Creating an environment where all staff feel understood, heard and valued is key to championing employee wellbeing and driving improved business performance.
Companies with inclusive cultures benefit from 22% lower turnover rates and 39% higher customer satisfaction (Deloitte, 2018). The reason is simple: When staff feel their contributions and presence are valued and taken seriously they’re more likely to stay. Companies that employ diverse teams also have the advantage of bringing fresh perspectives and new ideas into the workplace, which ultimately leads to increased innovation, performance and client service.
How does Awin and ShareASale address diversity and inclusion in the workspace?
Awin’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force organized a panel session for staff in October 2022 dedicated to the diversity we see in human bodies and minds.
The aim was to spread awareness across our global teams, provide practical tips to overcome potential barriers and be more inclusive towards colleagues with mental and physical abilities. We welcomed four experts on the virtual stage to discuss how our teams can leverage the power of diverse abilities, and the benefits they bring to the company.
Jamie Shields, Rachel Akehurst, Susan Youd and Scott Gordon sat on the virtual panel, which was facilitated by Awin’s DEI Lead Veska Uzunova.
Jamie Shields is registered blind and awaiting his formal ADHD assessment. Having struggled to gain and retain employment for most of his life, Jamie wants to remove the barriers that are imposed on those with disability. This is also reflected in his work at AMS True Workforce Dexterity, a global organization that builds, reshapes and optimizes workforces.
Rachel Akehurst is a professional youth worker, specializing in designing services with and for young people with additional needs. Rachel is executive director of services of Action for Kids. AFK supports disabled children and young people by providing mobility equipment, employment support, training and promoting self-advocacy.
Susan Youd works as a campaign assistant at Awin UK. Susan has lived with a form of Autism called Asperger’s Syndrome since the age of six. Now she is determined to break the stigma and increase awareness regarding the condition in the workplace and daily life.
Scott Gordon is a user experience (UX) writer at Awin. In this role, Scott strives to provide a seamless experience for all users of Awin’s digital products and services. This includes implementing features that improve digital usability and translating technical information into comprehensive, understandable documentation for customers.
Here’s what we learned from this event and our tips for creating a more inclusive workplace:
1. Inclusive workspaces are built on awareness and shared values
The first step towards an inclusive culture is for people in the organization to be aware of the different abilities and barriers their colleagues could encounter by spreading knowledge through educational content and training. On a more strategic level, it’s useful to define and continuously revisit a set of clear company values together with resources that support employees to stand by them. For example, policies that describe how to act upon discrimination, harassment and bullying.
“It’s important that everyone is on the same page with values across the organization. This also means challenging discrimination, also when people make innocent mistakes. Organizations should provide guidance for employees on how to challenge discrimination appropriately.”
The Awin Group’s DEI manifesto and policy guide staff on behavioral norms. At the same time, there have been recent initiatives to raise awareness of mental health and removing the stigma around the topic, such as promotion of awareness days, fundraising initiatives and internal events. We’ve also setup multiple and entirely confidential channels so staff can access counseling services and professional mental health support.
From a training perspective, Awin and ShareASale provide an established onboarding and blended learning and development portfolio, dedicated to intersectional DEI topics and best practices for managers and staff.
2. Give employees a voice with Employee Resource Groups
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) – also known as “Affinity Groups” or “Employee Networks” – are groups within a company that are founded and managed entirely by volunteer employees. Groups can be created around demographics and characteristics (including those which are entirely invisible like religious affiliation, neuro-diversity, personality, etc.). ERGs will help companies to move away from making assumptions, and rather consult people with lived experiences, which will be different on a personal level.
Jamie Shields (AMS True Workforce Dexterity): “The power of the Employee Resource Group is that it takes the DEI in the company to the next level because you have a dedicated group with lived experience and allies able to continuously drive the topic forward. This is how we change the narrative of disability and neurodiversity: by putting real people into it.”
Awin Group employees have access to an ERG ecosystem and platform to get involved with from the first day they join the company. We make sure every employee is given the opportunity to join and contribute to an ERG so that we can collectively drive the business forward.
3. Provide a forum for people to disclose their identity and needs
People feel most comfortable at work when they can be themselves and their needs are properly catered for. However, stigma can be a barrier to disclosing this information. Thus, it’s crucial to provide a safe space and platform for employees that may not be comfortable speaking with their direct colleagues or manager. Of course, this should be driven by a personal decision and should never be made mandatory by the company or manager.
Susan Youd (Awin): “Being disability confident can help people fulfil their potential and contribute to business success.”
Awin and ShareASale ensure multiple channels for feedback (directly in performance reviews and regular catch ups, and anonymously via bi-weekly Peakon pulse surveys) and supports through a variety of ‘safe spaces’ for staff who require protection, support or assistance.
4. Small efforts can make a big impact
Everyone in an organization can contribute to an inclusive workspace. Some practical tips to apply in your day-to-day work:
- When scheduling online meetings, enable transcripts and live captions. If you’re using slide shows, make sure it has sufficient information in the presentation so it’s easier to follow.
- When developing new processes or features, recruit diverse stakeholder groups to gather requirements and test functionality with different perspectives in mind.
- When collaborating on projects, ask colleagues what you can do to best support them.
Scott Gordon (Awin): “Writing copy that’s accessible should not be an optional extra, but a fundamental aim of online content writing. When you write accessible copy, you
don’t just improve the experience for a portion of your users, such as those with lower reading comprehension, but for all users at once.”
At Awin and ShareASale, we strive to follow the above tips across our global business to make it a safer, more inclusive place to work. Our DEI taskforce of 24 volunteer colleagues together with our people & culture team continue to raise awareness on the importance of creating and empowering a diverse workplace. We look forward to building upon our DEI efforts as the company continues to grow.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Awin Group’s DEI work or would like to collaborate on an initiative, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.