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Finding the balance between engagement and culture

12 November 2018Jonathan Faurie

Trying to find purpose within a company can be difficult at times. The staff compliment within South African companies can often be made up of a melting pot of different cultures and personalities who mat not necessarily be aligned with the culture of a company.

However, it is important to establish this. A report by Forbes recently pointed out that US companies lose, on average, $605 billion a year because of a lack of engagement between company leadership and its employees. 

A lot of the conversation about engagement has to do with the communication structures that exist within an organisation. 

Serenity Gibbons, a Contributor for forbes.com, interviewed Isa Watson, the founder and CEO of Envested, a workplace engagement platform, to find out more about this subject. We thought we would share a few of the interviews insights with you. 

How do you facilitate communication in your company?

We’re diverse in age, race, gender, and religion. In fact, we’re a 50 percent female tech company, which is a pretty big achievement, especially with fewer than 20 employees. From a culture perspective and background, the people on our team don’t communicate the same way. That means we don’t have the same communication values or rules as others and can’t make assumptions. 

Everyone’s perspective is welcomed. That means for those who aren’t naturally assertive, we need to make sure we ask that person, “Hey, what are your thoughts?” There’s not one single person who’s afraid to share an opinion that’s different from the majority. Promoting inclusion in a way that both recognizes how people are different and makes sure they feel included in the conversation cultivates a culture where perspectives are shared more freely, and people feel more comfortable disagreeing. They’re more comfortable with giving and receiving real-time feedback. 

As we grow, I think we’ll see more of the same. Many companies get to 50, 100, or 1,000 people and suddenly realize their teams look homogenous. They then try to focus on diversity from a numbers perspective, but we’ve focused on inclusion early on. That doesn’t mean we’ve compromised on quality — our team is more educated than comparable start-ups’ rosters. But, rather than grow the company and try to stuff diversity in on the back end, we’ve been inclusive from day one. 

What's your current view of diversity in the workplace, and how has it evolved?

Right now, the conversation around diversity is mismanaged. Companies focus too much on diversity as something they need to achieve — which is part of the reason why there’s been a lot more talk about diversity than actual progress. Many companies think if they simply invest in having a presence at diversity conferences, in helping to achieve diversity, they’ll make strides — but they won’t. 

I’ve been at companies where people are looking for quotas of diverse hires or candidates, and the one thing I will say is that underrepresented people are attracted to inclusive environments. So, instead of focusing too much on the term “diversity,” what people need is to divert their attention to inclusion — and to more training on the management side to build an inclusive environment. At organizations, I always knew which managers were supportive of high-performing black talent — and so were others; that’s not something you keep to yourself. We naturally went to those who would champion us.

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