As the old adage goes, “actions speak louder than words.” Companies have devoted significant time, energy and resources into diversity and inclusion initiatives with the ultimate objective of improving representation. However, without concrete steps to make these goals actionable, diversity and inclusion initiatives can quickly fall off. Waning diversity engagement at a company is often correlated with a lack of leadership engagement. Here we’ll highlight a number of measures businesses can take to turn diversity goals into actionable steps that create lasting impact.
Make Diversity Goals a Personal Leadership Mission
Responsibility starts at the top. The top levels of leadership must be energized and continually focused on promoting diversity and inclusion throughout the company. If this mission is only embraced by managers and employees lower in the ranks without the blessing of the corporate leadership team, it is unlikely that diversity initiatives can be sustained in a way that creates company-wide changes. Leadership teams must be accountable for making sure diversity and inclusion is a priority item on the agenda.
It is important to dispel the view that providing advancement opportunities for some entails taking away power from others. Leadership teams must embrace diversity advancement as something that contributes to the company’s success as a whole and benefits everyone. The mission should be framed as leveling the playing field to make sure everyone is included, and not removing power from anyone.
Invest in Diversity Training
In order for employees to live and breathe the values of diversity and inclusion, they must have awareness of the steps they can take to support the agenda. This can be achieved through training programs and readily available educational resources. However, diversity trainings should be ongoing rather than a one-and-done event. Reducing bias and ingrained stereotypes takes time. Similar to going to the gym, diversity training is a lifetime commitment to building strength, awareness and a change in outlook.
Hire Managers for Diversity Goals
Companies have increasingly been creating new roles for social responsibility positions. Having an official diversity manager or a team dedicated to diversity and inclusion initiatives helps keep these actions items a company priority. Companies with diversity managers reported having 7-18% more underrepresented individuals in management positions within five years. The increased diversity in turn led to notable revenue increases and improved decision-making processes.
Listen and Learn from Employees
By listening to the feedback of employees experiencing the day-to-day impact of workplace behaviors, leaders can better prioritize and modify diversity initiatives. Employee resource groups and other professional diversity networks serve as an important tool for getting candid feedback.
Simple actions to recognize culturally diverse holidays can go a long way in the workplace. While it may not be realistic to allow time off for all cultural or religious holidays, employers could provide a certain number of “holiday time off” hours per year. This would provide flexibility to accommodate unique holidays not accounted for on the standard holiday calendar. Additionally, efforts could be made around the workplace to show appreciation and host events for celebrations such as Women’s History Month, Black History Month, LBGT Month and International Women’s Day.
Making Diverse Leaders Visible and Heard
The company’s values are reflected in the leaders it puts in charge. When employees see diverse leaders in positions of authority, it shows that the company provides opportunities for diverse employees not necessarily fitting the traditional mold to advance. Having role models visible in leadership positions is a key driver to increasing diversity and inclusion. It sends a message that minorities have access to mentorship and pathways to advancement. Moreover, visible and vocal leaders from underrepresented backgrounds demonstrate that diverse employees can get a vote of confidence from the company to be tasked with substantial responsibilities.
Factor in Dedication to Diversity Goals into Performance Reviews
Managers are more likely to act upon diversity initiatives and stress the importance of diversity to colleagues and team members when there are consequences involved. Specifically, if a manager’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is factored into overall management performance reviews, that manager is more likely to implement changes. Of course, leaders should understand the importance of workplace diversity regardless of personal incentives, but having a mechanism in place to reinforce inclusive behaviors company-wide helps. Making diversity commitment a component of performance reviews also instills the notion that every individual at a company plays a critical role in increasing representation.
Make Pay Raises Transparent
Gender and racial pay gaps are persistent problems in workplaces of many sizes and across industries. Women make $0.81 for every $1 a man makes, a number that widens for women of color. In order to increase transparency and social accountability, pay statistics throughout the organization should be readily accessible. The metrics used to evaluate top performance for pay raises should also be transparent. One study found that Black employees were given smaller pay raises despite holding the same job title and having matching performances. Transparent compensation data would help close the gap in pay disparities.