What Does Cultural Competency Look Like in the Workplace?

To learn how tech companies are tackling this issue, Built In turned to leaders at 15 companies.
Built In Staff
May 11, 2021
Updated: September 30, 2021
Built In Staff
May 11, 2021
Updated: September 30, 2021

More tech companies are investing in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) than ever before.

That’s according to Built In’s “State of DEI in Tech” report, which found an increase in companies investing in DEI programs and DEI-focused staff between 2019 and 2020.

While dedicated funds is a crucial step in fostering a DEI-forward environment, there’s one skill that Diversity Resources Founder Richard T. Alpert calls “the most important for diversity in the workplace training.”

Alpert is referring to ‘cultural competence,’ which is the ability to understand and engage with people from different cultures. 

“The more different cultures work together, the more cultural competency training is essential to avoid problems,” said Alpert on the Diversity Resources’ website, which provides diversity-focused live and virtual trainings, videos and more. He added that a lack of cultural competency in the workplace can lead to miscommunication, conflict and stunted productivity. 

But there are plenty of ways for companies to build cultural competency, and in turn, create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment. To learn how tech companies are tackling this issue, Built In turned to leaders at 15 companies.

What is Cultural Competency?

Cultural competency refers to a company’s understanding and knowledge of different cultures and perspectives. It can be improved in a variety of ways, like forming employee resource groups, hosting guest speakers on certain topics and celebrating the different cultures and backgrounds that make up your company.

 

Chime

Erica Johnson

HEAD OF DIVERSITY, EQUITY, & BELONGING

Erica Johnson

By providing opportunities for their employees to learn about varying experiences and share in those experiences, Chime is creating an environment that celebrates cultural diversity. Head of Diversity, Equity and Belonging Erica Johnson shared what these opportunities look like.

 

What’s one step Chime has taken to help employees improve their cultural competency?

We believe that building cultural competency starts with understanding different perspectives. To that end, we’ve worked to help employees build empathy through various practices, such as sharing Chimers’ stories internally and facilitating conversations with external experts to encourage kindness and compassion at work. For example, we recently highlighted Chimer parents in an internal series on their experiences working from home with their children and continue to host an ongoing series of cultural discussions with Carol Langlois, the founder of Empowered Tech. 

These conversations span topics that have included the varying experiences of elections, how to voice opinions assertively, and inclusively in the workplace, and an ongoing series for our female Chimer resource group, ChimeHers, where cohorts met once a week to talk through challenges they’re facing. Because these are sustained and ongoing conversations, people from across the company have been able to come together and bond over their shared experiences and learn from their differences.


How does your company promote or celebrate cultural diversity in the workplace? 

We work to promote and celebrate cultural diversity in both passive and active ways in the workplace. We’ve created a library of internal and external-facing content that highlights different cultural experiences for Chimers. For example, we highlighted several Chimers and Chime members in celebration of Black History Month through content on our blog and “Life at Chime” publication. For those who wanted to attend an event, our Black Chimer resource group (CRG), AfroChime, hosted a lunch-and-learn on Black representation through the lens of superheroes. For Lunar New Year, we published a piece on the traditions of one Chimer and hosted a virtual dumpling making class with the owner of a local restaurant. 

By honoring the different ways in which people have the capacity to celebrate cultural diversity, we believe that blending content with interactive events helps us cater to the different needs on our team while still promoting the diversity that makes Chime and our community special. 

 

How does cultural competence show up in the ways your employees communicate and relate with one another? 

Cultural competency shows up in our daily interactions, meetings, written communication, on private or public Slack channels, and at companywide events. How people speak to each other is a key indicator of how Chimers are relating to each other and of the culture of belonging we are creating. We see prolonged high engagement and inclusive language used on our various cultural-themed Slack channels, which demonstrates not only the awareness of other cultural practices and experiences but also an appreciation of and support for them. People use a shared lexicon around company values and will often ask if others want to “chime in” or “team up,” and use our company’s values emojis, too. What’s more, Chimers’ cultural competence shows up through the attendance of our internal company cultural events and engagement with cultural content. 

Zooming out, we believe that cultural competence shows in the overall trends of positive engagement and retention at Chime. Because cultural competence contributes directly to inclusion and employee engagement, we can look beyond daily anecdotes of communication and relation to see that employees feel connected, welcome and like they belong at Chime. 

