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A Conversation on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Partnership with NEW Atlanta 

Recently, Clarkston Consulting had the opportunity to participate in a virtual event focused on cultivating diversity, equity, and inclusion hosted by the Network of Executive Women’s Atlanta Region. As companies are focusing on racial justice in light of the Black Lives Matter movements, preparing for the entrance of Generation Z in the workplace, understanding the disproportionate impacts of COVID19 and the impact of working from home on their people, and reprioritizing their conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, the conversation was

timely, candid, vulnerable and encouraging. This is a recap into the conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In moderating a panel discussion, I was joined by industry experts representing companies in technology, mass media, consumer products, and logistics, including: Teri McClure, past Chief HR Officer at UPS and board member of Lennar Corporation; Shona Pinnock, Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Meredith Corporation; Rae Williams, Head of Customer Engineering at Google Cloud; and Monica Bankston, Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Coca Cola.

These individuals are “doing the work” at their respective companies in moving the needle when it comes creating safe spaces, having courageous conversations, and driving accountability in organizational transformation when it comes to the conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Through the conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion there were three pivotal themes that I encourage organizations to focus on:

  • Bringing a focus on equity into their Diversity & Inclusion purview
  • Leverage People Analytics to embrace a data-driven, people-focused mindset
  • Create accountability to drive towards organizational transformation

The Conversation on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The first step in creating equity in your organization, is being honest and transparent with where you are as a business in regard to diversity, inclusion, and organizational design. 

When we dove into a conversation about equity, the resounding themes in organizational success were creating spaces of trust, vulnerability, honesty, and psychological safety. An integral first step in having conversations around equity was ensuring that at any level in an organization,  it is your responsibility to create an environment for your team that encompasses psychological safety, a atmosphere of inclusiveness, open communication, transparency and creating space for your coworkers to embrace authenticity while knowing that their voices are heard and valued.

For many organizations this requires a pause, to step back and take a critical look at every one of your business processes and asking yourself, “who may be excluded or disadvantaged in the way that this process is designed?” This may be in how you recruit, how you conduct performance management, how you tap employees for training opportunities, or your compensation packages.

Equity is often mistaken for equality. A panelist mentioned that, when we think about equity we should be thinking about what that individual needs in order to be successful. The panel’s attendees were  challenged to think about how they can raise other voices and prepare others to have a seat at the table? With equity you not only introduce new voices to the conversation, but it is making sure that they are heard, prepared, and that others that have traditionally had a voice and authority are ready to receive them”.

We closed the conversation on equity, by acknowledging that it is not solely a pipeline or recruiting problem, to get to the root of equity transparency is integral and you can only get to transparency when you create physiological safety. You have to ask yourself is your management team and your leadership team creating safe spaces to talk about the conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion and to have honest conversations about how underrepresented employees feel and the areas of advancement that they may be excluded from?
Understand your employees are not a monolith, leverage people analytics and data to uncover organizational blind spots and prioritize efforts that will prove the most value in regard to the conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

When it comes to leveraging data to inform diversity, equity, and inclusion actions and priorities, I often say, “What is measured, gets managed.  What gets managed, gets done.” Panelists added their thoughts on the importance of data collection. Advice ranged from, collecting information about diverse representation should be a starting point, but you should also ask about their experiences and job attitudes, to leveraging data to tell us how effectively we manage our talent and how we create environments of belonging taking into account the needs of everyone. A poignant takeaway was that, data should be used to tell a story.

At Clarkston, this is the focus of our DE&I Insights to Action Platform. We partner with our clients to extract stories and insights through people analytics to help inform the right actions organizations should take to improve the equity and inclusion within their organization, in a way that is digestible and actionable.

In closing the conversation with how data is leveraged to drive action there were three critical categories of data analysis: (1) A reflection – an understanding of where we’ve been; which can include your origin story and accomplishments;  (2)  your current state – a recurring snapshot at a point in time to assess progress; and (3)  your destination,  using data to align and prioritize the areas in which you want to focus.

Make your DE&I initiatives stick and scale by incorporating authority and accountability from the top, empower the middle, and create champions at all levels. 

Based on the discussion, accountability is the linchpin in sustainable and scalable success in your conversation on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives. The panelists discussed the importance of holding people accountable to leverage the data and improve outcomes, or else having the data won’t change anything.

A number of organizations have taken aggressive steps towards holding managers and senior executives accountable for impact and improving the data and outcomes they are monitoring. Some organizations have tied DE&I goals to compensation, and many others have begun incorporating them into performance metrics. Ultimately to make progress stick, you have to give authority and drive accountability from the top down.

At every level of the organization there should be goals. Goals for promotion, interviewing, engaging, recruiting internally and externally. We all have an obligation to establish them for where we are for the areas that we have the ability to impact.

What we’ve seen in the past few weeks are very vocal employees in entry-level positions demanding equity and accountability – creating pressure in organizations from the top-down, and bottom-up; creating a pressure on middle managers. We discussed how in so many organizations, the middle managers are not empowered or inspired to champion the conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion, yet it is these middle managers that have the most influence on a employees’ day to day work experience. A portion of accountability is equipping your employees with the tools and levers they can pull to drive change – this may be visibility into the data they are expected to improve, unconscious bias training, or process redesign.

Ultimately, once we’ve introduced equity into our organizations, and we’ve collected data to understand our organizational blind spots and prioritize our area of focus, we must identify who has the authority on the executive level is key for top-down accountability, but also empower diversity champions throughout the organization that have bottom-up authority and accountability creates momentum to continue to advance.

If you believe it’s your responsibility to move the needle when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion at your organization, you’re right. We all have a role to play in creating equitable spaces and driving accountability. Whether it is through leveraging people analytics and our organizational-wide diversity survey, implementing unconscious bias training, or advisory, Clarkston is here to help. 

Learn more about our DE+I Services.

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Contributions by Ben Gaisie.

Tags: Diversity + Inclusion, Event Recap, Organizational Health