At MailerLite, we're working with a team of 77 people from 20+ different countries. This unbelievable mix of cultures and perspectives makes one heck of a team. But the potential for greatness that comes with this diversity only works when everyone feels included, respected and heard.
In a diverse team, each person has their own way of thinking, doing and working. Every day is a new opportunity to learn something about someone's culture, background and personality. That's a unique experience!
The challenge is to nurture an inclusive work culture. To create a space where everyone feels welcome.
For us, this journey started with defining clear values. Values that show what we stand for and how we treat each other. This helps to shape our company culture and attract new like-minded people.
In this article, we'll explain how we use our company values to bring together the right group of people and create spaces to share opinions, broaden our views and grow as a team.
Several years ago I came across a study from dating app OkCupid. After analyzing the profiles of nearly 35,000 successful couples who met on OkCupid, researchers found that a third of the lovebirds similarly answered 3 seemingly random questions.
Maybe not so random after all?
The idea is that these questions are easy to ask on the first date and correlate to the deeper and unspeakable issues people actually care about. Can you have a good time being alone? Are you into adventures? How do you spend your free time?
There are very specific reasons why some people love or hate horror movies. And solo travel fanatics? They often share the same qualities: They trust themselves, are adaptable and self-reliant.
Successful couples share similar values. The same goes for successful teams, though not all companies use this fact to their advantage. Most recruiters tend to ask applicants questions that are interesting but don’t offer much insight into someone’s values.
During MailerLite’s hiring process, we focus on finding out people’s values and see if they align with ours. This way we know that though our views might differ, we fundamentally care about the same things.
To attract the right people, it's important to be transparent about your values.
By having our values published, anyone that wants to apply can make a decision upfront on whether we could be a good fit. Has your company written down its values? Share them online and link to them from your job ads. The more you talk about your culture and how you work, the easier candidates can decide whether or not to apply.
One of the things we value is self-motivated people. That’s why we let people create a newsletter about themselves to apply. You’d be surprised at how many people drop out knowing they can’t just send a regular cover letter. That’s fine because these people wouldn’t be a good fit for our remote team anyway. In this article, we’ll talk more about our newsletter hiring experiment.
Though no one likes to say goodbye, it is important to let people go if you realize your values differ after all.
For example, one of our values is “Treat people right”. This translates to things like respecting every team member regardless of their culture or gender. We will, and did, say goodbye to people that showed a lack of respect towards others on more than 1 occasion. To create a trusted environment, you have to be willing to make difficult decisions when needed. Sometimes you need to prune so the entire tree can flourish.
How do you encourage people with a different point of view to speak their minds?
When a team is too homogeneous, employees outside that group might find it difficult to speak up and be the odd one out. It’s important to create an inclusive environment where people share their ideas, discuss their differences and get to learn more about themselves. You can do this by encouraging people to notice what could be improved, voice their thoughts and find solutions.
Working in a multicultural team helps a lot when it comes to seeing blind spots and gaining a broader view of the world. People are more willing to share their thoughts and raise questions. In a diverse team, it’s good when people are aware of their differences and embrace them.
Recently we had a conversation about the use of “guys” in our team.
To some, this might seem like a small detail, but changes like this make us a more aware team. Though there were many different opinions, everyone agreed to do their best and make sure we all feel welcome within the team (and outside in communication towards our customers). To help us remember, we created a Slackbot.
Getting to know other team members is an important part of connecting and growing together. Some people are naturally drawn to each other, while others hardly ever cross paths. Bring people together by creating spaces where they can share their ideas and feel heard. Here are the activities we organize.
When new team members join MailerLite, we ask them to create and present a Pecha Kucha about themselves. Through this presentation, we get to know new colleagues and discover topics that connect us. All presentations are recorded so they can be replayed and watched by people that join MailerLite later. To see what a Pecha Kucha looks like, here’s the one from Product Manager, Amanda:
Video calls are a great way to connect with colleagues on a personal level. You can see their body language, facial expressions and hear people talk. For the past 5 years, we’ve been organizing non-work related remote calls where the entire team participates. At first, we all virtually met in the same room, now we’re chatting in smaller teams for an hour or so. Topics range from vacation plans to new things we’ve learned recently.
We also virtually team bond in our non-business Slack channels that are about movies, books, games, music and more. My personal favorite channel is #questionaday.
Every day, our team answers a random question, like:
It’s amazing to see the responses and learn new things together. For example, did you know that in the Netherlands during Easter, the majority gathers around the table to “gourmetten”? Or that Bulgarians eat boiled painted eggs at every single meal for at least 3-4 days. And that in Mexico people celebrate Easter with fish varieties like salted codfish, red snapper or “tortitas de camaron”, which is kinda like a crab cake but made of dried shrimp.
One year ago we did an experiment during one of our MailerLite workations. All team members completed the Myers & Brigs personality test and were divided into groups to work on a project. This experiment, which we talk about in this blog, helped us get to know each other on a deeper level and have more empathy toward each other. We realized that we might express our ideas differently, but having different personalities in a team helps to achieve better results.
How do you celebrate your team’s differences? How do you encourage people to share their different views? And how does your company benefit from a diverse team? Share your experience in the comments below!
I’m Ilma, COO at MailerLite. I love seeing our customers succeed. When they win, we win (like being named one of the top 5 fastest growing SaaS companies). Email is my passion, although I took a rather unusual path. Before MailerLite, I worked in finance and art, which turned out to be the perfect mix for marketing.