Diversity & Inclusion, a topic and competitive advantage that has finally gained momentum in recent years, is now at a point where companies are expected to have policies in place that foster a sense of inclusion and belonging. Mounting pressure from consumers and stakeholders is keeping companies accountable.
Overlooking diversity and inclusion used to be something companies could get away with, but not anymore. Coupled with employee activism, and a spirit to hold leadership accountable, there are tangible, well-researched benefits that point to inclusion being a competitive advantage. Ranging from better customer representation to a healthier company culture and from higher financial performance, to higher innovation, fostering inclusion can improve a company’s bottom line.
Stakeholders expect more from their leadership teams. Activism and platforms that promote diverse employee voices illuminate these issues and the world is taking notice. There are continually headlines on this very topic. Recently, with Alphabet’s change in leadership, a significant amount of employees felt that there was a missed opportunity to act on 5 key issues that were laid out by employees in November 2018:
- An end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination *(Google ended forced arbitration in February 2019)
- A commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity
- A publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report
- A clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously
- Elevate the chief diversity officer to answer directly to the chief executive officer and make recommendations directly to the board of directors, and appoint an employee representative to the board.
Companies have started to publish their own diversity figures in the spirit of transparency. Lyft is a great example, but these same companies often miss the mark. Many companies know they have room to improve, so what can companies do?
There are lots of tips and best practices to set your company up for success when it comes to developing a D&I strategy. Here are 8 high return activities that have been proven to help companies harness the benefits of fostering an inclusive culture:
- Buy in from CEO - This is a big one. The tone at the top trickles down to the larger organization. When leadership chooses to prioritize change and intentionality around DE&I, progress can be made.
- Establish metrics and measure against them and hold managers accountable - You can’t manage what you don’t measure. OKRs surrounding representation should be tracked with managers held accountable.
- Promoting women into management - Fixing the broken rung - Ensuring that leadership and management includes a diverse slate of individuals, particularly women, tremendously impacts business performance.
- Creating employee networks - A sense of belonging and connectivity is important to ensure there are outlets for every team member to feel included.
- Defining what diversity means for your organization - Diversity can be defined in many ways. Find a definition that makes sense for you and your organization.
- Blind resume review - Qualification first lens - Removing identifying markers from candidate applications to avoid potential unconscious bias can help companies acquire top talent.
- Standardized questions and interview format for each candidate - Consistent questions and structure incorporates fairness into the interview process without showing preference to any particular candidate during the interview itself.
- Incentivizing employee referrals of diverse talent - Establish policies around employee referrals to incentivize behaviors as you grow your headcount.
Although widely used, these methods have not been shown to have a high impact:
- Diversity and Inclusion generic corporate trainings
- Mandated participation in corporate D&I programming
Being intentional about diversity is an important first step as you look to build lasting teams that outperform. However, looking at diversity solely for the sake of diversity only goes so far, and it is important to take it to the next level by fostering an inclusive company culture for all to thrive.
- Fairness & Respect
- Value & Belonging
- Confidence & Inspiration
This is a critical moment. We can treat diversity like the business imperative it is, or we can treat it as an optional initiative.