Tips on Diversity and Inclusion from the Pros

When we set out to write our new eBook, Guide to Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace, we knew we had to start by talking to companies who’ve led successful diversity and inclusion efforts. In this article, we’ll share some of the things we learned from conversations with Jason Thompson, Director, Diversity and Inclusion at United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and Jeffery D. Lewis, Sr. Vice President, Professional Services, Workforce Compliance and Diversity Solutions at PeopleFluent on building a sustainable diversity and inclusion program.

What is diversity and inclusion?

Just as companies with more diversity tend to be more profitable, Olympics and Paralympic teams with more racial, ethnic, and gender diversity tend to win more medals. The USOC has openly shared its Diversity Scorecards, dating back to 2013, which track its progress on increasing the representation of people of color, women, people with disabilities, and military veterans in its workforce and in its individual sports organizations.

Diversity and inclusion are often mentioned in the same sentence, because an inclusive organization can’t exist without a diverse workforce. And an organization must be inclusive in order to retain its diverse staff. It takes a comprehensive effort and continued investment over years to attract, hire, develop, and retain a diverse workforce while building an an inclusive culture. Both Thompson and Lewis had similar recommendations on how to set up a successful diversity and inclusion program:

Get leadership buy-in

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 behaviors, managing their own bias, and supporting employees’ best work.

Define Diversity and Inclusion at your company

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 analyze the current situation, set a vision for the company’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) program, and then break it down into action steps.

Enlist a diversity advocate

Most large organizations have a head of diversity or other individual who is accountable for the diversity and inclusion program. This individual may or may not be from a minority group; the best person for the job has experience and a deep interest in improving the organization’s success through fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce. A successful diversity advocate will be skilled at building relationships throughout the organization and ensuring accountability on diversity goals.

Create diversity and inclusion benchmarks

The initial diversity analysis should include gathering data on your current employee population and comparing to benchmarks. Look at the diversity among your overall employee population first, then analyze by all the steps in the employee lifecycle, including the candidate pool, hiring, employee performance reviews, promotions, compensation and turnover. Examining diversity measures by department and management level will help pinpoint necessary areas for training or help decide where to set more aggressive recruiting goals.

The key to using benchmarks is knowing the available audience for a given employee group. For example, it’s not realistic to expect gender parity in a field like engineering, where only 18-20% of engineering graduates are female. Diversity benchmarks should also attempt to reflect the local market, which may be more or less diverse than national averages.

Be transparent about where you are with diversity

Just as the USOC has taken the brave step of sharing its diversity scorecards, share your company’s data and goals internally. Because the data may need to be gathered from various systems, and it can be difficult to keep track of current diversity benchmarks (since the population is changing faster than 10-year U.S. Census increments). Consider enlisting expert help. Firms like PeopleFluent offer diversity products and consulting which will help ease the burden of data management and analysis.

Leaders are driven by metrics, so having reliable diversity metrics in place and  updated regularly in a dashboard will go a long way toward ensuring the success of your D&I program.

Expand your hiring pool

To ease the stigma of “Affirmative Action hiring,” focus on creating a more diverse hiring pool, and then objectively evaluating candidates from this expanded pool. Post in diversity-oriented job groups, partner with diversity organizations, and connect with diversity-oriented groups at universities. Also consider expanding your college recruiting to more diverse schools.

Commit to a diverse and inclusive workforce

Diversity is a journey, not a place. Improving representation of diverse groups within a company can take years. Leaders, managers and staff should be patient and persistent as they seek to create a more diverse and inclusive organization. Like all good things worth achieving, it’s worth the wait. Commit to the journey, and be inspired by the examples of USOC, PeopleFluent, and all the other companies who have reaped the rewards of making diversity and inclusion part of their DNA.

For more on how to recruit for diversity, build an inclusive culture, and manage bias, download our eBook, Guide to Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace today.