 

Unity Technologies

Chief Esparza

INCLUSION COMMUNICATIONS, POLICY AND PROGRAMS SUPPORT

Chief Esparza

With five employee resource groups (ERGs), an inclusive onboarding session and a rotating calendar celebrating global heritages, Unity Technologies is taking actionable steps to boost cultural competency. Chief Esparza, who oversees inclusion communications, policy and programs, shared how these initiatives are making an impact at the real-time 3D content creation platform.

 

What’s one step your team has taken to help employees improve their cultural competency?

Every new Unity employee is invited to an inclusion onboarding session that teaches them how to apply our empathy, respect, and opportunity framework to their work. By adding to their empathy toolkit and learning more about respectful engagement, each employee is able to apply practices that are fundamental to improving their own cultural competency within a global workspace.

 

How does your company promote or celebrate cultural diversity in the workplace?

Unity has established five global ERGs supportive of our Asian, Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+, and women colleagues. Under the “community is for all” approach, we encourage employees to join any ERG in order to promote learning, partnerships and allyship across different experiences of culture and identity. This is accomplished through each ERG’s three pillars: recruiting and retention, professional development and community engagement. 

Additionally, we plan and produce dozens of activities throughout the year to celebrate, honor and recognize important heritage, history and awareness dates that are significant to communities underrepresented in tech and gaming. Through events, social media posts and internal communications aligned to these dates, we are able to highlight the diverse experiences of our global workforce.

 

How does cultural competence show up in the ways your employees communicate and relate with one another? 

In addition to the inclusion onboarding workshop for new employees, we regularly publish communications tools and resource guides for our employees to expand their knowledge and learn more about engaging with empathy and respect with one another. We also provide training on inclusive conversations with our leadership to help them build more inclusive experiences across their teams.

 

Granular

Jennifer Trendler

VP, PEOPLE OPERATIONS

Jennifer Trendler

Prior to the summer of 2020, Granular’s social media channels never took a political stance. That all changed following the death of George Floyd. VP of People Operations Jennifer Trendler explained why the farm management platform changed its tune and how it has impacted cultural competency.

 

What’s one step Granular has taken to help employees improve their cultural competency?

We’ve been very clear on why cultural competency is critical to our team and have communicated this with our employees. We’re clear that if people are not culturally competent, we won’t be able to attract or retain talent, which is key to us as a business and, most importantly, the right thing to do to create the world we want to live in.

2020 was a year of reckoning for us, along with many others. Our cultural competency efforts did not start here, but our focus and efforts accelerated after the death of George Floyd. We never before commented on social media what might be thought of as political events, but it was clear we needed to be very vocal on our stance. We held listening sessions over a few days led by our senior leadership team. Out of those sessions came a very clear desire for people to help drive change. We formed a racial justice subcommittee that meets monthly and has driven philanthropy efforts and guest speaker events, which has provided a safe space to have hard conversations. Our work is not done here but having ways to continue this work ensures we’ll continue to all get more culturally competent.

 

How does your company promote or celebrate cultural diversity in the workplace?

We look for opportunities to celebrate cultural diversity at Granular. Over the years, this has included celebrating Black History Month, Women’s History Month and holidays such as Holi and Chinese New Year.

For Women’s History Month, we hosted two roundtable discussions with some of our female leaders to share their experiences, career paths and examples of when they’ve addressed barriers. We leveraged our company philanthropy program and matched employee donations to a women in agriculture-focused nonprofit during March and created Zoom backgrounds to acknowledge and highlight the contributions of women throughout history.

We’ve also created opportunities for our folks to share more about their personal lives and experiences, if they’d like to. This has included a happy hour hosted by our team in Brazil that featured a cooking demonstration and a history lesson. Our efforts to dig a little deeper has bred more connection and cultural competency.

 

How does cultural competence show up in the ways your employees communicate and relate with one another?

Cultural competence is evident when we see varied and active representation from those attending our Women’s History Month roundtable or our sessions on “Why Black History Matters” and “A Conversation on Racism, Riots and Violence.” It’s seen in the makeup of our racial justice subcommittee, where we hear the passion and see the commitment from that group to impact change.

We observe it every day when someone speaks up to note that the same person is being asked to take notes at meetings, or when we need to take a beat to listen and have empathy for an experience that may be very different from our own. Empathy is at the core of our culture, which is not a fast track to cultural competence, but does lend itself to having those hard conversations and effecting change in thoughtful ways.

 

Ethos Technologies Inc.

