If you’re into building awesomely diverse teams and producing above-average profits, you probably have an employee diversity and inclusion program in place. That’s the good news. The bad news is that 75% of employees are aware of their diversity programs in their workplaces but say they aren’t effective (just ask Harvard Business Review’s survey of more than 16,000 employees in 14 countries).
So what can you do to create diversity policies that your employees actually want? And once they’re in place, how do you ensure that applicants and employees:
Know where to find your policies;
See these policies alive and well in your workplace;
Participate in your commitment to diversity;
And jive with your company mission and ethos?
To put it simply, how can you make sure that diversity and inclusion aren’t just fancy buzzwords at your office? We’ve got the answers you’re looking for.
The building blocks of workplace diversity today
The global #MeToo movement has pushed the issues of women’s rights and gender equality into the spotlight—and hey, we’re big fans. But diversity and equality in the workplace means more than just gender representation or empowerment; organizations that truly promote equality and diversity focus on creating workforces that engage employees from different genders, cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds, ages, and specialties.
It’s kind of like the Pokémon card game—the more diverse your deck, the more powerful you are. Is football more your style? Let’s just say that you can’t expect to make a well-rounded team using only strikers.
That’s why the most innovative and inclusive companies go beyond welcoming talented professionals into their workforce; they proactivelysource diverse employees that can help them become more inventive and profitable. They do things like:
Open up seats at the executive table for women and minorities
Ensure that a mix of young new graduates, mid-level career professionals, senior leaders, and executives are on each team or built into each department
Check that all recruitment processes are fair and transparent
Establish pay and benefits policies that benefit a diverse workforce with varied needs
They accomplish these goals by following three essential steps.
Identify and alleviate biases
Translate the company’s mission and goals into policies and processes
Train employees about these policies to create a culture of engagement and inclusion
Step 1: Identify and alleviate biases
You can’t overcome your weaknesses if you don’t know they exist. It’s time to put on your scientist cap and conduct a litmus test of policies and procedures in your workplace.
Are promotions typically determined by just one person or a diverse cast with varying points of view?
Are you posting job openings where all types of candidates can access them?
Who interviews potential employees and how interviews are conducted—Do these team members have diversity training? Do employees review blind resumes for a fairer outcome?
Gather data about your workforce demographics (and if possible, information about applicants and who doesn’t make it through the interview process for comparison)
Get feedback from employees about what they feel are inherent biases in your company
Analyze exit interviews to discover the reasons that people leave
Oftentimes the best place to start when trying to identify biases is your employees. Try an anonymous survey to gather information confidentially and analyze larger patterns of bias.
Step 2: Translate the company’s mission and goals into policies and processes
If there are no women or people of color within your organization’s leadership positions, you’re sending the message that women and people of color are not welcome at the leadership table. That message may be completely unintentional on your part but you still have to take actionable steps to combat this bias, such as:
Promote transparency surrounding how teams and meeting attendance lists are formed
Sit down with each employee to develop customized roadmaps for career advancement
Provide sponsorship and mentorship opportunities
Promote networking events and diversity programs where minority employees can develop positive relationships
Minority employees may not have access to the same informal networking opportunities that tend to organically develop between senior members of an organization and non-minority employees within the company. Help to foster networking opportunities that may not otherwise develop for employees of color.
A few things to remember at this stage in the process:
For the greatest odds of success, be sure to combine top-down like corporate training and bottom-up approaches like one-on-one manager training to help managers identify their inherent biases.
When reviewing these policies, it’s also important to include the people affected by them, which is basically… everyone. You should have minority and majority representation at the table along with management and frontline employees.
Get buy-in from all team members—everyone should be equally committed to success and have the opportunity to provide constructive feedback.
Once those policies are in place, track them for compliance, effectiveness, and progress towards goals. With set objectives and metrics, your organization can better ensure that the overall goal of inclusivity is being met.
Step 3: Spread the word about policies and create a culture of diversity and inclusion
You have some incredible policies that employees are going to love. Now, make sure that they know how to take advantage of these policies from their very first day. Onboarding is the key moment to introduce the various ways in which you help your company mission come alive.
Create a custom onboarding experience that includes a rundown of all the tools and trainings offered at your workplace—and most importantly, why you have these tools and trainings in place. It all comes back to empowering employees to be their best and feel their best at work.
Connecting diversity and inclusion programs to your company mission shows that these are foundational parts of your organizational culture and promotes employee buy-in from the start. So don’t stop at just creating world-class diversity policies—show them off in your customized onboarding program.