Sowing the seeds for a diverse and inclusive culture

Ed Willis, September 23, 2019 3 min read

This week is National Inclusion Week and, as this Diversity and Inclusion report by Tech Nation shows, it pays to be a diverse and inclusive tech company. Boards with gender diversity have a £70,000 turnover premium and there is 453% higher investment for directors sitting on internationally diverse boards.

But diversity remains a key challenge for the tech sector, so it’s really important that our Digital Business Academy courses, aimed at helping people start, grow or join a digital business, help tech founders to build diverse and inclusive businesses.

Free, online advice 

The Digital Business Academy contains free online courses for people looking to get started in a digital business. Earlier this year, we were lucky enough to work with Lauren Tourė at D&I consultants Frost Included, who gave us advice on how to teach our users to build inclusive tech companies. 

Instead of creating standalone courses on diversity and inclusion, we made the decision to weave messaging about the benefits of diversity and inclusion through all of our courses on people, talent and culture. 

In each of these courses, we did seven main things to make sure all of them would help our learners build diverse and inclusive businesses. The steps we took are also great general rules for creating a diverse and inclusive culture in your business.

Review visual and video content

Our courses advise founders on how their employer brand would look at first glance to an outsider. Does it look and feel inclusive? To practise what we’re preaching, we’ve made the images in our people modules representative of the diverse and inclusive businesses we encourage our founders to build.

Use inclusive language

The language we use in courses needs to be accessible and should speak to everyone. For example we’ve avoided references to ‘culture fit’ and the importance of ‘liking’ people that you hire. This comes up a lot in articles about recruitment at startups. But although it’s important that you share the same values, if you insist that new joiners ‘fit in’ with the culture, you risk only hiring people similar to yourself

Explain the business case for diversity

A diverse range of backgrounds brings a diverse range of perspectives. Diverse and inclusive tech businesses perform better than non-diverse ones. In our courses, we’ve pointed out that diversity of thought increases innovation, productivity and helps mitigate against risk. 

Encourage inclusive leadership

To build inclusive companies, leaders must demonstrate inclusive leadership behaviours. This means being open to challenge, encouraging everyone to contribute and being flexible to meet the needs of every individual. As role models, leaders set the example for others in the company. If they lead in an inclusive way, others in the company will do the same.

Give practical advice on processes

We’ve given lots of suggestions for processes our users can put in place at their business to make inclusion part of everyone’s routine. Things like introducing unconscious bias training for hiring managers, always having more than one person on an interview panel, working with companies who specialise in finding diverse talent, and creating inclusive onboarding processes.

Make content accessible

We know that there’s more we need to do to make our content accessible. For example, our courses do work for screen readers, but can be clunky. Our course creation tool, Evolve, allows us to publish courses to WCAG AA status, or Section 508 standards and we are committed to doing this.

Link to further resources

We’ve pointed users in the direction of a range of resources, suggested by Frost Included. Some examples are:

Our courses help people develop the skills they need to start or grow a business, and many of our users are at the early stages of their journeys as founders. We hope to empower them to build diverse and inclusive businesses from the outset, and help address the lack of diversity in the tech sector.

Take a look at all the courses we amended here:

Build an effective startup team:

Who needs to be in the team

How to select your advisors and mentors

How to create a company culture

How to use company culture to retain talent

How to set up your board 

Scale up your talent strategy

Building a talent pipeline for rapid scaling

Getting your team ready to scale

Building your employer brand

Building a sustainable executive team

Maintaining company culture as you scale

Managing your board

Company culture, Digital Business Academy, diversity, Inclusion