Jessica Mowry

HEAD OF PEOPLE

Jessica Mowry

Ethos Technologies’ Head of People Jessica Mowry shared how virtual cooking classes led by colleagues have helped connect their team and promote cultural understanding while working remotely. The life insurance platform also created four ERGs and aims to promote diversity of thought through its core value, “speak your mind.”

 

What’s one step your team has taken to help employees improve their cultural competency?

DEI is a mindset and one we are working to embed in every facet of how we build our company through talent strategy, brand strategy, leadership, culture, analytics and more. At the end of the day, we know that DEI leads to better outcomes. As a starting point, we’ve established a D&I committee, as well as four ERGs: Shethos, Parents at Ethos, Black at Ethos, and Pride. All groups are open to any Ethosaurs. We love having allies, regardless of someone’s background, and we welcome all!


How does Ethos promote or celebrate cultural diversity in the workplace? 

During our time of remote work, we created what we call “Master Class.” Each class is hosted by an Ethosaur who teaches and shares something that they're passionate about. Our VP of engineering led a cooking class on how to cook Amritsari Machhi, the Punjabi dish featuring freshwater fish; Began ka Bharta, a smoky and spicy eggplant dish from North India; and Arhar ki Dal, a lentil soup that is a staple of Indian home cooking. We’ve also had sessions on mindfulness, led by our program manager, and an origami class with our sales operations associate.

In addition to Master Classes, we celebrate holidays and global events. Our Black at Ethos group just spearheaded thought-provoking programming for Black History Month to raise awareness and celebrate the often marginalized contributions of Black figures throughout history. We also encouraged teammates to share their recollections of learning about Black history as a student growing up. 


How does cultural competence show up in the ways your employees communicate and relate with one another? 

One of our core values is “speak your mind,” and we operate by the principle “strong opinions, loosely held.” This allows us to come with a perspective, ask each other probing questions, challenge each other's thinking, and ultimately leverage our diversity of thought to arrive at the best solution.

During the Black Lives Matter movement, we created Black at Ethos and initiated a matching donation program for civil rights organizations. These discussions are ongoing and remain an integral part of our cultural competence.

We take care of each other by offering wellness benefits to support mental health. We’ve joined forces with Ginger, Headspace and Calm to promote a healthier mindset. We offer four weeks of paid leave for caregivers and up to 18 weeks of parental leave for new families. We also have flexible PTO.

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Definitive Healthcare

Danielle DeVirgilio

HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER

Danielle DeVirgilio

Celebration time

In 2020, Definitive Healthcare began month-long celebrations to highlight different cultures and groups. The celebrations have included Black History Month, Women’s History Month, National Hispanic Heritage Month and others, and entail guest speakers, themed social events and charitable efforts.

 

Whats one step your team has taken to help employees improve their cultural competency?

We require that every employee participates in a cross-functional DEI foundations training. This is a two-hour training session, facilitated by an expert DEI consultant, that includes a workshopping element that allows participants to talk to one another and learn more about everyone’s unique experiences in the workplace. The training also gives folks a baseline on why having cultural competence is so important, and it allows us to create a shared language around these topics.

 

How does your company promote or celebrate cultural diversity in the workplace?

We offer a variety of opportunities for employees to engage with one another and find events and programs that resonate with them. One driving force is our employee-led affinity groups, which enable employees to come together, share common experiences and learn from one another about the different communities in our organization.

We believe employees who feel free to bring their whole selves to Definitive are empowered to do their best work and thrive.’’

In 2020, we began month-long celebrations to highlight underrepresented populations: Black History Month, Women’s History, National Hispanic Heritage and others. During these celebrations, we offer learning opportunities, guest speakers, themed social events and typically pick one nonprofit to donate to in support of the group we’re celebrating. 

How does cultural competence show up in the ways your employees communicate and relate with one another?

Our efforts lead to better connectivity and camaraderie with one another, and a greater sense of belonging and inclusion. We believe employees who feel free to bring their whole selves to Definitive are empowered to do their best work and thrive.

We see the impact of our efforts through greater engagement in our company culture, more participation in our events (lunch and learns, mixers, team building, etc.), more employee involvement in our four affinity groups, and open and candid dialogue among colleagues.

 

Grubhub

Becky Altman

SR. MANAGER, CULTURE AND COMMUNITY

Becky Altman

A day off to give back

This year, Grubhub’s holiday calendar includes a new floating day that can be used for volunteering, wellness or recognizing a cultural event or holiday. Becky Altman, a senior manager of culture and community, said it gives employees greater flexibility and personal choice around what time away from work means outside of the traditional holiday calendar. 

