CIO.com; February 14, 2019
A strong diversity and inclusion strategy can help your organization attract top talent and drive innovative results. Here are eight best practices for launching a diversity and inclusion initiative that works.
- Establish a sense of belonging for everyone: For each individual to bring their best self forward, a sense of belonging must first be established. Having a connection to an organization or group of people that makes you feel you can be yourself not only results in greater engagement and creativity in the workplace, it’s a psychological need. But these changes take time, and they aren’t always linear. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, either — that’s why it’s so important to share best practices and be open to trying new things.
- Empathetic leadership is key: Diversity and inclusion are often treated as a single initiative owned exclusively by HR. But for real change to happen, every individual leader needs to buy into the value of belonging — both intellectually and emotionally. Only when the entire C-suite steps up to own diversity and inclusion will a company’s D&I practices thrive.
- A top-down approach isn’t enough: Top-down approaches drive compliance, not commitment. From senior leaders to frontline employees, every individual must see and understand their role in company culture. This means identifying differences in employee experience and values across the organization so that change can be made relevant for each person and knowing that lasting change must activate different parts of the system — top down, bottom up, and middle out — in different ways.
- Quotas don’t automate inclusion: Hiring goals may boost diversity numbers, but this won’t automatically create an inclusive culture. Too often, leaders focus diversity and inclusion efforts disproportionately on the employee pipeline, but the employee experience continues far beyond an offer letter. To retain and nurture top talent, it’s critical to take an honest look at the end-to-end employee experience, with an eye toward creating conditions that promote inclusion on a daily basis and designing ways to measure the impact.
- Inclusion is ongoing — not one-off training: It isn’t enough to teach employees what it means to be inclusive. Like any form of behavior change, inclusion requires individuals to identify key moments in which to build new habits or “microbehaviors” (daily actions that can be practiced and measured). And when these habits are put into action in an environment that supports honest conversations and healthy tension, real change becomes possible.
- Maximize joy and connection, minimize fear: Finding ways to frame challenges through a lens of possibility — and elevating the power of shared experiences and storytelling to do so — creates greater potential for positive change.
- Forget ‘fit’ and focus on helping individuals thrive: The norms, power structures, and inequities in society can easily become embedded in an organization — optimizing to hire, train, and reward people who “fit.” Creating a culture where every individual can contribute their full potential requires investigating the systems and processes in your organization to uncover sore spots and blind spots, and then finding ways to reimagine them.
- Consider your brand: As in any transformation effort, brand and culture are intimately connected. The products and services you put into the world reflect your values — and your biases. In the journey toward building a more inclusive organization, it’s important to consider the relationship between what’s happening inside and outside your company. What is your brand saying about who you are as a culture? In what ways is your employee base not congruent with your customer base? What experiences are being left out or misunderstood?