Increase Workplace Diversity Through Meaningful Actions
DEI initiatives must be more than conversations and statements. They must be meaningful actions to improve opportunities, prevent discrimination, and actively promote diversity year Ďround. Big D diversity includes womenís 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.
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 Womenís History do not make you an ally. Be coherent. Donít 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, youíre looking for candidates that think and act like you do. When you look for skills, youíre 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 shouldnít be exceptions, instead part of the company culture Ė 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 donít have the financial cushion to do so. By paying them, youíre 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, itís 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.