Diversity and Inclusion: Beyond Compliance

I’ve written previously about Why Diversity and Inclusion Efforts Fail, and in that article I highlighted the importance of putting inclusion back into diversity and inclusion, because even though the formula D+I is difficult, D–I (diversity without inclusion) is a recipe for failure. What hampers many D&I efforts is a general unwillingness to go beyond mere compliance.

1.30.2015.006No one wants to go on record as questioning the business case for D&I because there’s practically no way to do that without sounding prejudiced or downright bigoted, but I think many still harbor significant doubts about the business case for D&I. And the kind of openness to difficult conversations it takes to meaningfully get past differences to achieve real inclusion are just the kinds of conversations most managers and many executives don’t want to touch with a ten foot pole because it makes them uncomfortable.

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Getting out of our comfort zones, however, is the only way to make real progress on D&I.

I find it quite frustrating that the business world talks a good game when it comes to D&I, but does not walk the talk. Bersin by Deloitte ran a study on D&I programs and found that although 71% of organizations surveyed want to have an inclusive organization that leverages diversity for business success, a mere 11% of organizations feel like they’ve achieved it. What’s more, the companies studied on average are spending just $50 per employee to support D&I initiatives. There’s only one word that can describe that level of support, and it’s pathetic.

Diversity in the Workplace

There’s literally tons of information out there about diversifying the workplace. Here are just a few good starting points:

  • Recruit for diversity. If your primary source for new hires is referrals from your current employees, you’re going to wind up with a very homogenous workforce. That study mentioned earlier found that only 10% of respondents could “strongly agree” that recruitment processes were designed in ways that would bring in diverse candidates. Make sure your recruitment processes aren’t a part of the problem.
  • Community connections. When you look at your workplace and realize it doesn’t reflect the diversity of the community in which it operates, take the time to connect with various institutions in that community – churches, colleges, civic and fraternal organizations can all help you connect to potential candidates for your hiring pipeline.
  • Employee ideas. In situations like this, always canvas your employees for ideas – you’d be surprised how many will have unique ideas for how to attract more diverse candidates.
  • Measure it. As management guru Peter Drucker famously said, “What gets measured, gets managed.” Start tracking diversity statistics in your organization and make them available to show that it does matter, and people will notice that and feed into it.

Inclusion in the Workplace

After you have a really diverse workplace on your hands, what do you do to make sure it’s inclusive as well? And what does that even mean? Quite simply, it means that everyone is treated with dignity and respect, is welcome and valued. Remembering that this is the much harder piece of the puzzle, here are two ways to make it happen:

  • Careful onboarding. If you don’t already have a diverse workplace, once you start bringing in people that are substantially different, you have to pay them more attention than other hires because they are going to naturally feel their difference, and feel like they don’t fit in. If they can’t get over that, chances are they won’t last long.
  • Exit interviews. If at first your efforts to diversity the workplace seem to be failing because your minority employees leave, make sure you have a very open and honest exit interview process where people can fully express why they are leaving and what the company could do different to avoid such losses in the future. And then, of course, you have to be willing to actually do something to address those deficiencies.

These are just some initial thoughts on how to begin to create a more diverse workplace, as well as retain that diversity through paying attention to inclusion. Future articles will look much more deeply into what it takes to put the I back into D&I.

January 30, 2015   Updated :March 12, 2015   compliance, diversity, inclusion   

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