With Diversity, Equity & Inclusion gaining the center stage & Black History Month ending with all gusto, It’s high time DE&I becomes inclusive in the truest sense.
“When they say Diversity, I want them to respect and acknowledge multiple dimensions of diversity, and when they say Inclusion I want them to create a culture where every individual feels empowered to not shrink themselves into something they aren’t.” –Rocki Howard, Chief Diversity Officer, SmartRecruiters
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has now become a checkbox item in the ‘tasks to be done’ lists of multiple organizations. Off the recent past it is just another thing that companies claim to be doing, but in all authenticity, it is still a goal that is far from being achieved. In fact, you may now see more of the hiatus of posting on social media along with hanging multiple posters at workplaces stating that they support DE&I rather than implying the virtues of DE&I in a realistic sense in the said organization. Companies are hiring a diverse workforce, but are they treating every employee of theirs with a unified respect and equal segmentation of opportunities?While an organization or an individual might showcase an active support towards being a diverse and inclusive workforce, many a times it is observed that personal and internalized biases overtake the decision-making, this might be conscious or unconscious in nature but ultimately makes the entire concept of DE&I turn futile.
People lately began to experience something now known as compassion fatigue, in terms of diversity and equity initiatives. As People have begun voicing their concerns about the representation and opportunity parameters for minority groups, many people feel desensitized. Some of them (read discriminators) even feel that people are making all this noise only to seek attention.
But what we are not realizing is that it is an issue that not only needs attention, but maximized efforts and education.
We should be working to strengthen all our resources enough so that they can know the difference between mere representation and actual equity at the workplace.
Daniel Chait, CEO and co-founder, Greenhouse, tells us how diversity is a goal and not a distraction.
“In working with thousands of customers, we’ve found that when companies are able to build a culture of belonging they can be at their most creative and effective self. Those organizations prioritize diversity and they perform better, year after year. Their people feel safe, there’s a seat at the table for everyone and each person who knows they belong is therefore able to show up and bring their best abilities to work.
There are those who think of ‘diversity’ as a distraction or would prefer to avoid these issues so that they can focus on the mission they truly care about. Others think of it as an unfortunate posture they must pretend to hold so as to avoid being ‘cancelled.’
And, fundamentally, I see belonging as perhaps the most powerful tool I have for accomplishing my goals. Because if I can truly hire the best and brightest – not merely those who look, sound and think like me – I can unleash the most powerful force for progress and success on the face of the earth: the power of human potential.”
We spoke to some really well-known and influential DE&I experts to share their insights and help our leader and organization leaders to better navigate the DE&I landscape and implement value-driven strategies that make a real difference.
Let us look at some ways in which organizations can let go of their oblivion to misrepresentation of diverse groups and below the par experiences.
1) Equitable DEI Hiring
Hiring is where it all begins. Once the company is equipped enough to carry out equitable hiring, only then will the organization be able to have a diverse group of employees to cater to. So, the first thing is to get the first step right. Recruitment and hiring should always be based on the potential of a candidate, without any influence of other non-necessary elements.
Rocki says. “Diversifying the recruitment team is a key step in establishing fair and equitable hiring. Building a process that allows multiple perspectives to input in selection minimizes bias and establishes a base on which a solid foundation can be built.”
Inclusive hiring can be seen in the form of several different policies and commitments such as transparent pay and levelling the playing ground for differently abled people.
For instance, BlackRock held the first position in Refinitiv’s diversity and inclusion top 100 companies list in 2020. It is also one of the companies that is known for its innovative diversity initiatives where regardless of the background, everybody is given an equal chance. It is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Employer and supports these titles by deploying the Rare Contextual Recruitment System to hire beyond a CV or application by identifying the best talent and keeping their backgrounds eliminated.
Jamie Adasi, Director of DE&I, Greenhouse comments,
“Recruiting efforts that result in a homogenous workforce – whether on the basis of age, gender, race or any other characteristic – hurt companies in the long run. Organizations benefit from a wide variety of perspectives and viewpoints, both help employees excel and help the business thrive. Besides being the right thing to do, establishing diverse and inclusive workplaces has tremendous business ROI. According to McKinsey, diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform homogeneous ones. Additionally, Harvard Business Review states that diverse organizations are 70% more likely to capture new markets.”
Embed DE&I into your business goals to expand the horizons of your initiatives. A diverse workforce has the potential of diversifying the customer base as well. All this will only be possible when suppressed groups are given a voice and are heard. Forster allyship and embrace uniqueness!
Supporting Jamie’s statements, Gary Davis, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Director, Greenhouse, comments,
“Diversity is foundational for innovation and performance. When you prioritize diversity when you think about hiring and or advancement, you are saying that you care about your customers (who have diverse backgrounds, needs and interests) and want to build products and services that will keep them loyal to you. Companies should make every effort to evaluate how homogeneous teams are limiting their potential and identify how to normalize talking about race, age, gender, sexual orientation or ability”
2) Declarative DEI Statements by Leaders
The role of a leader is to lead by example. And many leaders are not inspired enough to even raise their voice over DEI concerns. Organizational leaders have the power and the influence to make people follow their statements for a cause.
“A declarative statement from leadership regarding the critical importance of intentional effort regarding diversity and inclusion. This also demands that they model the actions and movement that illustrate a promising pursuit rather than one of punishment”, explains Torin Ellis, Diversity Strategist,the torin ellis brand
Torin further explains that there should be a shift in how resources are allocated. That would mean adjusting who and how people resources are dispatched and ensuring a meaningful budget is applied to support the work. Let’s not put people in position by title alone because that has not served us well. Rather, let us educate people with power about the impact of their authority and use that to a greater advantage of equity.
