Updated: Feb 2, 2022
Organizations can leverage strong diversity and inclusion strategies to attract diverse talents, bolster their compliance initiatives, and boost their bottom line. But then again, isn’t it the right thing to do?
Still, despite the bulk of evidence to support this case, most organizations are only paying lip service to the issues of diversity and inclusion. One just has to look at the tech sector, for instance, to see how many organizations are still struggling with diversity and inclusion.
Silence in the face of injustice is tacit approval!
There is a widespread issue of organizations not doing the work to address gender, racial, ethnicity, and sexual orientation disparities in the workplace, despite touting various diversity initiatives. Minorities and women are still under-represented in leadership positions and pay. Corporate silence on pay inequities sends an implicit message about their company culture and values.
A recent study from Mercer shows that issues of gender and racial inequalities begin in entry-level roles within the workplace. In these early stages, minority employees are already reported as earning less or slower to advance in the workplace than compared to their white colleagues. The pandemic has, however, brought a spotlight on racial inequalities minorities face, in addition to the systematic obstacles they face in the workplace.
Gender and racial parity are not things we can just wish away. It’s time to do away with corporate silence and take real actions to curtail the buildup of anger, despair, and frustration that often accompanies a lack of diversity. As protests sweep the globe, companies are beginning to make bold declarations and promises on their brands' positions for greater diversity in their company and community. But unless there is a measurement to hold leaders and corporations accountable for their actions, it will be meaningless instead of meaningful.
Starting the conversation
We already mentioned how a culture of silence could be contributing more harm to this cause, whether it is done intentionally or unintentionally. For leaders and managers keen on creating a diverse and inclusive workplace, the first step is to start the conversation.
Addressing workplace discrimination should start with hard and respectful conversations, according to John Page, Golden State Food’s general counsel, and chief diversity officer. Furthermore, such conversations between employees as well as leaders and managers should demonstrate respect and empathy. Employees that feel like they have a voice and can contribute to conversations will feel included within the organization.
How to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Dialogues and conversations will be critical to addressing issues arising and creating an atmosphere that promotes harmony, fairness, and equity. After that first step, companies need to take tangible actions to increase workplace equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Below are a few tools, tips, and resources to ensure success.
Segmented engagement surveys
Employers’ actions and policies regarding diversity and inclusion must be based on improving the current outlook of their workforce. Therefore, having an annual engagement survey and dissecting the data by the segmented group such as age, ethnicity and national origin, generation, and other segments will help provide a holistic picture of the current outlook.
Through electronic surveys, targeted focused groups based on the data segments can provide a more personable experience and safe space to speak. When companies find the need to go beyond quantitative data, targeted focused groups can provide reliable and qualitative data to help drive change.
Developing continuous training programs and policies
Once there is data on the ground to work with, company leaders and decision-makers will need to develop programs and policies to achieve the organization’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) goals. Such programs and policies should be aimed at addressing core areas of concern and underrepresented groups.
Such programs and policies should include or be directed at:
Promoting an antiracist culture in the workplace
Preventing sexual harassment and microaggressions
Ensuring every employee has a sense of belonging
Educating employees on cultural competency as well as the different forms and implications of microaggressions in the workplace
Addressing different practices that could negate D&I such as unconscious hiring biases that could result in underrepresentation in comparison to the labor market; employee referrals that end up as ‘like me’ referrals, company culture, and political preferences, etc.
Creating a safe space and an encouraging atmosphere for underrepresented groups and aggrieved workers to air their concerns and observations.
Ensuring consistency and continuity of these programs for long-term success.
Ensuring management buy-in, support, and accountability
Company-wide support is vital to the success of any initiative to improve Diversity
While it makes sense to have managers involved to champion this initiative, everyone in the organization – including leaders – should be educated on the business case for D&I and how each person and role can get started from the beginning to make it meaningful and sustainable. Organizations can also consider creating a department, working group, or a diverse team of employees tasked with implementing the company’s D&I initiatives to ensure accountability, to measure and evaluate the success of these strategies, and to make necessary reviews and readjustments.
It is important to understand that creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace should be a continuous effort rather than a destination. There is not one way to transform an organizational culture. Each culture is complex and unique, and efforts must consider these variations to create meaningful change within their own culture. This consideration, along with empathetic and exemplary leadership, should be recognized as a part of the journey to weave and create dynamic initiatives to achieve the goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion.