As 2020 continues to unfold in unprecedented ways, companies are increasingly tuning into both the social and financial cost of not having Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) - also sometimes referred to as Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) - at the center of their workforce culture and policies.
For those organizations who are successful in their D&I efforts, they often see strong financial performance, increased positive brand awareness and an enhanced competitive edge in hiring, developing and retaining new talent.
In traditional organizations, people often default to HR to lead the way in support of D&I. While HR plays a significant role in building and structuring a diverse talent pool, they are only one piece of a larger puzzle.
The most effective organizations know that successful D&I initiatives require a partnership between HR, D&I professionals, and the entire organization.
Diversity & Inclusion teams
Making sure that your business practices foster and promote D&I should not be considered a tangential or periphery goal or activity. Rather, many organizations have moved towards hiring dedicated professionals to help prioritize and pursue D&I initiatives with the full force and backing company leadership.
According to Glassdoor Economic Research, job openings for D&I executive and leadership roles such as "Chief Diversity Officer", "Head of Diversity & Inclusion" and "Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion", have more than doubled since June 8, increasing 2.6 times. This signals that companies increasingly are making diversity and inclusion a priority at the highest levels. And a recent McKinsey report shows that companies who invest in their D&I teams are perceived as more favorable by consumers and potential employees.
Professionals with these roles hold a vast array of responsibilities, including (but not limited to) creating leadership accountability, educating the organization, creating development opportunities for minorities, growing internal ERGs, and more. They help create D&I goals for the company, and then guide the company towards meeting those goals.
[Read more: How to Build an ERG Program]
Thinking through your D&I team, it is important to recognize that it's not enough to simply hire a D&I leader. These leaders require financial resources, sufficient head count and buy-in from leadership in order to make effective change.
Making DEI part of everyone's job
While HR may be leading the charge, it's up to each department to contribute to D&I efforts. Here are some ways that every team can influence positive change:
When it comes to HR's role in fostering D&I, they can influence by:
- Re-evaluating their recruitment strategy by recruiting from more diverse talent pools and looking for other ways to remove bias from the hiring process
- Creating programs that allow minority groups meaningful and robust opportunities for professional development and mentorship
- Providing training on unconscious bias, psychological safety and inclusive, respectful communication
- Reviewing the promotion structure to better understand where gaps may exist for minority groups
- Creating strict policies regarding racist and anti-discriminatory behavior
According to Deloitte research, leadership buy-in can account for "70 percentage points of difference between the proportion of employees who feel highly included and the proportion of those who do not".
To help with D&I, leaders can influence by:
- Learning more about D&I best practices and cascading that down to their business and product strategy
- Fostering discussion about these topics between their teams and encouraging people to learn more
- Actively and publicly reporting on D&I data and creating goals based on this information
Individual Contributor's Influence:
Once a new hire completes their onboarding and is integrated into their team, whether or not they feel included will largely be influenced by how their colleagues interact with them each and every day.
At the individual level, you can influence D&I by:
- Using constructive and collaborative communications with your teammates
- Supporting and participating in grassroots initiatives like ERGs
- Actively and consistently staying attuned to how long-entrenched systems and practices can work to disempower underrepresented groups, intentionally or not, and working to alter or upend those systems and practices as appropriate and needed
While the first touch point might be HR, your D&I strategies should be integrated into every level of the organization. This means looking at how your organization conducts and structures performance reviews, mentorship programs, feedback models, one-on-one interactions and compensation cycles. Your organization should also assess how it interacts with communities, your products and customers and more to see where biases may be hindering your D&I efforts and inadvertently excluding minority groups.
Culture is the accumulation of each individual's contribution and action, so building out a D&I culture needs to live with each person and be treated as everybody's shared responsibility. Why? It's simply all of our jobs and shared duty to help bring about workplaces that are safer, kinder and more welcoming to all the people around us.
It is always worth pondering and answering the following question: What is one small action you can commit to today to help foster diversity and inclusion at your company?