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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Q&A: Julia Aaltonen

We sit down with our HR Manager, Julia Aaltonen, to find out why diversity, equity and inclusion are so important here at Zest.

At Zest, we celebrate diversity and inclusivity every day.

We believe that a diverse and inclusive workplace is not only the right thing to strive for but also drives innovation, creativity and growth.

As we continue to celebrate Pride month throughout June, we sat down with our HR Manager, Julia Aaltonen, to look at how Zest champion diversity and inclusion, how we celebrate our culture with employees and how we foster an inclusive working environment.

How do Zest champion diversity and equality?

JA: We do this in many ways, and they’re embedded into our culture.

We have supportive policies and practices in place that are hopefully evident from the moment someone engages with us, whether that’s as a candidate applying for a job, for our workforce or from an outside perspective, shining through in all our content across social media and our website.

In terms of working practices, some examples of what’s in place for our staff are:

  • Flexible and hybrid working options to accommodate differing and diverse needs
  • Inclusive hiring practices, ensuring bias-free recruitment and a diverse interviewing panel
  • Regular pay audits to ensure equity in compensation
  • A multitude of feedback mechanisms
  • Representation at all levels and a top-down inclusive culture that celebrates diversity and has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind

Why are they important?

JA: There are so many reasons as to why it’s important!

People are at the heart of what we do – from a very basic ethical and human standpoint it’s incredibly important to us that all our staff feel valued and celebrated for their unique perspectives – but there are so many other ways in which our rich, diverse culture brings success.

When people feel entirely comfortable coming to work as their true authentic selves and sharing their experiences and opinions, we enjoy so many benefits: enhanced creativity and innovation leading to our brilliant platform that speaks to the needs of a huge array of customers, better employee performance and an engaged staff with improved decision-making and a knock-on effect that all aids our reputation for a great product and unparalleled service.

Do Zest have an equitable, diverse, and inclusive workplace culture and if so how has that been created / maintained?

JA: In addition to the above, feedback, listening to our staff and then acting upon that feedback, is incredibly important.

We also hold regular training sessions with management to fill any knowledge gaps and ensure that inclusive language is promoted and upheld. We have plans to extend these training sessions company wide and to establish an employee resource group with multi-level representation to provide a safe place for discussions around diversity and inclusion.

How do Zest communicate their offering/culture to employees?

JA: In a number of ways. We do this via our handbook, regular company communications, events and also policies. It’s in everything we do.

In the coming months we will be moving offices and central to the selection for our new home was an accessible office with fantastic gender-neutral facilities and breakaway spaces for quiet or private time, so that all of our staff feel comfortable and supported when in the office.

What initiatives do Zest have to celebrate inclusivity internally and externally?

JA: We have a varied programme of events designed to educate, support our local community and foster an inclusive culture.

We regularly consult with our staff on what they’d like our programme to include. We’re thrilled to be sponsoring Surrey Pride for the Pride event in Guildford in September this year, as well as hosting the Surrey Pride team at our offices for a working lunch on inclusive language.

And what are your five top tips for fostering an inclusive working environment?


  • Hiring to improve/add to your culture, not just for a culture fit
  • Creating employee-safe spaces (unisex toilets, accessible toilets, break rooms that accommodate multiple faiths and those with disabilities)
  • Creating different religious holidays and educating staff about them
  • Creating an environment where employees are genuinely comfortable sharing their views and feedback
  • Active listening and implementation of feedback

To find out more about Zest, and to see the diverse range of benefit providers we offer through our Marketplace, click here.

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