In my last article, I delved into the benefits of promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) in your business. Here are seven things to consider as you focus on this initiative:
Your commitment must be ironclad. The biggest decision a company must make to embrace a DEIB practice is, first of all, to decide that diversity is important. That requires the executive team to invest in making it a priority, communicate this to employees and, most importantly, be willing to listen to criticism about where they fall short.
DEIB is not a public relations initiative. It is a direct response to a status quo that has for too long denied diverse employees equal opportunities for employment and growth. Treating it as a marketing ploy, especially when you have not made strides internally, can have disastrous effects. For example, companies who posted social media posts in support of Equal Pay Day learned the hard way when a bot replied to their posts with sobering stats about those companies’ own pay gaps.
Know where your company is on the journey. Companies, especially startups with few employees, mistakenly think they can just look across the office and guess based on appearances. You can probably appreciate why this is a bad idea. The only way to create an accurate picture of a company’s current status is to create a mechanism for employees to anonymously self-report. This can sometimes require a software solution or working with a third-party organization so there is adequate privacy. Once the company has its internal statistics, it should strategize how to announce the results and communicate how it plans to improve.
Prioritize diversity of executives. It may seem like a bit of a catch-22, but it’s hard to recruit a diverse workforce if they don’t see representation at the top. If a company has a homogenized executive team, it will struggle to recruit diverse new hires. A diverse executive team communicates to junior and mid-level employees that career advancement is possible at your company.
Actively seek out reasons to say yes. Build programs that are specifically geared to finding populations that have been excluded. Avoid an overdependence on resumes and AI tools, where job gaps or lack of marquee positions could be a manifestation of inequality. Among the best employees I’ve hired are people whose resumes likely would not pass a filter based on specific experience. But they were intelligent, passionate and driven, and they learned what they did not know coming into the position.
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A diversity chief is not enough. Companies are increasingly hiring DEIB heads to signal their commitment to diversity and inclusion and to create a plan for improvements in this regard. In the right situation and company, it’s an important role. But they need authority, clear support from management and a budget. A word of caution: Employees are increasingly suspicious of what companies say about DEIB. An Edelman study found employees trust their diverse coworkers the most and heads of DEIB the least when it comes to a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. This is likely due to recent examples of a DEIB head who was not given the resources to make improvements to the diversity of the workforce.
Overcommunicate with absolute honesty. While you encounter candidates that will not work with any company that has not made sufficient strides in DEIB, the majority are likely to join a company that is open about its shortcomings and clear about how it will address them.
If you won’t be honest about DEIB, your employees will. The employees that interview your candidates are likely to be honest about your company’s approach and commitment to DEIB. If you overstate your progress, your employees are likely to correct the record, hurting your chances to make a compelling offer to that candidate.
Ultimately, you cannot fake a commitment to DEIB. The only way to approach it is to decide that it’s important, put in the work to make it a reality, and communicate openly and honestly about what you’ve done and what remains.