DEI initiatives must be more than conversations and statements. They must be meaningful actions to improve opportunities, prevent discrimination, and actively promote diversity year ‘round. Big D diversity includes women’s rights, cultural and ethnic diversity, age and disability equality, and gender rights. Small d diversity includes education, experience, and expertise. Successful organizations recognize and value both big and small-d diversity and actively promote it through actions every single day.
One of the first, most important steps your organization can take is to conduct a DEI survey. By using this as a starting point, you can get a bird’s-eye view of your workplace culture climate and identify opportunities for improvement.
Then it’s time to get to work. Here are seven strategies on how to actively promote a culture of diversity at work and hold people accountable for it. Diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplaces see a boost in innovation, foster better decision making, experience more agile teams, see improvement in financial performance, achieve better business outcomes, and increase employee engagement.
What does your C-Suite look like? It’s really hard to fly a banner of diversity when your C-Suite (or board) all look and act the same. Workplace diversity begins with recruiting and hiring diverse candidates on all levels.
- Take a recruiting audit. Where do candidates come from? Throw a wider net, including traditionally black colleges, women’s colleges, LGBTQ professional and student organizations, the Disability Job Exchange, United Latino Job Bank and more. Likewise, who is on your recruiting/hiring team? Do they all look and think the same? This is a problem.
- What is the wording like in your applications? Make your application process as gender neutral as possible.
- Consider using blind recruitment, removing the candidate’s name and other identifying factors on the application, resume etc.
Build consensus for the need for diversity. Beliefs, not reality, are what determine how open employees, frontline managers, middle management, and even senior leaders are to becoming more equitable, diverse, and inclusive. This consensus will take a lot of groundwork, including numbers, data, metrics, and clear objectives.
Where do diversity measures fall short? This could be as simple as making meetings better by passing out the agenda and materials in advance, rotating meeting times to accommodate working parents or employees who have longer commutes, ensuring all technology is working to include remote workers etc. The impact of diversity strategies can be macro with micro interventions.
Beware of rainbow-washing. Flying a Pride Banner, jumping on Black Lives Matter, or splashing your organization walls with posters about Women’s History do not make you an ally. Be coherent. Don’t front support then turn around and donate to campaigns and organizations that hurt underrepresented communities.
Look for the people with the skillset you need. Candidates should be hired for the skills they bring to the table to get the job done. When you look for cultural fits, you’re looking for candidates that think and act like you do. When you look for skills, you’re hiring people who can do what the organization needs to get done.
Provide benefits that correspond to a diverse workforce. Flexible schedules, family-friendly arrival and leave times, advance vacation schedule, advance personal day scheduling and more. These shouldn’t be exceptions, instead part of the company culture – one that recognizes the diverse needs of its workforce.
Get involved in the community. Offer paid internships and work-study programs to underrepresented students from a local college, junior college, even high school seniors. Underrepresented people often cannot take on internships because they don’t have the financial cushion to do so. By paying them, you’re opening the doors to a broader group of people. Create a culture of belonging, not only at the workplace but in the community.
Put in the time and money to make these actions count. Frontline managers need continuous training to become inclusive leaders. This takes resources (time and money) and commitment from the organization to ensure these leaders receive the training they need and are held accountable for implementing and using these new competencies.
We talk a lot about DEI, but at a time when the world feels divisive, it’s important to remember how important it is to make long-term, authentic commitments to being a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization. Actively promote diversity. Be that place in the community where people feel safe and valued, where people thrive.