As we enter a new year, all organizations should continue to enable and promote discussions surrounding diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Truly committed organizations, however, will act with purpose-driven, action-oriented intent to capitalize on the true benefits of a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace.
There are four key themes that will define the continuous discourse around diversity, inclusion, and culture in 2019.
CONVERSATION – initiate authentic, company-wide conversations and initiatives to foster inclusion and understanding
Creating an equitable and inclusive workplace is not a complex concept in theory – complexity and misunderstanding arise when companies enter with the mindset of “trying to solve a diversity problem” without a true, contextual understanding of the source and root cause(s). Getting to the root of the diversity and inclusion opportunities your company wants to tackle starts with courageous conversations.
As a leader, it is integral to understand that each employee is unique and brings with them multiple dimensions of diversity. It’s not just about inherent diversity (race, gender, culture, or physicality) – but also acquired diversity (education, experience, relationships, or job titles) and/or thought diversity (personality type, emotional intelligence, social styles, learning styles). Leaders must acknowledge that each employee is an intersection of multiple facets of diversity. Companies can and should take purpose-driven actions to demonstrate understanding of these intersections and improve internal culture.
Whether it’s diversity trainings, organization-wide discussions, or ongoing campaigns, progress will come from direct conversations and the manifestation of diversity and inclusion from the inside-out.
EQUITY – bridge the gap between diversity and inclusion in the workplace with intention and action
If diversity answers the question, ‘What is the make-up of my company?’ and inclusion answers the question, ‘How do my employees feel about my company?’ Then equity bridges the gap between the two and answers, “What is my company doing about it?” Put simply, equity is removing implicit barriers and promoting activities that encourage fairness within the organization.
Dialogue around diversity and inclusion has been around for a while and has most certainly been elevated to the forefront of companies’ attention as of late. Now the conversation will shift towards actions and what is being done to make and sustain change. Equitable actions will highlight where organizational priorities are and how learnings are being leveraged to make effective change. This can manifest through recruiting strategies, mentorship initiatives, succession planning, or staffing practices. In creating the conversation within your organization, it’s critical to understand how trailblazers, influencers, and supports can act as change agents when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
- Trailblazers are the employees who are creating and pioneering change in an organization through new-roles and innovative strategies with urgency.
- Influencers are employees who are in decision-making or leadership roles that evangelize new, equitable ideas and strategies and help advocate for the benefits of the proposed changes.
- Supporters are the employees who rally around equitable ideas; they are the engine that fuels the change and manifests the idea’s purpose and impact.
IMPLEMENTATION – value unique perspectives and embed diversity in all business processes
Inclusion must be embedded in all business processes to truly unlock the power of diversity. Use thoughtful and direct conversation to understand your employees’ unique perspectives and then embed those perspectives in how you sell, market, recruit, innovate, and develop. Be purposeful in building a diversity and inclusion program that aligns to business goals and KPIs across the business. Utilize your trailblazers, influencers, and supporters to communicate and catalyze change across the business.
True, sustainable change must begin with your people. While keeping that focus, it’s important to also understand how you can use technology to better enable your people in realizing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. With responsible and conscientious design, advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning are now allowing organizations to identify bias within the workplace.
ACCOUNTABILITY – measure actions and outcomes against organizational diversity statements and goals
No longer does it suffice for organizations to simply state intentions as they relate to inclusion and diversity. In a quote often attributed to author Stephen Covey, he says “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions.” This exact sentiment can lead to stunted development and disingenuous diversity and inclusion programs. It can become easy for companies to associate mere intentions with active, measurable goals in areas such as recruitment, retention, succession, supplier diversity, or business outreach.
As habits don’t change overnight, successful organizations will need to rigorously monitor and track their goals and newly implemented business initiatives. Reviewing which initiatives are succeeding or failing through short sprints or checkpoints will help to incrementally improve organizational strategy and processes in order to reach organizational diversity and inclusion goals.
Moving forward, organizations will begin to hold leadership accountable by tying success in diversity and inclusion to performance reviews and compensation. Your organization should apply the same institutional value to diversity reporting and accountability as it does to financial reporting.
To successfully make positive progress towards diversity and inclusion in the workplace, it is imperative that you are proactive in understanding the internal climate of your organization through courageous conversations. Leaders must hold themselves and their organization accountable to take action and drive meaningful change. You can no longer treat diversity as a silo – act now to address diversity and inclusion within your own business in order to remain successful and relevant in the modern landscape.