Cultivating an environment of belonging requires participation at every level of the organization, but managers are uniquely positioned to bring diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) initiatives to life for their teams.
In concert with other tactics—like creating and discussing KPIs and using tools like Bob to assess compensation or performance across the organization—it’s up to managers to build the connections that allow them to support individual contributors throughout the career lifecycle.
In an interview presented at “The State of DEIB” virtual event, our Chief Customer Officer Adi Janowitz explained how managers can extend the value of belonging through interactions with people on their team, and what HiBob looks for when hiring or promoting new managers.
“Being a caring manager is a great opportunity for me to be the person that I want to be at work,” Adi says. “But it’s more than that. By doing so—plus having clear goals for the team and radical candor—it helps us get to where we need to excel.”
DEI&B is a lens for improved focus
At its core, being diverse and inclusive is about keeping an open mind and giving different kinds of people across your organization opportunities to speak up and grow. Adi’s career is a perfect example of this. While she might be a Chief Customer Office today, she started out as a software programmer. Her enthusiasm for talking about tech and the value it brings people caught a manager’s eye. Adi ended up participating in a client exhibition and working with customers for the first time.
This opportunity showed her the connection between the product and the value it brings to customers—only later on defined as “customer success” With an inherent tendency to promote those value discussions, she gradually became more and more attracted to working with clients.
Her experience pivoting from programming to customer success—two seemingly unrelated career paths—informs her work today: Helping growing multi-national companies understand the value of creating inclusive cultures for every team member across the organization.
“DE&I is not just about hiring for diversity,” she says. “It’s mainly about inclusion and what it means to us to be inclusive within our culture and within our team. A lot of that relies on creating a safe environment in which each individual feels OK to voice their opinion, feels OK to voice their concerns or challenges, or even to say, I’m having a bad day.”
Having a diversity of thoughts, opinions, and backgrounds within an organization creates a multiplier effect that produces better results than a homogenous team ever could.
One-on-one conversations welcome candor and care
Companies that successfully apply DEI&B principles across the organization don’t stop at creating a safe environment for all people—they also value radical candor.
“We have to make sure that the feedback we’re giving to people is such that it can help them grow,” Adi says. “Sometimes those are not easy conversations. It’s about being brave and being able to articulate what feedback we can give people to help them grow within the company.”
Beyond providing feedback, these conversations are also essential for listening—ensuring that managers are hearing people and that their thoughts and opinions have a space within the management agenda.
Within the manager-employee relationship, the one-to-one meeting is the prime place where organizations can put these ideas into action. One-to-one meetings are most effective when they recur in a regular rhythm and utilize a predictable structure.
“Being able to wrap that conversation in a structure that is known and familiar goes back to creating [a] safe space,” Adi says, “while at the same time we’re not neglecting talking about what we are here to achieve together from a results perspective.”
She says that these meetings are, at their core, about empowering a manager to support their individual contributors by providing tools, and by taking a joint look at what they have accomplished so far.
And while it can be tempting—especially among remote and hybrid teams—to skip the small talk, asking someone about what’s happening in their personal life can actually be a very important point of connection.
“What’s the one thing that gives you the power to start your day, and what’s the one thing that is making you slower today?” Adi suggests these as strong questions to ask, adding that being able to reflect on these types of topics ultimately allows people to perform at their best.
Identify the culture-builders
As crucial as managers are for creating inclusive environments that allow people to thrive, the traits required to successfully manage a diverse team don’t come naturally to everyone.
Culture fit—the idea that a new hire shares the values of the team they will be joining—is an important aspect of hiring. But when it comes to managers, it’s not enough.
“We need people who are culture builders,” Adi says. “Those are the kind of managers that are passionate about building a culture and building a community.”
Successful managers are enthusiastic about this part of the job—management is not just a chore that comes alongside a promotion.
“Oftentimes in the world of technology especially, it’s very easy to promote people based on their performance,” Adi says. “But if we don’t look enough to make sure that the people we promote are passionate about coaching, are passionate about building that safe space for each one of their people and allowing them to succeed, then we’re not setting ourselves up for success in terms of building that culture and embracing it.”
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Finding the win together
At HiBob, the principles of inclusion and belonging are encapsulated in the motto, “Bring me, win as we”—an important sentiment that reveals the organization’s pathway to success at every management level.
“It’s all about winning together,” Adi says, “which means sometimes making sure someone else is in the spotlight. But as long as we can support them and make something successful, we’re all for it.”
This article is based on an interview from “The State of DEI&B: What’s Changing and What’s Next.” Watch the full virtual event for a look at the future of belonging in the workplace.
From Shelby Blitz
Shelby is the Head of Content at HiBob. She's passionate about the written word and storytelling. In a past life, she was a music journalist. When she's not writing and editing you can find her baking sweet treats in the kitchen.