Guest column

Data-driven inclusion platform founder says ensuring your workplace is diverse just isn't enough

Just making sure your workplace is diverse isn't enough to solve the problem. Inclusion should be just as important of a goal, says this expert. Getty Images

Business leaders have long recognized that a diverse and inclusive workforce results in greater employee engagement, innovation, financial returns and market share. Although the "business case" for diversity has long been proven over the years, and "diversity" has become a buzzword adopted by corporate America, few companies — big or small, new or old — have been able to cultivate real inclusion, acceptance and collaboration in the workplace.

According to a 2018 Atlassian study, State of Diversity and Inclusion in U.S. Tech, less than 30 percent of underrepresented employees feel a sense of belonging in their workplace. By and large, most diversity and inclusion initiatives focus primarily on recruitment and increasing the representation of various demographics in the workforce, with little attention given to inclusion — although research has shown that increases to diversity alone do not improve inclusion.

One reason companies have focused on diversity, as opposed to inclusion, is because it is easy to measure diversity — it is simply a matter of headcount. Traditionally, trying to quantify feelings of inclusion was difficult for organizations to measure. However, it is important to incorporate quantifiable and data-driven strategies to measure inclusion, in order to drive the necessary cultural and structural changes needed in the workplace.

What many companies struggle with, it turns out, is not solving problems, but figuring out what the problems actually are—especially when it comes to creating inclusive workplaces. At Kanarys, we have constructed a unique and robust framework for measuring inclusion, to help companies promote a sense of belonging among their employees in the workplace. Our data-driven approach and methodology relies on artificial intelligence and responsive, anonymous, quantitative surveys, to provide actionable insights in order to promote an environment where all employees feel included and empowered.

Understanding employees' daily lived experiences in the workplace is key and fundamental to understanding an organization's' inclusiveness. However, fear of retaliation and retribution prevents most employees from holding back true and authentic feedback. Benchmarking key aspects of an organization's culture—and understanding the employee experience—is important to understand in order to promote lasting inclusion.

Diversity without inclusion inevitably results in missed opportunities with diverse talent because they no longer feel empowered to contribute and lead. However, if you have both diversity and inclusion, retention and engagement for all employees increases–resulting in a potent mix of innovation, collaboration and success.

Instead of asking "how can we acquire more diverse employees?" we should be asking, "what is it about our systems and culture that prevents us from retaining diverse talent?" Employers must therefore recognize that hiring a few "diverse" employees alone is not enough, and that inclusive cultures don't just happen. They are intentional.

I invite businesses to re-focus their efforts on true diversity, equity, and inclusion and help create workplaces where their employees have a true sense of belonging.

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Mandy Price is the CEO and co-founder of Dallas-based Kanarys Inc., a web platform that incorporates data and AI to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

Rentable lab space is hard to come by. Getty Images

Finding coworking space is getting easier and easier for startups, but the same can't be said for startups looking for lab space. If Houston wants to continue to grow and develop its innovation ecosystem — specifically within research and development in the health sciences industry — the city needs more opportunities for small lab space real estate.

A little history

Houston has increasingly become a magnet for innovative life science companies, seeking to benefit from the Texas Medical Center's cadre of connections and the city's deep talent pool. While cutting edge research and licensed technology has long been a part of the TMC institutions and Houston landscape, until 2016, independent lab users had few options to start and grow their companies.

In March of 2016, JLabs at TMCx opened its doors, offering 34,000 square feet of shared office space, 22 private labs and two shared lab spaces. University of Houston's Innovation Center, located in a repurposed Schlumberger campus, began operation in September of the same year, offering 16 private labs and two shared lab spaces.

These two alternatives are fit out with benches and other specialized equipment and price their space similar to a furnished coworking model. However, both facilities have a preference for certain users.

In the case of UH's space, its priority is to accommodate companies that are licensing and commercializing university technology. JLabs also has a curated tenant pool — drawn from the local and national companies that fit their specific profile. Sharing lab space is not a fit for every company — especially those that are regulated or prohibited from doing so. What appears to be an unmet need is affordable independent lab space for companies ready to launch from shared space.

Unique requirements

Aside from equipment that must be purchased and installed, lab users require more electrical power, plumbing, and air-conditioning than typically found in available suites in independent office parks. Second generation lab space under 2,000 square feet is extremely hard to find, and traditional landlords prefer a 5-year lease commitment.

While several new projects have been announced — and a new crop of landlords are trying to capitalize on the city's increased demand for specialized space — their pricing model is a better fit for established companies. From a user perspective, given the capital constraints of early stage life science companies, it is worth exploring the option to convert traditional warehouse space for lab use in exchange for a medium term commitment.

Buyer beware

Migrating from a full service lab to an independent suite does come with a warning, however, especially if a company is regulated and the condition of the space is subject to inspection. Lab tenants are well advised to factor in issues like the age of the air-conditioning units, whether a future backup power source is permitted, and the method for removal of medical waste. For firms that are in the pre-revenue stage, they should also be prepared to pay some amount of prepaid rent and the cost of customized alterations.

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Julie King is president of NB Realty Partners. She has mentored and provided commercial real estate advice to technology, biotech, and early-stage companies for over 20 years.