 

Whats one step your team has taken to help employees improve their cultural competency?

At Grubhub, we know that in order to create a sense of belonging we must promote building relationships with one another and provide employees with safe spaces that encourage them to be their authentic selves. We provide a variety of ways to bring our employee community together to share stories, ask questions, be vulnerable and gain empathy and compassion for one another. Examples include our GrubConnect groups (ERGs), Grublife culture events, small-group inclusive workplace discussions, and our training and speaker series. 

 

How does your company promote or celebrate cultural diversity in the workplace?

GrubConnect groups have been instrumental in promoting and celebrating our cultural diversity. In the past year, we’ve launched six groups including Pride, Unidos, Working Parents and Women in Tech. Most recently, our Black ERG sponsored a month of activities, discussions, resources and events for Black History Month, including an event focused on talking to children about race.

We believe that being culturally competent is to respect, value and communicate with each other.’’

Providing ways to share stories and celebrate cultural events has been top of mind for us while working remotely. We recently introduced a new floating day as part of our holiday calendar that allows employees greater flexibility and personal choice around what time away from work means outside of the traditional holiday calendar. This could include time off for volunteering, wellness or recognizing a holiday/cultural event that’s meaningful to them. We encourage everyone to share stories and pictures of how they spent their time and the cultural significance of the event. 

 

How does cultural competence show up in the ways your employees communicate and relate with one another?

We believe that being culturally competent is to respect, value and communicate with each other. It is important that we recognize that one voice does not represent all voices. Our teams are constantly asking, “Who is not in this room that needs to be and what voice are we missing?” These questions allow for critical conversations to take place and pushes us to work toward a more inclusive workplace. We collaborate with other teams and members of our GrubConnect groups to bring more perspectives into the conversation.

 

Cybereason

Marisa Ianelli

VP OF PEOPLE

Marisa Ianelli

‘You be you’

When it comes to cultural competency at Cybereason, look no further than one of their core values. It’s UbU (as in, ‘you be you’), and it’s one of VP of People Marisa Ianelli’s favorites. “It means that we believe people can only unlock their full potential when they work somewhere that accepts them for who they are,” she said.

 

Whats one step your team has taken to help employees improve their cultural competency?

We have employees all over the world who represent a variety of backgrounds and cultures. For example, we speak more than 20 different languages across our organization! We recently created our UbU advisory board consisting of Cybereason employees. We began the initiative with three main objectives: learning and development, creating a mission statement and Black Lives Matter. The goal of the mission statement was to keep us focused and working toward a goal. We also felt it was very important to focus on the BLM movement and what we can do as a company both now and moving forward.

We will continue to coordinate workshops, guest speakers and other initiatives that will enable Cybereasoners to grow personally and professionally.

 

How does your company promote or celebrate cultural diversity in the workplace?

Our company promotes cultural diversity in many different ways. We recently celebrated Black History Month with a month-long campaign designed to inspire action, education and connection. We compiled a ton of resources to share with our employees all month long. Some of these included daily Slack posts of historical events that took place ‘on this day.’ We provided a list of ways to support Black-owned and Black-operated businesses and restaurants. We also included a section dedicated to Black art, film and literature. We provided lists of books, movies, documentaries and free virtual events.

Planning anything for a global company involves many moving parts, and it wouldn’t work unless we had trust, respect, equity, fairness and social justice.’’

We also had our employees who are a part of the Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) community speak candidly about their work and personal experiences in an internal interview, which we shared with the entire company. We’re looking forward to expanding these conversations to more groups within Cybereason.

 

How does cultural competence show up in the ways your employees communicate and relate with one another?

Most employees have someone on their team or someone they need to interact with on a regular basis who is not located in the same country as them. That being said, we have employees scheduling meetings in a variety of different time zones, so there are sometimes language barriers as well as cultural differences. We have to have a strong cultural competence in order to make this work. Planning anything for a global company involves many moving parts, and it wouldn’t work unless we had trust, respect, equity, fairness and social justice. We are able to get the work accomplished because we all operate using cultural competence.

 

Kyruus

Lona Laughhunn

STRATEGIC ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE

Lona Laughhunn

DEI participation

Kyruus created a DEI committee in 2020 to improve cultural competency. It’s composed of individuals from all across the company, from entry-level employees to the CEO, said Lona Laughhunn, a strategic account executive.  

