We’re all responsible for Diversity and Inclusion!
When we hear the terms diversity and inclusion, what comes to mind? Who do we think is responsible for diversity, inclusion, and company culture? HR, Recruiting, Talent Acquisition?
Yes, they do play a critical role in identifying, attracting, engaging, recruiting, retaining, and developing diverse talent. They help shape the D&I strategy and culture of an organization.
However, they are not exclusively responsible. We all have a role to play. It starts with understanding what those terms mean – what they mean to you and your organization. Other terms used in tandem with D&I are E&B (Equity and Belonging). For now, we will focus on D&I.
A Google search on D&I will produce pages of descriptions and data on the benefits of having a diverse workforce. We know the benefits. Yet in the last decade, we haven’t moved the needle significantly in creating diverse workforces, especially in the C-suite. Less than 6% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are people of color.
One reason is that processes for hiring, development, and promotions at some companies are plagued with opportunities for biased decision-making. While bias has become somewhat of a dirty word, the truth is that we are all biased. Research shows that we are given 11 million pieces of information at any given moment, but we can only handle 40. Our brain creates shortcuts so we can make decisions quickly without being overwhelmed; however, these shortcuts can create bias.
I share this not to excuse bad behavior, but to illustrate that even well-intentioned people can be biased. Fortunately, there is something we can do about it. Many companies provide diversity training, workshops, and learning libraries that offer information we can use to make changes. If your company doesn’t provide those resources, you can find research online on the many types of biases, along with videos and training programs on how to recognize bias.
While training is important, it’s not enough. D&I requires action. If we don’t move from information to action, D&I becomes just another feel-good activity.
The behavioral approach to Diversity and Inclusion is based on a simple premise: Behave until you believe.
Whether you believe D&I is important or necessary, there is often a gap from information to intention to action. We tend to seek what is comfortable and familiar, especially when faced with stressful situations.
Here are some steps we can take when dealing with situations where bias may creep in.
Awareness – What is influencing my thoughts about a person or group of people? Is it based on facts or feelings? Do I possess cultural competence?
Take Action – Is my professional circle diverse? How much interaction do I have with people outside of my circle? Do something different!
Start Small – Confronting bias is not easy. It calls into question the beliefs we have about ourselves and the world around us. Even with the best intentions, good people have bias.
Be Consistent – Progress is better than perfection! Take small but consistent actions to recognize and mitigate our own biases and challenge those around us to do the same.
Feelings are not Facts
I want to address my Recruiting and HR colleagues for a moment. How many times have you submitted a candidate that checked off every requirement for the role, based on the job description and your intake call?
Excited, you presented the candidate to the decision-maker only to get this feedback, “I didn’t get the right feel from the candidate” or “I didn’t feel they would be a good fit.”
One of my good friends often reminds me that feelings are not facts!
Very few business decisions are made without data or some process that evaluates the facts – past and present. Why are so many companies leaving such a critical business decision to individual feelings? Our feelings can lead us to make biased decisions. For example, when we look at generational diversity there are some stereotypes about the work habits of each generation.
Research shows there are core needs that everyone has, along with similarities in work habits and behavior regardless of age or generational categorization. The narratives around generational categories often do not represent the reality when stacked against the data. Applying these beliefs during the recruiting and hiring process may influence us to potentially exclude younger candidates for roles that require stability and longevity or to exclude mature candidates for more technical roles.
So, what can we do? Beyond fair and equitable hiring processes, skills-based assessments, competency-based interviews with question banks and scoring rubrics, diverse interview panels, and technology tools? We can work on actively recognizing and confronting our own bias, and how it may influence our decision-making at work.
We often hear that in order for a company’s D&I strategy to be successful, sustainable, and shape the culture of the organization, it needs the following ingredients:
- Buy-in and sponsorship from the C-suite
- Resources – money, time, and human capital
- Alignment with business strategy
- Measurable – what gets measured gets managed
I would also add that it needs to be important to every employee. We all have a role to play in Diversity and Inclusion at our organizations.