Cultivating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment takes a lot of work. It doesn’t happen overnight and companies need to be patient in growing, taking the little wins and learning from mistakes as they go. The journey is equally as important as the end goal and you have to make sure you’re not skipping steps.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to it. It’s a continuous learning process even for the most progressive companies. And knowing where to start can be challenging.
Here are some baseline definitions and guidelines to help organizations succeed in their efforts to strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion.
What is D & I and where does E fit?
Diversity is about recognizing that everyone is different. Inclusion is how people respect, appreciate, and value those differences. In a company setting, having a diverse and inclusive workforce means having access to a variety of perspectives, skill sets, and experiences. This creates an environment that encourages higher creativity, productivity, and innovation.
But hiring diverse talent isn’t enough. Companies need to identify specific needs of certain demographics in their organization and provide support that allows them to be successful in the workplace.
Equity acknowledges the reality that there are biases and obstacles that exist for some but do not necessarily apply to others. It’s important to acknowledge that not everyone is given the same resources and even more important to address those inequities.
It’s crucial to enforce Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion equally across any organization. Focusing on diversity alone would result in having a diverse workforce without a concrete solution for addressing its challenges.
What is the goal of a DEI program?
Companies are becoming more conscious about their DEI efforts and this has everything to do with growing their workforce and improving talent management. Becoming a part of an organization that prioritizes DEI is important especially to the younger workforce. In order for companies to attract, hire, retain, and develop top talent, they need to create a safe, fair, and flexible work environment for all.
How can growing companies tackle DEI?
In order to succeed or make progress in implementing DEI programs, companies need to be diligent and intentional in building a diverse candidate pool. This means evaluating their current networks and resources and identifying what’s lacking. Then, stepping out of the normal circle and making sure they’ve used various resources to bring in diverse talent.
How can we address unconscious bias?
Everyone has bias and so it shouldn’t be something that people shy away from. In fact, the key to addressing it is by acknowledging where we have bias. This means looking into the team makeup and recognizing if there’s any pattern in hiring new team members that weren’t obvious before. Is there a particular candidate profile that managers typically lean towards?
In some cases, it may require a thorough assessment of hiring rubrics. For example, are there any specific requirements that would hinder candidates from getting the opportunity to be shortlisted – like a list of preferred universities, etc? Being open to different perspectives will truly create the kind of learning, engagement, and development that is needed to get these conversations started.
How do we ask uncomfortable questions without offending each other?
A good practice is to go through this mental checklist before asking questions.
- Why do I need to ask this question?
- Is this for a business need or personal?
- How might this person respond to my question?
- What will I gain from this?
Once you identify that it’s necessary to ask that question, make sure the messaging is well thought out and the intention is clear.
Here are some examples,
“Hey, I know this may be an uncomfortable question, but I’m coming from a place of learning and understanding. I really don’t know about this topic and I would like to get your thoughts or perspective on this.”
“I think you might have a little bit more insight than I on this topic. It may be an uncomfortable question, but let me run this by you to get your thought perspective.”
What are some successful organization-wide approaches towards building more inclusion?
Education and training are key to having a solid foundation on the topic and for everyone to be aware of what’s going on and what’s being done. That being said, it should be embedded in every company’s training structure in the same way ethics and sexual harassment training are. And it should be followed by a conversation about what’s being learned from those training. That’s what facilitates true growth and understanding. It’s also a great way to apply those learnings in real-time and in a real work setting.
How do we become better allies to everyone in our organization?
Here are five tips to become better allies:
- Always come from a place of good intent. It eliminates the tension and dissolves any barrier on the onset of embracing differences.
- Care, support, and respect. Foster an environment where coworkers can show care, support, and respect for one another. Appreciate and respect everyone’s backgrounds, experiences, and thoughtful perspectives.
- Listen to understand. Most of the time – and many are guilty of this – people listen to respond. They don’t listen to understand what the other person is saying. Active listening means being in the moment, not just listening but hearing what is being communicated by another person.
- Be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Talking about these things can be hard and uncomfortable for others but that’s where change begins.
- Meet people where they are. Not everyone comes to the table with the same understanding, knowledge, or experiences, essentially everyone may not be on the same socially conscience level you are and that’s okay. We should be able to meet at a middle ground and grow and learn from there.
Successful DEI initiatives require a lot of work. And fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion is an unending process. Learning what DEI is and understanding its true value to your organization is a great starting point.