 

Whats one step your team has taken to help employees improve their cultural competency?

One major step Kyruus took to improve cultural competency is creating our DEI committee. It’s composed of individuals from multiple cultures, races, locations, age groups and gender identities. Participation ranges from entry-level employees to our CEO. This group has been instrumental in fostering an inclusive and equitable workplace. Members from the committee have taken on various initiatives and projects to help keep DEI at the forefront of our culture and product strategy.

 

How does your company promote or celebrate cultural diversity in the workplace?

We have a quarterly DEI speaker series on topics such as women in leadership, how to celebrate Black History Month, LGBTQ+ leaders, economic diversity, mental health and more. Although metrics are important, we believe that storytelling is the most powerful tool we have. These panel discussions have brought forth deep and meaningful conversation on DEI topics. 

I have also noticed that DEI has become embedded in our culture by how fluently and frequently it comes up...’’

In addition to the panel discussions, we send out a monthly newsletter that explains various cultural holidays and practices. Team members also share personal anecdotes. This month, we will be highlighting International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month, the Persian New Year, youth homelessness and the National Day of Silence. 

 

How does cultural competence show up in the ways your employees communicate and relate with one another?

A previous panelist introduced themselves by saying, “These are not my ‘preferred’ pronouns. These are my pronouns.” Since then, Kyruus team members have actively incorporated pronouns into their introductions. For example, many of us have pronouns added to our names on Zoom.

I have also noticed that DEI has become embedded in our culture by how fluently and frequently it comes up within product meetings and everyday team discussions. We are seeking to make Kyruus a more diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace, and we are also eager to help the customers and the patients we serve by making our products more inclusive and accessible as well. 

 

The Predictive Index

David Silbert

DEI & BELONGING PROJECT MANAGER | CONTENT MARKETING WRITER

David Silbert

Sharing the love

We all have topics and things we’re passionate about. At The Predictive Index, a software tech company in Westwood, Massachusetts, they want you to share it with the company. That’s why they launched a new series of lunch-and-learn sessions this year where employees provide a crash course on a topic they love, said David Silbert, a DEI project manager.

 

Whats one step your team has taken to help employees improve their cultural competency?

At PI, we have a program called [email protected] Each year, we build a roadmap of projects that are employee ideas, from educational workshops to volunteering. These projects center around inclusion and fostering a workplace that’s welcoming of all backgrounds.

Also, we put out a survey each quarter to track employee sentiment and ensure we’re driving change in areas our employees are passionate about. By having that collective engagement, we can ensure we’re practicing cultural competency at all levels of the organization.

 

How does your company promote or celebrate cultural diversity in the workplace?

Inclusion is central to our culture at PI. We are stronger when all employees feel empowered to share their own stories and be themselves at work.

In 2021, we’re celebrating that diversity with a series of lunch-and-learn sessions in which employees provide a crash course on a topic they love. From exploring different cultures to discussing civics and ethics, we’re encouraging all employees to further their learning and embrace what makes us different. We’re also curating a self-serve digital resource library. This hub includes books, articles, videos and podcasts that are all recommended by our employees. By contextualizing our lived experiences, we want to provide ample ways to learn from one another and take action.

We are stronger when all employees feel empowered to share their own stories and be themselves at work.’’

How does cultural competence show up in the ways your employees communicate and relate with one another?

Transparency plays a huge role in building cultural competence. Our team provides regular updates on cultural initiatives at all-company meetings, town hall sessions and through our internal website. We also encourage our employees to share feedback, named or anonymous, on what’s going well with our culture and how we can improve it.

Communication takes honesty and, for many, a fair degree of vulnerability. We strive to provide safe spaces to be vulnerable, putting on regular workshops and roundtables on topics like equity and diversity. Ultimately, we want to establish that continual feedback loop so we can continue to propel our culture forward.

 

AlphaSights

Erum Chaudhry

DEI RECRUITING MANAGER

Erum Chaudhry

What’s one step your team has taken to help employees improve their cultural competency?

Cultural competence is ingrained in daily life at AlphaSights. Our leaders encourage us to be active listeners, have empathetic and adaptable mindsets, and be open to different perspectives to create a safe space for dialogue and encourage discussion. These skills help us communicate and collaborate successfully within our teams and also with clients externally.

Conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion begin early in your tenure at AlphaSights with unconscious bias trainings. We always encourage employees to examine how they can contribute to building a highly inclusive culture at our firm.

