While an inclusive workforce doesn’t happen overnight, company leaders can take these steps to move the needle in the right direction.

Companies that want to realize the full advantages of their employees should prioritize fostering an environment where everyone feels a sense of inclusion and belonging. And while an inclusive workforce doesn’t happen overnight, leaders can take certain steps to move the needle in the right direction.

The first step, according to Sure’s VP of Engineering Jico Baligod, is ensuring that diversity and inclusion are communicated as core company values. From there, leaders must lead by example and promote processes and behaviors that exemplify these values.

Jico Baligod
VP of Engineering at Sure

After the foundation has been laid, it’s important to incorporate diversity and inclusiveness in each aspect of the company — from hiring to meetings and more. How so? Baligod, along with Lever’s Engineering Manager Alex Choi and BlackLine’s VP of Engineering Vinod Malhotra share best practices below.

According to Baligod, VP of engineering at insurance technology company Sure, one aspect of fostering an inclusive culture is creating space for everyone’s ideas and opinions to be heard. In order to achieve this, Baligod creates an open flow of communication in company syncs and one-on-one meetings.

From your experience, what is the key to being an inclusive leader, and why?

Building a company culture of diversity and inclusion doesn’t happen automatically. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to not only support an inclusive culture but to make an active effort to create and foster one. First, diversity and inclusion needs to be communicated as core company values. From there, we need to lead by example by promoting processes and behaviors that exemplify these values.

​A key process to focus on is the building block of every company — hiring. At Sure, we strive to employ equitable hiring practices to build an interview process that supports candidates of all backgrounds. We make a conscious effort to eliminate bias, instead focusing on hard and soft skills, and an alignment to company values.

​By communicating company values and demonstrating them regularly, leadership lays down a solid foundation for others to follow. With that said, it’s the rest of the team that truly builds and maintains a company culture of belonging. If you hire great people who align with your core company values, keeping an inclusive company culture alive should feel effortless.

What’s a real-life example of your inclusive leadership style in action?

One aspect of fostering an inclusive culture is creating space for everyone’s ideas and opinions to be heard. This can be challenging with a fully remote team, especially in large group meetings. If I’m the person driving the meeting, one question I like to ask during a discussion is, “Does anyone have any opposing opinions?” I find this explicit prompt helps provide opportunities for others to join in on the conversation.

​With any diverse team, there will be people who aren’t as outspoken or comfortable in large group settings. That’s why it’s also important to create different forums such as smaller group meetings or one-on-ones. At Sure, we have standing weekly one-on-one meetings between managers and individual team members. These standing meetings serve as another opportunity for everyone to share feedback, express their ideas and feel heard.

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It’s hard to be an inclusive leader unless you’re aware of your blind spots and biases. What steps have you taken to identify and address your own? And what impact has that had on the way you lead?

Working in isolation is an easy way to become oblivious to your own biases, so it’s important for our team to collaborate closely together on internal processes and with everyday work.

On a process level, one thing I’m conscious of is affinity bias in our hiring pipeline. It’s easy to prefer people who you get along with, to the point where you may end up screening out other qualified candidates with different personalities. We mitigate this bias by focusing on skills as objectively as possible, on culture “add” instead of “fit,” and on their alignment with our company values. We also have several team members meet with the candidate and then discuss hiring decisions as a group.

On a day-to-day basis, we all do our best to praise in public and criticize in private. We encourage everyone to highlight each other’s positive contributions and behaviors. Doing so reinforces our company culture and brings us closer as a team. Just as important is our proactiveness in providing constructive feedback when we recognize areas for improvement. Our weekly one-on-ones become a crucial forum for supporting personal and professional growth in this way.

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