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Building a Culture of Diversity in a Start-up

Establishing a set of guiding principles and fundamental beliefs for your company can lend a hand in defining the people you hire and, as Lee-Ann Desai explains, helps your people function together and work towards a common goal.

4 min read

When I was afforded the opportunity to join a business still in its fledging stage, I was instantly drawn in by the prospect of building the workplace culture I had always envisioned.

Unlike the typical corporate environment, I had long been a part of, where things are a lot more bureaucratic and rigid, the vision for INN8 was a bit different: I was tasked to create an environment where different, smart people who have a digitally-first mindset would feel at home.

The purpose of values

Having a set of guiding principles and fundamental beliefs help people function together and work toward a common goal. They also help to define the people we hire – because all the technology in the world won’t make a difference if a company doesn’t have the right people.

Now, we interview and choose people who are insatiably curious, focused on delivering the future, and who live for awesome experiences. They must never stand still, work as a team, and own everything they do.

Taking ownership

The values at INN8 don’t sit with the HR department, but instead they belong to everyone, and we constantly seek ways to bring the values alive. Beyond being included in the induction video or the focus of internal campaigns, people are encouraged to live out the values every single day and this is evident in the way we behave and present, and who we are.

A culture of difference

At INN8, we move forward fast. As soon as an idea has been suggested and decided upon, we implement, test, and learn.

We also ensure the environment in which we work is a lot more relaxed and this is supported by a lack of internal hierarchy: we are able to open up communication channels so that anyone can respectfully walk up to anyone else to simply ask a question with the freedom and psychological safety to engage without fear of negative consequences. There is a saying that the greatest violence that you can do towards somebody is not listening to them.

Another internal difference is the way we dress. Anyone is welcome to wear whatever they want as long as they don’t offend or harm others – and this idea forms the basis for our language use, too.

The perfect fit

To ensure we end up with a truly diverse team, it’s important that we hire people who fit into this culture and to not just hire people who already are like us, speak like us, or look like us. Our hiring process takes an average of three rounds of interviews, and the third round will always have someone from another team conducting the interview to remove any bias.

Overcoming challenges, together

Sure, it can be a challenge to realise that someone who could bring the perfect set of skills just won’t fit culturally, but by sticking to our beliefs and not hiring them has a profound, full-circle effect that sees the right people in the right environment, effortlessly living up to our values.

But even then, it’s not always an easy task, especially with a multi-geo location approach. However, through the work we have done, I have found that even though we are all very different, we are similar because of the vision and values that we share from the start – and that can be said for people in both locations.

Our people are everything

At the end of the day we fully recognise that we need our people and we need them to be motivated. We need our people to be diverse. We need to include them in what we do and bring them along on this journey that we on.

Our team is immensely diverse and it’s through this difference that other perspectives and opinions emerge that further grow us as a business and make us stronger.

After all, this business would be nothing without its people.

Written by

Lee-Ann Desai

Lee-Ann Desai

Fascinated by helping people grow and then seeing that growth emerge and develop, Lee-Ann’s work within financial services for the last 14 years has been based off her being a results-driven professional who is highly effective at achieving business objectives. With an Honours in psychology, she is an ethical and an empathetic individual with a passion for developing, coaching and mentoring people.

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