Benefits of workforce diversity are numerous: they include higher revenue, increased innovation, improved decision making, higher rates of employee engagement, and a stronger acceptance rate of employment offers.
According to a study by KPMG in 2017, inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time. In other research, Gartner found that in a diverse workforce, performance improves by 12% and an employee’s intent to stay by 20%.
Our work with various clients over the years has given us insight into what it takes to successfully create a workplace culture of diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging.
The following approaches will help you ensure that your Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging initiative won’t be just another perfunctory training session.
1. Obtain Leadership Support From the Top
It may be tempting to push ahead without the full support of top-level leadership, but realistically, no DEI&B initiative will truly be successful in such a case.
The Board, CEO, and/or President need to sponsor your initiative. If they’re not willing to do that, you have work to do before your project can start. Statistics like those referenced above can be very helpful in demonstrating the potential business impact of a successful DEI&B implementation.
This support from leadership must be tangibly evident through (among other things) the development of a comprehensive communication plan. This plan should not consist of a statement tucked away on your website; it must be a robust campaign targeting all employees, vendors, customers, regulatory bodies, shareholders, and any other strategically identified stakeholders.
2. Consider This a Journey, Not an Event
To keep your Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging efforts from being swallowed up in a corporate sea of inertia, it’s vital to understand that this is a journey, not an event.
This should be both an encouragement and a challenge.
An encouragement because it relieves the pressure to change an entire culture over the course of a few training session hours. A challenge because it will demand more from you and your colleagues.
While holding Diversity and Inclusion training sessions is often helpful for creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace culture, they are not significantly effective in and of themselves.
3. Embed Your Company’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging Beliefs Into the DNA of Your Business
Assess whether your core values, guiding principles, and strategic objectives reflect your company’s position on diversity, inclusion, etc.
Here are two examples of companies that have embedded their DEI&B beliefs in their value statements and guiding principles:
Cars.com – One of their 6 Values is “Stay Open: Our individual differences strengthen our teams, and the trust and respect we have for each other infuses passion into everything we do. Someone who is sincerely open considers alternatives, [and] looks at things through a different lens. Opening our minds and combining our different backgrounds, experiences, worldviews and expertise make us savvier problem solvers and drive better results.”
F5 Networks – One of their Guiding Principles is “We create a more diverse and inclusive F5. Our differences—when embraced with humility and respect—drive smarter decisions, increased innovation, stronger performance, and a culture where everyone can be themselves.”
Many organizational value statements or guiding principles do not call out anything specific to DEI&B; they often mention values like ethics, honesty, collaboration, etc. These two examples explicitly state their position within their core values.
4. Understand Your Organization’s Current Definitions & Practices
Companies need a deep understanding of what “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging” truly means to their employees. Additionally, they must understand how they currently promote (or do not promote) these ideals in all levels of the organization.
Cultural assessments and surveys are good tools for accomplishing these objectives.
Quick Tip: To maximize the insight gleaned from these tools, segment the results based on whether the respondents are minorities, whites, male, female, etc.
To be clear, “Diversity” and “Inclusion” have different definitions. “Diversity” typically means respecting and appreciating what makes employees different in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, national origin, etc. “Inclusion” suggests welcoming people of all backgrounds and treating them equally.
5. Stories Start a Conversation - Get Personal With Yours
Involving leaders and employees in sharing their personal stories is extremely meaningful to people, and helps humanize your definition of DEI&B.
Personal stories are a particularly important element in efforts to create a healthier corporate culture, due to their impact on an audience’s beliefs, attitudes, intentions and behaviors.
For instance, a vice-chancellor and dean at a business school in England shared his story with others : “One of the things that works is mentoring on different aspects of academic and leadership progressions. Mentors can be internal, external, ethnic minority, and ethnic majority.
Another example of a personal story comes from the 2015 Young Australian of the Year, who won acclaim as a human rights advocate for deaf people when she became the first deaf Auslan user to serve as a juror. She encouraged others by stating, “People with disability often bring something extra into the workforce, which is incredibly invaluable for many organisations and businesses”.
One popular method of disseminating personal stories is the creation of affinity resource groups. These resource groups are voluntary gatherings of employees with a shared background or experience.
However, when these groups form, it’s important to encourage all employees to participate in one form or another.
In other words, if you facilitate the creation of a Hispanic resource group for example, encourage non-Hispanic employees to attend as well to learn more about the group members' challenges and insights.
This will facilitate the sharing of experiences and stories across the entire organization.
6. Use External Facilitators to Conduct Focus Group Sessions
By providing a diverse set of facilitators from outside your organization, you promote more honest and genuine discussions.
Typically, good external facilitators create an atmosphere of neutrality free from bias. This can do wonders in bringing fresh perspectives to a discussion.
A good facilitator will also be willing to ask difficult questions and confront assumptions, especially if they are part of a diverse population themselves
7. Make DEI&B a Part of the Entire Employee Lifecycle
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging is an all-or-nothing endeavor. Yes, it’s acceptable to start to small, but you will need to entrench your strategy into the entire employee lifecycle, including:
- Talent programs
- Employee development
- Succession planning
Afterall, you won’t have the impact you’re striving for if, for example, a diverse talent pool you recruited doesn’t have appropriate access to development opportunities.
If you have additional questions about how you can best go about implementing your DEI&B strategy, we would be happy to have a conversation.