By fostering an inclusive culture, our employees are able to bring their true, authentic selves to work each day.”

 

How does your company promote or celebrate cultural diversity in the workplace?

We have a variety of ERGs that promote and celebrate cultural diversity across the firm. The Asian Knowledge Inclusion Network (AKIN) provides a space for AS employees with similar cultural backgrounds and their allies to come together in workshops, roundtables, social mixers and other programming to celebrate their heritage. They’ve organized Diwali Celebrations, Boba Fridays and Filipino American History Month pop-ups. 

Pride is another ERG that cultivates a community for employees who identify as LGBTQIA+ and their allies. They’ve organized a Pride Day parade brunch, celebrated National Coming Out Day by distributing Pride flags to the New York office, and hosted panel discussions with LGBTQIA+ business executives.

 

How does cultural competence show up in the ways your employees communicate and relate with one another?

By fostering an inclusive culture, our employees are able to bring their true, authentic selves to work each day. Individuals are able to freely talk about their backgrounds and express opinions without feeling judged. Instead, they feel support and interest from their peers. Whether we’re in the office or now on a Zoom meeting, we frequently chat about weekend plans that might involve celebrating a traditional holiday or trying a new international cuisine. This mindset translates into the daily work our teams do because it allows us to hear different perspectives and generate new ideas to make our firm more successful as a whole.

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Location3

Amanda Qualls

DIRECTOR OF HR

Amanda Qualls

What’s one step your team has taken to help employees improve their cultural competency?

At Location3, we have always strived to have a culturally competent team and company, but last year forced us to up our game. The pandemic challenged us to think about what was really important and the Black Lives Matter movement forced us to acknowledge our weaknesses. We have always had a culture where employees are passionate about social issues. Last year, we put a greater emphasis on stepping back to listen to our team. Our most significant action was to create an outlet to start discussing and acting on diversity, equity and inclusion more consistently. We provided an outlet for open communication with leadership, more specifically the CEO and HR director.

We put a greater emphasis on stepping back to listen to our team.”

 

How does Location3 celebrate cultural diversity in the workplace? 

We created a diversity and inclusivity committee and had 18 employees volunteer to join. We aim to celebrate diversity at Location3 and in the broader community while making DEI work an everyday part of what it means to work for the company. 

The committee is focused on initiating internal and external DEI efforts. For instance, we’re partnering with Denver Public Schools to conduct virtual events with middle schoolers and high schoolers about what we do at Location3. Over the summer, we’ll be bringing in high school interns to expose them to digital marketing and let them know whether it’s something they want to pursue after graduation. We’re also hosting a DEI speaker who will facilitate safe and productive conversations about cultural diversity with the entire company.

 

How does cultural competence show up in the ways your employees communicate and relate with one another? 

We are talking about culture more than ever. We are all more aware of how we communicate and relate with one another. We also recognize the impact we can have through these communications and we approach conversations with more care. Employees feel comfortable coming to the leadership team with recommendations and questions around culture and we do our best to let them know they are heard. Cultural competence is now part of our manager training. Our CEO is also speaking about cultural competence and diversity more. All of these acts are paving the way for us to transform our culture. 

 

Better.com

Ivori Johnson

SR. MANAGER, D&I RECRUITING PROGRAMS

Ivori Johnson

Senior Manager of D&I Recruiting Programs Ivori Johnson highlighted Better.com’s speaker series, 11 ERGs, civic work and intersectional holiday celebrations as part of their cultural competency initiatives.

 

What’s one step your team has taken to help employees improve their cultural competency?

We welcomed a set of speakers to lead conversations with Better employees on diversity, racial inequities, housing policy, and civic engagement. Speakers to date have included the following: Senator Cory Booker, Frans Johansson, professor Duchess Harris, Richard Rothstein and Bakari Sellers. In addition, our ERGs, which represent various communities within Better, have spearheaded interactive educational and cultural programs. 

For example, our ERG Seneca Village created an internal employee book club focusing on a set of selections to provide employees the opportunity to build a knowledge base on housing policies. Our program pilot launched with more than 200 participants reading “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.” Now, we are looking to embed this into our onboarding program. Additionally, we continue to have conversations around inclusive hiring and how to increase representation at all levels within Better. We have begun forming partnerships with organizations such as Climb Hire, Afrotech, dev/color, and Women Who Code.
 

There is a certain magic that happens here that allows our workforce to be the voice and driving force behind creating a culture of representation and cultural competence.”


