Businesses, governments, the media; everyone is talking about diversity. So how can you ensure your organization is taking the right steps to be more inclusive?
Diversity is a catch-all word, but it covers race, gender, sexual orientation and more. As companies rethink their approach to promoting a diverse workforce and suite of products and services, many wonder if they need a different approach to diversity to really make an impact.
Diversity is more than a buzzword in business - it directly impacts profit margins. Yes, you heard that right: the more diverse an organization’s workforce is, the better it will perform.
In fact, Boston Consulting Group found that businesses with diverse management teams recorded 19% higher revenue, thanks to innovation. So improving diversity is not only the right thing to do, it is also the best business strategy when it comes to hiring and workforce management.
But diversity without inclusion is not enough. Organizations need to create an inclusive culture where diversity is embraced and where each person feels welcome, respected and valued.
Rethinking diversity efforts can overwhelm companies that want to move toward being a business beyond bias. Past efforts might have made an impact on gender demographics, but now is the time to ensure you have a plan to boost other underrepresented groups.
This is a significant undertaking and it’s important to be humble and realistic in the process. This can be an uncomfortable topic, but it is a necessary long term shift that will require listening and adjusting. To make business beyond bias a reality, here are five steps to consider.
Before you can make any measurable change, you’ll need to understand exactly where your company is, such as the racial and gender demographics and what goals you have for improving these metrics over time.
Also, listen to your current employees through workforce surveys, focus groups and listening tours to get insight into what their experience is like. These efforts will illuminate the degree to which they feel welcome, appreciated, and whether they feel they have opportunities for growth and advancement.
While this is a great way to dig into qualitative data, quantitative data makes up the other piece of the puzzle. It requires businesses to track system data and analyze it to show how and when employees are hired, developed, promoted, the rate of attrition and more.
When you have concrete figures in front of you, you can determine the best way to tackle issues that have emerged. For example, gender equality is paramount at SAP. When we set out to have at least 25% women in leadership roles by 2017, we were able to achieve it six months ahead of schedule. With ongoing analysis we found out that we had reached 28.3% by December 2021, meaning we were well on our way to achieving our next goal of 30% by the end of 2022. Quantifying challenges and goals makes them tangible here at SAP and across all organizations.
Companies need to be more open and accepting of people from all backgrounds, but it is much easier said than done to reroute company culture and establish trust. Leadership has to support this and actively make space for employee affinity groups and company wide diversity efforts.
Hershey’s is a prime example of a company that makes a conscious effort to reach pay parity (currently women make 0.99 cents compared to one dollar for men) and more equal board composition (42% of the members on Hershey’s Board of Directors are women). The company has achieved these milestones while championing employee identity with eight business resource groups that employees run and leverage to hire and maintain a diverse workforce.
After understanding the status of your company culture, the next step is to pinpoint what shifts are needed to welcome employees from underrepresented minority groups to an inclusive environment where they can excel. This is another place where employee listening can help.
Look into what your minority employees say about their experiences and take note of any suggestions they have for improving workplace culture. This insight can be a starting point for company wide changes that have been overlooked.
Hiring managers tend to hire people like themselves or people they can relate to, but companies must adopt a new hiring approach to avoid the status quo. When diverse candidates make it to the in-person (or video) portion of the interview process, they should be greeted by a diverse hiring panel. Being “the only” or “the first” can be isolating for candidates and employees.
Instead, show that your existing workforce is already diverse to avoid any potential candidate anxiety about having to be the first or suffer microaggressions. Companies also need to be cognizant of providing meaningful leadership opportunities. The first promotion paves the way for further growth and makes it clear to underrepresented groups that advancement is also possible for them.
Hiring diverse employees is great, but efforts can’t stop there. Companies must consistently check in on the experience of (underrepresented) employees so that diversity efforts don’t fall flat.
A revamped company culture that makes room for all will welcome and engage employees. Be sure to follow-up as well—simply asking for input and not reacting to it will only backfire as it will appear to employees that you don’t really care how they feel or what their experience is.
Classic diversity awareness training doesn’t move the needle. It simply isn’t as frequent or in depth as it needs to be in order to change behavior. In addition to ongoing manager training, diversity initiatives need to be built into everyday workflows.
For example, just-in-time nudges during annual compensation reviews can help managers give raises and promotions equitably, instead of potentially letting unconscious bias impact decisions.
Say a female employee went on maternity leave over a year ago and hasn’t been promoted or given a pay raise since, despite having consistently high performance ratings. Getting a notification of this fact at the appropriate time can help managers reward employees and retain them instead of being made aware when it’s too late and the damage is done.
Improving diversity and inclusion is a company-wide endeavor and part of a broader people sustainability strategy of treating people as the most precious resource an organization has for resilience, agility, and performance. It starts at the top and must trickle down to every part of the organization to really make an impact. Even the teams creating products and services an organization offers can play a role.
For example, by ensuring that any artificial intelligence (AI) is built and trained in an unbiased way, that, for apps and software products, the user interface can be read by screen readers and does not rely on colors to alert users where action is needed, and that careful thought goes into product naming and terminology used to avoid cultural appropriation or exclusion.
Let’s make this a thing of the past by helping employees and customers feel included, hiring more underrepresented populations, and providing a workplace where everyone can thrive.