues as a driver of belonging, and emphasized the importance of coaching mentors and managers with the goal of encouraging more open and honest 1:1 meetings. And a recent report from Atlassian, State of Diversity and Inclusion in the US, echoes the importance of productive communication: concluding that “companies must create a place where teammates can have open, respectful dialogue.”

This proactive, constructive, and healthy dialogue is at the heart of Bravely. We’ve designed our platform to help people take action when they’re unsatisfied, upset, or stressed: making it easy for employees to get advice from conflict coaches outside of their workplace, without fear of bias or retribution. And it’s working. Over 80% of our users have reported being more likely to embrace a tough conversation with their boss, manager, colleague, or direct report as a result. We’ve also been glad to see that 20% of Bravely sessions are scheduled by managers who want to prepare for challenging 1:1 conversations with their direct reports.

As an industry, we’ve only scratched the surface of what a more inclusive workplace looks like. We’re encouraged by the fact that a growing body of research confirms our mission at Bravely: empowering individuals, especially those who are underrepresented, to use their voice to solve problems. And we’re excited to continue building a company that equips people to cultivate their sense of belonging through conversation.

This piece was originally posted on Medium