Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has become a top priority for many companies. DEI goes beyond simply demographics – it creates an environment and culture in which employees feel safe and supported.
Businesses that embrace diversity and include DEI training often see greater innovation, growth and employee morale than those that do not. But how do you start?
1. Create a Culture of Inclusion
Establishing an inclusive culture takes time and isn’t simply about paying lip service or hanging up posters with “inclusive workplace” written on them. Instead, creating one requires everyone in an organization understanding that diversity, equity and inclusion are integral parts of their jobs – from entry-level employees all the way up to top management.
To foster an inclusive culture in your organization, it’s vital that you set clear company goals and establish an implementation strategy for them throughout. These should include setting measurable and time-bound objectives to promote inclusion across all aspects of operations – hiring, performance management, training and leadership development as well as unintentional biases that exist outside one’s awareness but can negatively influence interactions with others.
Establish creative and engaging ways for individuals to connect across differences and find common ground. Many companies organize cultural celebrations like Black History Month, Women’s History Month and AAPI Heritage Month as a way of showing employees they value them and support their identity within the workplace.
Your teams should also learn about the issues people are faced with every day and how to tackle those problems. One such issue is microaggressions – everyday slights based on bias that may go undetected such as not giving an employee credit for their work or using derogatory terms when discussing them.
One key step toward creating an inclusive culture at your company is listening and responding to employee concerns, whether that means conducting surveys, interviews with third-party providers or hosting workshops. Gaining insight into employee opinion of the culture within your workplace allows for adjustments that might need to be made as soon as possible.
As a business, prioritizing diversity and inclusion should be at the top of your priority list to show consumers and employees alike that you don’t fear giving every individual an equal chance to thrive in your organization. Furthermore, diversity also provides you with a competitive edge in hiring decisions as more diverse companies tend to outperform those without diversity initiatives in place.
2. Focus on the Individual
As businesses seek to become more diverse and inclusive, it’s crucial that they recognize diversity is more than demographics; it also encompasses differences in abilities, attitudes, perspectives and values.
Goal 1 of DEI initiatives is to foster an environment where individuals feel accepted as individuals, with their perspectives valued in an efficient manner. In order for this goal to be realized, everyone across the company must support DEI initiatives, including leaders at every level who demonstrate by example how they treat employees with dignity regardless of who they are or any differences that exist between them.
Companies should also strive to be clear about their goals regarding diversity. While many organizations claim they want to promote gender equality, just talking about it won’t suffice without tracking and hiring women who will then go on to fill leadership positions. Achieve this goal requires making sure recruitment practices are free from biases.
To achieve this goal, it’s critical that all parties involved in your recruitment and hiring processes have access to training, mentoring, leadership coaching and safe spaces where they can discuss their experiences. Furthermore, setting up a process for tracking progress on company diversity metrics as well as senior leadership supporting and modeling inclusive leadership is paramount as is their active involvement with DEI training events and activities is.
Diversity and inclusion have been found to improve business results, such as revenue and customer reach, employee recruitment and retention, and overall organizational performance. A McKinsey study revealed that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were more profitable than those in the bottom quartile; additionally, those ranked at or near the top for racial/ethnic diversity outshone their industry average 25% more often.
Companies often make the mistake of thinking diversity and inclusion are synonymous, which in reality isn’t always the case. While building equity into your organization through fair hiring practices, workplace standards, etc will help create more diverse teams, it doesn’t guarantee inclusion as that takes time and effort to foster.
3. Create a Core Group
One effective strategy to foster diversity and inclusion within an organization is creating a core group to champion diversity initiatives. Often in the form of a transformation committee, this group works in close coordination with the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). They ensure that DEI strategy objectives are fulfilled while simultaneously creating an atmosphere in which employees at all levels commit time and energy towards participating in meetings that foster diversity and inclusion across their workplace.
Core groups consist of employees who are passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in their organization. These employees serve as advocates to make sure that DEI initiatives don’t become luxury projects but instead essential business priorities; additionally they help other members of their workforce become advocates as well.
Diverse workplaces are essential in creating an atmosphere where all employees can feel they belong, leading them to feel engaged and satisfied at their jobs – something which may lead to decreased productivity, employee turnover and customer dissatisfaction. Furthermore, during times of crisis or recession it becomes even more essential to invest in effective diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
One key consideration when creating a core group is that not all employees may be able to attend meetings due to childcare responsibilities or scheduling conflicts. Therefore, virtual meeting options must be established so all employees have equal participation opportunities in these conversations. Furthermore, plans must also be in place for communicating the outcomes of these discussions back into the workplace.
Along with having a core group, it is equally essential to recognize and acknowledge their contributions to the company at large. Doing so will demonstrate the organization’s dedication to foster an inclusive culture while inspiring more individuals to join your core group as advocates.
4. Get the Leadership Team on Board
Given that customer loyalty, employee retention, talent recruitment and innovation rely on diversity equity and inclusion at every level, leaders at all levels must play an active role in encouraging diversity equity and inclusion. Leaders need to know what inclusive leadership involves as well as tools that enable them to navigate its complexities while developing their abilities to communicate across differences while mitigating bias while respecting differences, foster allyship relationships and bring out the best in all members of their workforce.
Education of your entire team on the importance of DEI can be a good place to start, such as holding workshops or trainings about its challenges and how they impact business. Once this understanding has been gained, then creating an action plan on how the company can tackle them should become necessary.
Noting the significance of large financial or hiring gestures alone to achieve lasting results, DEI should be embedded into both organization and culture – this means leadership team participation in dialogue around all initiatives as a part of continuous support for them.
Education the entire team on DEI may seem like an impossible feat for busy organizations, yet taking the time to inform your staff of its importance will help your company thrive in an ever-more-diverse workplace. By making time to educate your team on DEI issues and its effects on your business, this will allow your team to develop more efficient strategies that can be implemented and will ultimately allow it to flourish under diverse environments.
Establishing an inclusive work environment can not only decrease employee turnover but also boost productivity. A diverse workforce brings different viewpoints into decision making processes and helps your company remain ahead of its competition. DEI should not be considered “nice-to-have”, but rather necessary in today’s hyper competitive business climate.
Now is the time to move beyond discussion about diversity and start taking meaningful steps toward inclusion and inclusivity. From creating diverse workplaces and policies, to mentoring programs and mentoring schemes – now is the time for change!