How does Better promote or celebrate cultural diversity in the workplace? 

Some of the best examples of how we celebrate cultural diversity are through our ERGs. We have 11 ERGs that collaborate to address and celebrate intersections of diversity in powerful and unique ways. In December, our ERGs gathered to celebrate the holidays and reflect on the past year as a community. Our end-of-year celebrations incorporated Kwanzaa celebrations with traditional Latin American Noche Buena festivities while concurrently hosting a women in tech game night and a fantastic LGBTQIA+ drag show for all employees. There is a certain magic that happens here that allows our workforce to be the voice and driving force behind creating a culture of representation and cultural competence.

 

How does cultural competence show up in the ways your employees communicate and relate with one another? 

We have many employees from different industries, backgrounds, educations and more. In order to serve the communities that we support, we have to learn more about one another. Through allyship, our ERGs have been able to create space for allies who want to show up and support different communities. Our employees have been able to talk freely about systemic inequities and educate allies on how to support.

 

Talespin

Antoinette Jones

DIRECTOR OF PEOPLE OPERATIONS

Antoinette Jones

Talespin’s efforts to increase cultural competence include a newly launched committee and five subcommittees focused on mental health, company values, diversifying the workforce, race and socioeconomic learning and internal education. The initiatives span their offices in Culver City, California, and Utrecht, the Netherlands.

 

What’s one step your team has taken to help employees improve their cultural competency?

For some, 2020 shined a blinding light on the alarming and unfortunate state of social justice and equality in today’s world. As opposed to allowing these realizations to separate us more than the pandemic already had, we took this as an opportunity to take action for our company and culture with the creation of Talespin’s “Diversity, Inclusion and Cultural Accountability” (DICA) committee. DICA was created and is driven entirely by employees from across the organization. Employees are encouraged, and in some cases required, to participate in various engaging workshops, exercises, companywide initiatives, and group discussions with their colleagues. The goal is to foster an environment that allows everyone to focus on learning about the importance of understanding and empathize with each other in order to create an inclusive and supportive workplace. 

Within the DICA committee, we created five subcommittees focused on mental health, company values, commitment to a diverse workforce, race and socioeconomic learning, and internal education. Through these subcommittees, we ensure the primary areas of cultural competency are covered to improve our company culture in a more impactful way.
 

Finding the balance between productivity and cultural inclusion is critical in leading teams efficiently and effectively in the U.S. and the Netherlands.”


How does Talespin promote or celebrate cultural diversity in the workplace? 

Talespin has created a comprehensive employee resource page on our internal communications platform, Confluence. Here, employees will find a one-stop shop with all the tools and information they need to learn, engage and connect with their colleagues about the various backgrounds we all come from. This page also contains educational videos, music playlists, suggested readings, activities and other helpful resources for those seeking support in areas outside of their work life. Additional mental health-related support and information can also be found on this page.

Talespin also makes a point to acknowledge and celebrate important holidays and significant days of observances like Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Pride Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, and many others. From sharing historical facts and context to encouraging our employees to take mental health days to recharge and reflect, we strive to find ways to support our people in all areas. Finding the balance between productivity and cultural inclusion is critical in leading teams efficiently and effectively in the U.S. and the Netherlands.

 

How does cultural competence show up in the ways your employees communicate and relate with one another? 

We’ve taken a head-on approach to confront and encourage communication around cultural differences. With the support of our company culture consultant, we have successfully established safe spaces like our company town halls to encourage open communication and dialogue. These town halls invite all employees to voice their feelings on the state of society, openly discuss their concerns and collectively support one another.

The town hall idea inspired us to take the opportunity to learn together a step further. Our internal education subcommittee implemented workshops for Talespin employees to engage in various topics surrounding diversity and inclusion under the guidance of our company culture consultants. These workshops had custom curriculums focused on emotional intelligence, unconscious bias and identifying microaggressions. In addition to the wealth of information, it is a great way for employees to vulnerably share about our experiences and educate one another on the topics we may have never been exposed to. In many ways, it has brought our teams closer together in a time where we are all so far apart.

 

Favor

Rachel Burnside

MANAGER, DEI

Rachel Burnside

Favor is an on-demand delivery app, promising users personal deliveries of anything in under an hour. To help employees practice and improve their cultural competency, the company created seven unique employee resource groups. DEI Manager Rachel Burnside said that ERG events include learning labs on a variety of topics, virtual parties, town hall meetings, roundtables and more. 

 

What’s one step your team has taken to help employees improve their cultural competency?

