How to know if a company is truly inclusive before you join

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By Catherine Ferrary Simon, Global Head of HR and Culture, Scaleway

The decision to change jobs has been described as one of life’s most stressful experiences, almost on a par with divorce and moving. 

It can be easy to be seduced by the idea of a cool new company with a better title and salary. But how do you really know what it’s like on the inside after a few short interviews? The feeling of realizing you have made a mistake can be suffocating. You’ve put yourself through a massive amount of stress and pressure, and now you realize it just isn’t the correct fit.

The good news is you can set yourself up for success in advance. Because the key elements that define a positive work environment are not a mystery. So by challenging the mindset and culture of your next company, you can optimize your chances of finding a role and a company culture that’s right for you.

These elements include: 

  • Clear values for how the organization is run
  • A stage set for collaboration and communication
  • Transparent goals: company-wide, departmental and personal goals with progressive next steps
  • Trust & inclusion

So here’s a checklist of what to look out for before jumping into a new job relationship. And remember: it’s just as important for you to prepare the questions you want to ask a company as it is to prepare your answers to their potential questions.

Does the company create universal experiences for all employees?

Research has shown that companies can create a sense of belonging by bringing people together in a shared experience that wouldn’t have otherwise existed. Creating opportunities for people to share across functions and locations allows them to understand each other at a deeper level. So party on!

Are teams cross-location by default?

Cliques (small exclusive groups of people) have a tendency to form among those working in close physical proximity. These are inherently less sensitive to others’ needs, and this inevitably leads to the formation of silos. However, when employees work on teams with colleagues based in different locations, an unintended effect is fostering an inclusive environment. 

Has an official language been defined?

Choosing an official language is a great way to make the work environment inclusive. If it’s English, for example, for most international employees, it isn’t their native language. So everyone is putting him or herself out there in an equal way. This leaves little room for judgement or resentment in communication. 

Is everyone treated equally?

This element can be harder to check in advance than others. But key pointers can include whether the seniority or hierarchical grids are transparent; whether employees are evaluated regularly and fairly; and whether local and remote staff have the same contract conditions are a good place to start. Ensuring all such information is open and transparent means no employee questions what others have in comparison.

Is the work-life balance example set from the top?

Candidates shouldn’t be afraid to ask “how important is work-life balance at your company?” And once they’re hired, they need to see top management setting the example. A CEO might openly book slots in her calendar to show how she sets aside time for her family and herself, e.g. kids’ concerts or yoga. This leadership by example which made it OK for all staff to disconnect and take care of themselves.

How does the company demonstrate diversity and inclusion?

Does, for example, the company provide hiring incentives to address gender imbalance in its industry? Does it give opportunities to people from under-represented backgrounds? Does it ignore potentially discriminating elements like photos on CVs? Does it demonstrate its support of all types of communities, for example by communicating about key dates like Pride Month?

Is the company’s mission and values clear for all to see? 

In each interview, candidates should ask each interviewer what they think the company’ mission and values are. If they don’t get similar answers each time, it’s not the end of the world; but managers should strive to show they’re all rowing in the same direction.

A company that is doing all the right things will reap the rewards of putting people first: happy staff, low employee turnover, high performance, and, as a result, satisfied customers and strong revenue growth. If you want to find a place where you’ll do your best work and thrive, you need to find a company that takes a holistic approach to developing not only a positive workplace culture, but one that is based on inclusivity, equality, and trust. 

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