At Asana, we spend our days creating and sharing software that helps organizations manage projects and operate effectively across all arms of their businesses. In a nutshell, we empower workforces—including Uber, Pinterest, and our own team—to do great things together.
In doing so, we know that building a world-class team of talented, diverse individuals is key to our success. But the truth is that when we started growing our team six years ago, we naively assumed that diversity would just happen on its own. Now, we have more than 200 employees across three cities—our headquarters in San Francisco, and smaller offices in New York and Dublin.
We recognize that there’s a lot of work that goes into building a diverse and inclusive team. It doesn’t magically happen overnight, and it doesn’t come solely from hiring someone like me whose job is to focus on creating and fostering diversity. It takes investment, strategy, and time. But, by implementing conscious adjustments, teams can expect to see shifts in more than just their numbers. There is also a lot we can all learn from each other in this regard.
Here are the steps we’re taking to get better:
1. Incorporate Inclusivity into the Hiring Process
If any step of your hiring process disproportionately cuts out marginalized groups, you’re probably doing something wrong. Examine and adjust your processes to be inclusive and unbiased. This will lead you to be more thoughtful about how you assess individual candidates and improve the quality of all your hires.
2. Establish the Right Intentions
Hiring from marginalized groups simply for the sake of diversifying your company is insincere. People deserve to be recognized for what they’ll bring to the table. Identifying what you really want can change how you interview all candidates. There are lots of valuable skills beyond technological ones, like user empathy and product sense—many of which are even harder to teach.
3. Build Internal Support
It’s vital to get the whole team behind inclusion. Otherwise, the work falls to whoever feels most passionately about it—or, worse, to those perceived to be the most passionate about it, often because of their minority status. Executive support is especially crucial to show, without ambiguity, that diversity work is on par with the rest of your HR and recruiting programs.
4. Identify Someone to Lead the Efforts
The most important way a company can recognize that working toward diversity is vital and long-running is to hire a full-time diversity lead. If you’re not ready for a full-time role, start with a part-time role, either in recruiting or HR. Partnering with an organization or bringing in a consultant, like we did with Joelle Emerson of Paradigm, is a great way to get things started before hiring someone full-time.
5. Respect That This Is a Long-Term Investment
Smaller companies are often better positioned to start to move the needle and address diversity-related shortcomings. But we also have to recognize that this shift takes time. Perhaps that’s one of the most important facets of the diversity problem: Just like you can’t put a Band-Aid on some bad code or simply sweep poor earnings reports under the rug, this can’t be solved through some quick fix or short-term solution. It’s going to take a lot of time, energy, and dedication.
While we’ve still got a long way to go, our team has started to implement our own advice. As far as we know, we’re the smallest tech company to have created a dedicated position for diversity and inclusion, and I, for one, am extremely enthusiastic about what that means for our future.