Diversity is no passing fad. Your workplace should accurately reflect the makeup of society. We’re talking across all spectrums here – race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic background and education. Decades of research has shown that there is an inherent link between diversity and innovation, strong company values and psychologically secure environments. Within these cultures, authenticity and respect can flourish, allowing teams to bring their whole selves to work and perform better in an atmosphere of inclusion.
Achieving greater diversity is not just the right thing to do either, it is also the smart thing. Homogeny breeds mediocrity. This recent McKinsey Report, for example, showed that companies in the top quartile for workforce diversity are 33% more likely to financially outperform their less diverse competition. The evidence is clear that companies who have a diverse workforce have a distinct competitive advantage. But how do you drive this?
1.) Secure buy-in from leaders
“Just because you are CEO, don’t think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization.”
Former Pepsico CEO and diversity advocate Indra Nooyi
This is especially true for diversity and inclusion. It’s not enough for organizations to have policies in place if they are not being enacted. Tone and cadence comes from those most visible. So diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has to be led from the top and then lived by all through the company. Meaningful actions create change. Leaders drive culture and a buy-in from the senior staff will ensure a greater chance of adoption. High performing teams also need leaders who value individual perspectives, create a sense of belonging and work to develop a deep sense of alignment and camaraderie. This culture stretches beyond a “diversity quota” in the hiring strategy and needs to be created from leadership. This understanding that DEI is embedded in every facet of the company is crucial for its overall success.
2.) Communicate your diversity policy regularly and clearly
Many organizations begin their DEI journey with a sound plan but stumble when it comes to communication and follow-through – both of which are imperative for success. Your diversity policy forms the bedrock of your company’s commitment and stance. But if it’s not actively and consistently promoted, it’s just lip service. Ensure it doesn’t just reside on static web pages or in siloed company folders. Push the contents out in emails and newsletters; even use social media to show you not only talk the talk. In the same way that having leader commitment bolsters the effort, so does regular communication. And this should be two-way. Encourage feedback from your employees and keep conversations happening. A DEI policy at its best is a live document, one that breathes and grows with the company.
3.) Train and educate
Diversity and inclusion training will equip your teams with in-depth understanding and practical skills to ensure a more inclusive workforce. As important as getting leader buy-in is, every individual also needs to recognize their role in fortifying this culture. And it has to begin with education. So whether it’s learning about privilege in the workplace, how to alleviate unconscious bias from interview panels or even the lived experiences of marginalized groups, it is all vital information in the cause. But what are the best ways to achieve this? There are a variety of avenues. You could consider online learning content, like the DEI training SocialTalent offers, or hold regular seminars or talks.
4.) Amplify the voices of the marginalized
The workplace can be a breeding ground for microaggressions towards underrepresented groups. And it can be very difficult for those in a minority to feel confident enough to speak up. So learning how to distribute your space, privilege and power is an important mission. True change can start when we become an effective ally for others. Look around rooms and meetings, take note of who isn’t there and raise this issue. Defer to colleagues when you can and continually include in order to increase visibility. Everyone should be able to bring their best self to work and feel comfortable to contribute. Establishing resource groups is another key way to make your employee voices heard.