Arity and Wonder Women Tech: Building a culture of belonging and connection

Joy Thomas and Steph Ryter’s key takeaways from Wonder Women Tech’s panel, “Building workplace cultures of belonging and connection in 2023.”

As we approach the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on Saturday, February 11, we’re proud to say Arity isn’t just a data and analytics company. While we are focused on our mission of making transportation smarter, safer, and more useful, we also have an internal business goal to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) workplace for Team Arity – a group of passionate, talented, and unique individuals who make that mission possible.

Last year, we made a significant stride toward our goal by partnering with Wonder Women Tech (WWT). Through this partnership, we’re supporting the group’s mission to highlight, celebrate, educate, and amplify women, BIPOC, and the Underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, the arts, math (STEAM), and innovation.

To help advance that mission, two of our team members – VP of Operational Excellence Joy Thomas and Creative Culture Leader Steph Ryter – joined WWT and Amazon Alexa Shopping for a panel discussion on how to build workplace cultures of belonging and connection. Here are their key takeaways:

For companies

Engage employees with culture moments and intentional interactions

Joy and Steph encourage companies to focus on creating small, positive moments and day-to-day interactions to advance a sense of belonging and connection. While many are already successfully communicating the “business case” and implementing policies to advance DEI initiatives, companies need to do more to transform workplace culture. They must enable connections amongst employees in order to build a community.

Culture is made in small moments – in those interactions. Being intentional about how we interact is really important.

– Steph Ryter, Creative Culture Leader 

Six years ago, Steph was hired specifically to create that sense of community for Arity. Now, that sense of belonging has become part of our DNA.

The very first day an employee joins the company, Arity’s People and Culture teams are already initiating positive moments and day-to-day interactions.

Apart from a swag kit that signifies that you’re now a part of the team, new hires can expect a round of virtual events to help them connect with other employees beyond business meetings: monthly lunches for all new hires to connect with each other, company-wide happy hours, trivia nights, and more.

Our Culture team also hosts a recognition standup meeting every month to appreciate employees across the entire company. It’s a chance for everyone to celebrate their personal wins and acknowledge one another’s contributions. As Steph said during the WWT panel, “It’s amazing the stories that people will share.”

Beyond encouraging positive day-to-day interactions, Arity has its own recognition tool, Applause. It allows employees to recognize their peers with a monthly point allowance which can be exchanged for rewards like gift cards, merchandise, experiences, and more. Last year, our team members sent 11,186 recognitions to each other.

These culture moments and positive frameworks can go a long way in building and enhancing a strong workplace community.

For leaders

Create a safe space for your team

Leaders play a crucial role in cultivating belonging and connection among their team members. To accomplish this goal, Joy’s advice is to respond to the evolving needs of your team because “the most constant thing that’s true is things are going to change.”

While the strategies you have in place to build collaboration and connection with your team may work right now, their effectiveness can dwindle at any time. As Joy pointed out, just look at how the pandemic affected us all. Like many others, Arity transformed to a fully remote workplace.

Arity’s “new normal” was a big adjustment for all employees. But, as a leader, Joy seized this opportunity to try new approaches, seek feedback, and further iterate her strategy to see if she could improve it. She would ask her team, “Do you like these meetings? Are they effective? What should we change?” Especially now, when our work environment seems to be changing every day, Joy encourages leaders to be flexible and listen.

Change is ever-present, and being willing to deal with the ambiguity and be flexible and seek the feedback, accept the feedback, and change with it is so important right now.

– Joy Thomas, VP of Operational Excellence 

Leaders should create a safe space where open and honest feedback is sought out, accepted, and used to create meaningful change. For example, our People and Culture teams are always looking for new ways to help new hires connect with each other and feel like a part of the team. So, they recently hosted a speed networking event just to see how it goes. Steph said, “If it works, great. If we need to iterate, we will do that.”

That willingness to change and adjust is so important for leaders to embrace. When people come to work, they want to know that they’re safe, that their voice is heard, and that they’re appreciated. Creating that safe space of belonging and connection is the only way we can get better and grow together as a team.

For colleagues

Form personal connections and be self-aware

While leaders are responsible for setting the standard, all employees can make a significant impact in a team’s sense of community.

To make a positive impact, we need to get to know the people, not just their titles. When people come to work, they should be able to bring their complete, authentic selves. According to Joy, achieving that sense of community is all about getting to know and understand one another – not just as colleagues, but as people. When you take the time to do that, you’ll be able to sense their verbal and non-verbal cues and better respond to and interact with one another.

To me, belonging is feeling that sense of community and feeling like the team around me understands me and knows me. It’s getting to know teams on a more personal level beyond just the workspace.

– Joy Thomas, VP of Operational Excellence 

Steph pointed out that no one really knows what’s going on in other people’s lives, so it’s important to try to make the workplace a positive environment. If there’s one bright star in someone’s life, hopefully it’s that they feel valued at work.

That goal can be difficult to accomplish, especially in remote environments. Steph advises people to try their best to be self-aware in their day-to-day interactions. Think about, “Is there something I said or a tone that I used that maybe made someone feel like they didn’t belong?” Alternatively, “Is there something I said or did that made someone feel recognized and appreciated?”

It’s common for us to move so fast, trying to get to the next email or the next task, that we forget to reflect on those things. It’s valuable to take a step back and reflect on your interactions so that you can be more intentional moving forward.

Ready to learn more about Arity’s workplace culture? Read more on our Careers page.

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Arity is a mobility data and analytics company. We provide data-driven solutions to companies invested in transportation, enabling them to deliver mobility services that are smarter, safer, and more economical.