Joining in this righteous race is Johnson & Johnson which has multiple DEI initiatives with a major emphasis on diversity . One of their highlights in terms of powerplay is that the Chief Diversity Officer has the power to change the system and reports directly to the Chairman of the company and the CEO. That is when the employees know that this is not another drill, it is an integration that is here to stay, making the efforts more conscious and consistent.
Victoria Teshome, Product Manager, Greenhouse explains how DEI pro teams can do better at the workplace.
“Teams with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences have a competitive advantage in developing successful products and services. Diverse teams are in a better position to deeply understand the needs of the many different kinds of users they are building for and to ultimately generate solutions that solve a wider range of problems. According to research from HBR, diversity of a problem-solving team has a direct impact on innovation.”
3) Identify Unconscious Bias
Sometimes at the workplace people automatically assume that a pregnant woman or a disabled man won’t be able to do a specific job because they are not in the position to do so, even if they are more than capable of doing it. This is a type of unconscious bias. People don’t do it intentionally, but there is a lot of rewiring to be done to make them not do it. One infamous example in this context is that of a former employee of a big tech firm who complained that his white counterpart colleagues would clutch their wallets or belongings harder when they would see him pass by.
“Affinity bias is something that comes very naturally to all human beings. Our best line of defense against affinity bias is acknowledging our bias and leveraging others to help us minimize. Hence, having a diverse interview panel is a good way to rule out any unconscious bias that might surface during the process. “– Rocki.
Mastercard has consistently been in the major leagues to outdo their DEI efforts and implementations. The company is well aware of affinity bias on the basis of a person’s age. So, it decided to launch a resource group known as “YoPros BRG” aka the Young Professionals Business Reserve Group, where you can witness reverse mentoring. Younger employees get the older employees (whoever wishes to be) familiarized with the social media platforms in one-on-one sessions and drive the engagement and activity of older employees on social media.
To combat the unconscious bias consciously, it is important to cultivate a culture of sharing. A culture where personnels do not turn a blind eye even to the mildest of discrimination.
D&I initiatives are created with the sole purpose of institutionalizing belongingness amongst everyone, alike. To do that, bringing people at the forefront, empowering them to voice their concerns and opinions, and embracing ethnicity, is the key. The returns do not necessarily have to be monetary or goodwill. A greater sense of dignity is achievement enough. And dignity only comes with equity, elimination of unconscious bias.
“The ROI of D&I is GREATER humanity. Operate with a keen focus on people – center those that have been marginalized and overlooked.” – Torin
4) DEI above and beyond HR“Diversity cannot live in a vacuum of equity, inclusion and belonging. To establish a culture where diversity can thrive in an organization it must be embedded throughout the culture. This cannot be accomplished by one department, the need to spread awareness, knowledge and minimize bias is a collective effort.” – Rocki
Diversity has to come in all aspects of a company. It may start from above, it has to root deeply within the organization and its culture. And the only way that can happen is when enterprises actively engage with diverse groups that are not limited to employees and recruitment.
Apart from being a powerful business leader, Salesforce is also one of the most diverse in diversity initiatives, leaders. The company has various DEI supportive commitments and initiatives, but along with those it also is committed to spending $100 Million with Black-owned businesses over the span of next three years in terms of procurement. The company also is committed to investing $100 Million of intentional capital to empower underrepresented groups-led businesses.
In 2018, Starbucks closed 8,000 stores to impart racial bias training to its workers-scape of around 175,000 employees. Why? Well, sometime before this action of Starbucks, two African American men had been/have been arrested by a Starbucks manager. Not because they committed a crime, but because they hadn’t purchased anything (and hadn’t left) as they were waiting for a colleague. The manager called the cops on them for merely not buying anything while they waited for a colleague.
Starbucks apologized for this incident and closed 8,000 stores to train its employees about racial biases.
If your employees feel targeted or victimized, do not dismiss or invalidate their feelings. Try putting in additional measures or initiatives that will yield inclusive results. And on the flipside, give credit and recognition to people that took on the responsibility to bring about this change.
The company took accountability for the actions of its employees as well as actions to ensure that such cases don’t repeat.
Torin says that leaders are to be held accountable. “D&I work must be important enough that Boards of Directors are evaluating such in the numbers and reports that matter. Hold people to account for their effort to achieve what the organization pronounces as important.”
It is time that brands stop talking and start doing things about enforcing and architecting a diverse culture. As Rocki explains, “I would really like the brands to be as inclusive internally and in their decision making process as they are in their marketing efforts. If they start talking to each and every employee,, that in itself would give them a broader perspective on what authentic inclusion looks like for their organization and would ultimately help to define or redefine their support towards DEIB.”
Corporate settings and management structures are designed in a way that make people from different backgrounds feel the need to fit in. And to fit in, they feel they have to change themselves and their personalities. That is not inclusivity. If a Maori person wears hei-tiki as a business attire, it should be acceptable.The goal is to create an inclusive ecosystem that doesn’t smother cultural identities, rather fosters them to grow as they are!
Nobody should feel pressured to make changes to their ethnic selves to be treated equally. Nobody should be treated indifferently to begin with. The only way to reach that goal is to start today. Start making small changes. Start acknowledging the disparities. And start leading with inclusivity!
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