Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) programs within organizations should be much more than a current trend or the right thing to do. Such programs really need to be fully ingrained across the organization and constantly monitored and optimized.
In today’s marketplace, current employees and talent prospects are looking for companies with a proactive DE&I culture. And it could mean the difference between retaining and securing top talent and losing out to your competition. Not to mention the loss in diversity of thought, ideation, and innovation proven to come from diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environments.
So what exactly is DE&I? Let’s look at each component. Diversity is any attribute that distinguishes groups and individuals from each other. More specifically, diversity seeks to empower, respect, appreciate, and celebrate what makes people and groups different. These differences may be related to age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, education, national origin, or other racial and ethnic cultural differences.
The term equity is the concept of providing fair opportunities for all of your employees based on their individual needs. Equity seeks to provide an environment where each individual is able to feel seen, heard, and able to accomplish the same things as those who are different than they are, through a fair and equitable workplace environment.
Inclusion is an organizational effort and practice in which different groups or individuals having different backgrounds are culturally and socially accepted, welcomed, and ultimately included.
How is your organization stepping up to meet D&I criteria? Does it have a place of prominence in your organization’s culture and vision?
I am a firm believer, and have seen firsthand, that it is never too late for an organization to implement programs, guidelines, and processes to benefit the company, no matter the size. According to Glassdoor’s Guide to Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace, D&I programs, which formerly were seen simply as the appropriate direction to take, are now linked to better business performance and increased levels of innovation.
I have had the opportunity to work with clients of varying sizes and industries. Taken from my recruiting experiences, what follows are some areas I believe are important to a company in implementing and maintaining successful DE&I processes partnered with select information from the Glassdoor eBook.
DE&I are Each Equally Important
“People hired from diverse backgrounds are more likely to remain employed with your organisation if they feel that their perspective and contributions are valued by the organisation, their team, and their manager.”
It is important for management to ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion are being valued as equally important. I have seen a diverse team where one or several groups did not feel they were treated equitably and weren’t being included. This, in turn, was counterproductive to reaching company goals.
On the flip side, encouraging inclusion of one or several diversity groups could alienate others. Diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts must each be carefully crafted, rolled out, and constantly monitored for success. And it should never be a top down approach. Soliciting anonymous feedback from all levels of the organization is essential.
Attitude Reflects Leadership
“The CEO and other company leaders are the most visible spokespeople for diversity. Leadership support is needed to ensure diversity and inclusion efforts receive the appropriate attention, funding, and monitoring. Leaders also provide daily examples for employees by exhibiting inclusive behaviours, managing their own bias and supporting employees’ best work.”
We all know how the trickle-down effect works. Belief and commitment to DE&I starts at the top. If company management is on board with DE&I, it will extend to the employees. An organization’s top leadership has been found to be the best and most visible proponents for DE&I.
Management Should Mirror DE&I Initiatives
“Show your diverse workforce. Include photographs of women and minority employees on your careers site … Update your recruitment communications. When recruiting at universities and events, ensure any brochures or handouts show that your company welcomes diverse candidates.”
The demand for talent is increasingly global. It is difficult to encourage employees to embrace differences if they do not have a diverse management team. Representation of diverse backgrounds at all levels of the organization should be a prime goal. It is also important to show diversity in company messaging and communications.
DE&I Programs Should Not Be An Avenue for Complaints
“The best diversity programs are tied to a company’s business strategy, are aligned with company values and have achievable goals. It will take some planning and teamwork to analyse the current situation, set a vision for the company’s diversity and inclusion programme and then break it down into action steps.”
Such programs must enhance the employees’ experience at the organization and work to effect change. This begins with leadership. I once assisted a national automotive service client in establishing and growing a women’s group to have a more representative voice within the organization.
I consulted and planned with my client how the addition of such a group might look and benefit their firm, as well as continue to grow within their work environment. Today, the group is thriving and a great example of a way to implement DE&I within a company.
Can I Be Myself at Work?
“Each person has a unique way of thinking and solving problems. Seeking out and encouraging diversity of thought helps eliminate groupthink, fosters new insights and enables innovative problem-solving.”
When employees feel comfortable being their true selves at work, they have a sense of belonging among coworkers and teams. When this isn’t the case, employees may feel embarrassed, threatened, or afraid to be their true selves. An environment that celebrates the diversity of thought, culture, background and proactively looks for ways to promote equity and inclusion creates an environment where employees feel safe going to their manager and voicing concerns or ideas. Employees should know that their opinions, input, and skills are valued – even when they may go against the norm. It’s this culture that sets the stage for innovation and positive change.
DE&I Plans Can Make or Break an Organization
“Just as managing for inclusion requires becoming aware of changing unconscious ways of thinking, recruiting and hiring for diversity requires changing one’s mindset and questioning rote behaviours in order to find, screen and hire diverse talent.”
These plans can directly affect the bottom line. Therefore, leadership needs to be 100% committed and exhibit that engagement to staff and teams. Organizations can truly benefit from DE&I programs. The key is to identify a DE&I process that will work for your organization and to be SMART with your goal setting and priorities.