Here at Favor, we encourage our team members to not only bring their full selves to work, but to also find common ground and celebrate our diversity together. We’ve created seven unique employee resource groups to help our team members find a place where they can relate, educate, grow and find allyship with others who want to support and stand in the gap. 

We offer learning labs that not only help with career development but also focus on key issues and conversations with topics including “Understanding Racism & Privilege,” “Reimagining Motherhood,” and “Amplifying Black Queer Voices.” We also recently issued our diversity data survey to team members to help us move from assumption to reality. We will use the results from this survey to help inform policy, programming and opportunities provided to team members.

 

How does your company promote or celebrate cultural diversity in the workplace? 

At Favor, we celebrate cultural diversity in a variety of different ways. By acknowledging a wide variety of holidays, spotlighting team members internally and externally and providing opportunities to give back, we seek to give team members and the communities around us the ability to support and celebrate in their own unique way. During this past holiday season, our ERG co-chairs hosted an internal virtual party called “How Do You Holiday?” that allowed team members to share their unique experiences during the holidays. 

Our team members are able to acknowledge our cultural diversity and celebrate it alongside one another.”

With the help of our communities, we raised over a quarter of a million dollars through Favor’s We Stand Together Fund in 2020 to support organizations working to create actionable, meaningful and lasting change toward racial justice and equity. Through every giving initiative, Favor seeks to provide education around why we are giving, who we are giving to and how those demographics are impacted.

 

How does cultural competence show up in the ways your employees communicate and relate with one another? 

One of our four core values at Favor is “community first.” A crucial part of living this value out day to day is cultural competence and how we interact, communicate and relate to one another. Through a variety of different platforms, such as ERG meetings and Slack channels, weekly town hall meetings, social media posts and more, our team members are able to acknowledge our cultural diversity and celebrate that diversity alongside one another. 

Our managers also have the opportunity each month to attend a manager roundtable to develop their skills and learn new and effective ways of supporting their team members. Our December Roundtable, “Managing Across Differences,” focused on cultural competence, recognizing the diversity within our teams, and supporting team members in the best way unique to each of them.

 

Digital Turbine

Sylvia Krzmarzick

CHIEF PEOPLE OFFICER

Sylvia Krzmarzick

Digital Turbine is an on-demand media platform that provides users with content discovery, user acquisition and engagement, operation efficiency and monetization opportunities. In order to help employees practice and improve their cultural competency, the company encourages participation in community action teams. Chief People Officer Sylvia Krzmarzick said that these teams focus their actions on a range of topics including global inclusiveness, health and safety, learning and education and more.

 

What’s one step your team has taken to help employees improve their cultural competency?

Over half of our population across every level and department participated in community action teams. These action teams have four key themes: culture and values; global inclusiveness and remote work; health and safety; and learning and education. Through them, we discussed how social justice, inclusion and equality are reflected and represented in our values and how we can improve team cohesion, collaboration and feeling of community. 

The community action teams have kicked off work that will be measured with KPIs so that we are marking progress while taking action. Finally, this team has rallied to deliver unprecedented profitability while trusting the company enough with authentic feedback and stories so that our actions are tangible.

 

How does your company promote or celebrate cultural diversity in the workplace? 

One of the core values that we take pride in is “global.” We’re a diverse company with team members in time zones across all continents. We host quarterly value awards where all employees can nominate and celebrate a co-worker who has found ways to bring the team together despite the miles between them. The global value award is designed to recognize those who utilize thinking outside the box to provide a global solution.

Each individual is encouraged to work in a way that best fits their life.’’

We also don’t prescribe holidays so that all of our employees can prioritize the holidays that are meaningful to them and their cultures.

We’ve attended diverse recruiting events, we’re a sponsoring member of Austin Women in Technology and revel in the opportunity to connect with people from all walks of life. Our team and our clients reflect this sentiment of diversity, where everyone can bring their authentic self to work.

 

How does cultural competence show up in the ways your employees communicate and relate with one another? 

We schedule meetings with different office schedules (time zones and local holidays) in mind.

Our all-hands meetings are equal parts business and people-focused, shining a light on how our hustle and results relate to our people and vice versa. We also schedule all-hands in different time zones — have them twice in one day. CEO Bill Stone has done an all-hands from Singapore or a different global office and the U.S. team watches it at a later time.

Perhaps most importantly, our freedom and global values merge in that each individual is encouraged to work in a way that best fits their life.

 

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