Creating a Community at Two Barrels

April 13, 2020 8:09 pm

At Two Barrels, we have a very specific vision in mind of the kind of environment and community we hope to create. So we made up a term to match our vision: “alien-friendly.”

What Does it Mean to Be Alien-Friendly?

We define “alien-friendly” as accepting everyone regardless of difference. An alien-friendly workplace constantly asks questions about how to eliminate barriers, how to acknowledge and address personal biases, and how to ensure everyone feels they belong.

And we’re not just talking about the federally-protected classes. An alien-friendly workplace is a place where corporate goths and veterans work together like it’s the most normal thing in the world. A place where everybody feels comfortable and valued. Where they never doubt that they are an integral part of the team. An alien-friendly workplace is for every person. Every automaton. Every lizard-human hybrid.

Moving Away From Metrics

Too many businesses focus more on optics than environment with metrics-driven diversity goals like “hire 5 more women this year.” We’re not a fan of treating people like numbers. Sure, metrics are useful for showing when there’s a problem. However, they’re not very good at showing how to fix a problem.

The goal is always to hire the best person for the job. And it would be crazy to say that native biases don’t play a role in the hiring process. But hiring 5 more women just to check a box and improve percentages is a pretty lousy solution to what is clearly a systemic problem. If quotas are the only answer, there’s something terribly sexist, racist or otherwise absolutely wrong with the business. Issuing an inclusion directive to hire x number of women by x date doesn’t address the underlying problem—why women aren’t joining the team.

We have to confront bias and work to build an environment where anyone—even an alien—can envision themselves as happy and successful. A place where they can grow and maximize their opportunities in the company. It’s not about changing standards. It’s about attracting candidates from all walks of life. It’s about removing obstacles that keep people from applying and thriving. And it’s about creating opportunities for all.

Creating an Alien-Friendly Workplace

So how do we—and how can you—promote an alien-friendly workplace?

Adjust the message you’re sending to applicants.

When people are considering applying for a job at your company, they typically only have access to a few sources of company information, such as your job postings and your website. These sources tell a story about your company. They also tell a story about the kind of people you (consciously and unconsciously) want to work there.

For example, our Two Barrels homepage was originally an action-packed story about how our company came to be. There were loads of metaphors describing us as warriors battling our way to the top. It was a cool page. But it was also, unintentionally, a page for a niche audience—it appealed primarily to young men.

So we asked our team members to give feedback on our site. And overwhelmingly, two under-represented groups—women and older team members—confirmed that they had applied in spite of the website, not because of it. They also felt that it didn’t really represent the kind of place we are. It didn’t focus on what was important for people who wanted to know what it was like to work at Two Barrels. We took all this feedback and wrote a new homepage.

Long story short, the messages you send to applicants not only affect who applies—they also tell your existing team what kind of place you think you are and hope to be.

Remove unnecessary obstacles.

When businesses talk about inclusion, they often default to “accommodation.” You hear advice on accommodating religious and cultural holidays and practices. Accommodating new parents with flexible work schedules. Etc, etc.

But think about what an “accommodation” really is—an exception. If a company’s idea of inclusion is making exceptions to “include” employees, their workplace isn’t really all that “inclusive” in the first place.

At Two Barrels, we feel that eliminating unnecessary obstacles is one of the best steps you can take toward creating an alien-friendly workplace. Why make unnecessary rules to follow? They just stop people from applying. And stop people from feeling like they belong. Consider the following:

A lot of the standard policies companies have are just ways to make things easier for the company at the expense of the employees. That’s not alien-friendly, and it’s not Two Barrels.

Incorporate opportunities.

Not everyone has the advantage of starting from the same place. Not everyone can afford to go to college. Not everyone has access to top-of-the-line apps and programs at home. But that doesn’t mean that some of the people who lack opportunity aren’t—or won’t soon be—the best. So we open doors wherever we can.

At Two Barrels, we’re open to bringing on juniors to learn on the job. And like all of our careers here, we reward the work, not the position.

Raises aren’t based on arbitrary titles. We don’t have a corporate ladder to climb. We hire people for the work we need, support them in their work and growth, and reward them based on how they do. An alien-friendly environment gives every team member the opportunity to work hard and be rewarded for it. We’ve had a few juniors outshine those with fancy degrees and years of experience. Hiring “the best” sometimes involves gambling on the spark of potential you see in someone’s work.

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All of these steps are just a start—but they’re a good start. At Two Barrels, we strive every day to be alien-friendly. Our team is our family. A big, weird, fantastic family.

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