Limeade reaches gender parity goal, doubles down on diversity and inclusion, CEO says

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Henry Albrecht, CEO of Limeade, says the employee experience technology company has finally reached gender parity, with an equal number of women and men on staff. Going forward, the firm will redouble its diversity and inclusion efforts to spark greater innovation.

In a recent interview, Albrecht, who founded the company in 2006, talked about their push for greater diversity at the top of the company’s leadership team and board of directors, where they recently added more women and international representation.

Getting a company’s corporate culture right is just as important and deserves as much attention as core strategies such as corporate finances, technology or cybersecurity, Albrecht says. Achieving this goal should involve not just HR, but all corporate leadership.

“We help large employers improve areas of well-being, employee engagement, and also diversity and inclusion,” he says, using technology that helps measure and improve individuals and teams’ business performance. “We've seen great correlations of employee well-being and engagement and inclusion to things like innovation, profitability, revenue per customer,” and other metrics including customer satisfaction and employee retention.

In a wide-ranging interview, Albrecht discussed why D&I initiatives are critical to a company’s success, Limeade’s journey to reaching gender parity, and changes to Limeade’s board of directors.

Who uses Limeade? What does your typical client look like?

We sell to large employers. Two of the largest five airlines in the world are customers of ours, and one of the top three technology companies in the world. We serve companies like ABB, which is a large Swiss-Swedish global manufacturer, the state of Washington, Panasonic, Kohl’s and other large enterprises. We do have partners who fall more in the mid-market as well and our focus is really the biggest companies in the world.

What is the business case for why diversity and inclusion matter?

Companies that have more diversity are six times more likely to be innovative. As an innovative tech company, we know the importance of this. So we're trying to experiment all the time with different approaches, like doing job fairs in places we've never done before. We've changed the structure and approach to our employee referral program. Then most importantly of all is you have to make sure it's not just about recruitment and adding diverse talent. It's about understanding what the experience is like when there is inclusion as part of the culture. And that's where we use both our own support from leadership and our own technology to nudge people toward little micro habits.

One example at Limeade is where we randomly connect you with someone from a different group and a different background and you go out to lunch together which can create connections that drive innovation. I've had several of these meetings where I got ideas I just wouldn't have had, had I not been forced out of my comfort zone to interact with other employees. We're also doing standard things like celebrating black history month this month; we have employee resource groups like our kaleidoscope council, which is about gender and racial inclusion, and groups for women in the workplace and others.

How do you define diversity and inclusion? And how do you communicate your D&I mission to your staff?

I would say we've always focused a little more on inclusion, which is a sense of being known and valued for bringing your whole self to work so that you feel a sense of belonging. And really there's a psychological safety associated with that. So if you really feel like your ideas will be heard and valued, and you as a person can show up as your authentic self, you're much more likely to be engaged. You're willing to share that idea that you have in the shower with other people in your company. And then what can a company or a manager, or a leader at social network do to help nudge that forward?

Diversity means you're getting the best ideas in the room, and you can hear the best ideas from the people giving them, whether that's men and women, people from the South or North, introverts and extroverts, people of color and different racial and cultural backgrounds. To me, all of that is about what diversity is. And it's only when you have both of those that you get all the benefits. You can't really do one without the other.

But why does diversity inclusion matter? Make the business case.

It drives employee engagement and employee engagement drives business results. So that's the simplest thing. As a tech company, I think it also is key to innovation. If you have an aggressive Type A male leadership team that talks over quieter voices around the table, you might be missing out on the thing that drives the whole next wave of innovation for the company.

How did you reach gender parity?

I just reviewed our own stats and we are 50% male and female. And I would say like any company, we've come a long way. And like any company, we have a long way to go. We're in the technology space in the Pacific Northwest, and although we have tremendous diversity in some ways, we don't have tremendous diversity in every way. So I view this not as a something you ever win; but rather are you constantly having the conversation? It required a different approach to how we handle employee referrals. We have a different type of employee referral program that we're actually going away from because sometimes both programs can lead to you only wanting to add people who look like you and act like you.

And what about your leadership team and your own board of directors? How has that experience been for you and, how would you rate where you are currently?

The board of directors is the ultimate highest level of a company. They hire and fire the CEO. Through this IPO process, we really got to take a look at who was on our board and what we needed on the board. For example, we had what's very typical of high growth technology companies, which is the venture capitalists on the board. Venture capitalists have a certain set of skills but are not necessarily the most diverse group in the world. And my view was to have a globally, culturally, racially and cognitively diverse team. We had to mix it up and get some people with different backgrounds and styles, so we searched for people all over the world.

Six of the seven people on our board have been CEOs, and we were able to radically transform the makeup, the experience level, the breadth and the diversity of that group. It wasn't just about making it more diverse, it was about making it much stronger and more resilient and perhaps as a board, more aware of what's going on in the world.

There has been a lot more attention to social consciousness, on the part of corporations. Younger workers often ask about your social positions before they consider working for a company. Is that something you think about consciously or is that something you've been asked of by prospects?

Yes. Every single day we have our customers coming to us and scratching their heads and saying, these millennial and Gen Z employees, they don't think or act the way that our bosses act or even the way we act. They want things like meaning and purpose and connection and community and inclusion and diversity and well-being. They don't just want it; they demand it in ways that prior generations didn’t. Older generations just shut up and punched the clock and did their work.

How much time do you spend thinking about retention strategies?

People are entering and leaving the workforce, and they have so much choice, especially when we're sitting at a 3.5% unemployment rate. So companies have to think differently about attracting and retaining people. And it's not just about money. This is a daily conversation with our customers and our prospects and they're looking for statements they can make about the type of company they are. But what we've found is that the more they actually believe those statements, the better their company; the lower turnover they have, and the easier it is to attract and retain talent.

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Gender issues Diversity and equality Workplace culture