Inclusion drives everything we do at Equitas. We seek to understand differences and recognise them as a strategic advantage and a chance to learn and grow.
What is inclusive by default?
Inclusion should be a guiding principle for everything that a company does, from product design to marketing and decision making. Too often, inclusivity is an afterthought that becomes more difficult to address the longer it is not considered, therefore it is ignored. At Equitas, inclusive by default is one of our core values, so we try to incorporate inclusion into every internal process, product feature or addition and service and we keep it in mind when it comes to decision making, so that it is the foundation of everything we do.
Why is inclusion important?
Inclusion is about creating an environment and team that is open, accessible and provides equal opportunities to everyone. This fair and equitable approach to team work facilitates greater engagement from all members, allowing for more productivity, creativity and better problem solving. By seeking to understand and embrace differences, individuals and the whole team can learn and grow, reinforcing the strength of the team even further.
When it comes to technology, every design decision has the potential to include or exclude users. The goal of inclusive design is to ensure accessibility for all users by understanding user diversity to include as many people as possible. This can become a much bigger issue when applied to certain products and processes, such as hiring and recruitment. Whether an applicant or candidate is able to access, understand and engage with a recruitment process should not be the differentiating factor for being offered a job.
Through this focus of inclusion by default, it is ingrained in the company and employees as well as being ingrained in the products and services being offered. Therefore, customers and users can also feel the benefits of this approach and inclusion will become integral in their processes and team. This is a strategic advantage in a recruitment market focused too often on reducing time and cost at the expense of a robust, rigorous or inclusive process.
How it works practically
At Equitas we start with inclusivity by design, so the solutions to problems or new ideas have that at the heart of it before moving into being inclusive by default, meaning that the minimum requirement for anything, or the default setting, is inclusion.
There are several ways to approach this and questions to consider, we focus initially on three; does this align with our understanding and value of inclusivity, how does this look or feel to someone outside the business, can we prove it solves a real world problem.
Potential solutions are discussed as a team so that as a starting point we already have different people’s perspectives on it and we can relate back to how we all view and understand inclusivity individually and as a company. We encourage each other to question everything, so that we know there is a logical reason, or it is addressing feedback we have received, or that it has at least been considered properly before starting.
Following this, we take the proposed solution and gather feedback from users, potential users, experts or data from marketing and sales, to validate our approach and solution. Feedback is key, so that we are using data to drive decisions and this data is coming from a range of diverse sources, to be as representative as possible. This ensures that we are addressing a problem or challenge being faced by the market.
This feedback also gives us information on how something looks or feels to someone not in the business, for example, a prospective customer or employee. Would they consider us to be inclusive, do they feel that it is actually a fair process, or do they feel excluded?
To drive our own approach to inclusivity, we use inclusive by default as one of Equitas’ values for our hiring process. One of our rounds of interviews for prospective hires is a values-based interview, read more about them here. This sets the expectation for new joiners that this is how we operate and holds us accountable to ensure that this is the case when they do join.
Again, we constantly question and analyse ourselves and each other to make sure this stays the case, which for candidates and new joiners is gathering feedback from them on our hiring process and onboarding, so that we are always looking for ways to improve.
Short term pain, long term gain
Initially there can be challenges in this approach, with potential for extra time for discovery, planning and delivery whilst trying to be agile, or potentially more complex solutions. However, we are building our team, product and services so that we can scale and if we can use this guiding principle now, at the inception of features and decisions, we can avoid more rework in the future.
It is always more difficult to address something as fundamental as inclusivity or fairness in a product or process once it is in place, so by mitigating it early there is a clear strategic advantage and an opportunity to be applicable to a wider user base.
This is especially important for building a team and the culture therein. If it is a place where people want to work and they feel engaged, they are more likely to make a big impact and difference to the team. Engaged employees that believe in and are bought into your vision are invaluable and will provide and generate much more value to the company, the team and customers.
Openness to learn
Transparency, honesty and humility are key for this to work, especially the reasons why decisions are being made, or the vision that is being aimed for. We have to leave any pride at the door, as no one person will always have the right answers, understand or empathise with everyone’s perspective, so being open to learning is vital.
Ultimately, we acknowledge that there are no stupid questions and it is better to ask to clarify understanding, rather than assuming, guessing or going on gut instinct, as this is invariably wrong.
The benefit of these questions is that we can be self-critical with the understanding that there is always a way to improve. Continuous improvement is crucial for the survival of a company and the earlier areas for improvement can be identified, the easier it is to make a change and the more agile you can be as a team.
Bringing your team on the journey
For this strategy to be effective, the whole team needs to be brought into this principle and value, so that we can discuss how something can be inclusive, help each other in attaining it and hold each other accountable. In other words, we need to be inclusive about our inclusivity!
The end goal is to make inclusivity the basis for what we do. This means it is ingrained in the product, the team, our language, messaging and how we interact with others. We are working to create an environment where everyone wants to work and we can deliver even more value to our customers.