We live in an age of opinions, engagement, empathy, and values. Stakeholder and employee activism have rightly shaped some of the most important corporate priorities most organizations currently face. And diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is one of them. As a leader, you’re in a position to set the tone for your entire organization and leadership team’s approach to DEI, what you say and do matters, as does where you say it.
In the world of RPO and recruitment, diverse hiring strategies are increasing in popularity, Gartner analysis reveals an almost 800% increase in job postings for dedicated diversity recruiters. However, hiring diverse people and creating a workforce full of different demographics, religions, ages, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, etc., isn’t enough. Inclusion and equity are then the glue that hold a diverse workforce together and help it achieve great things. And this requires authenticity and practicing what you preach from the top down, and the bottom up!
From my own experience at Pierpoint, I know that building a truly diverse, inclusive and equality-led workforce comes from more than a recruiting strategy or a statement on your website. Your DEI efforts need to be driven by authenticity, commitment, buy in and ongoing education from the top down. No mean feat, this requires continuous communication, a consistent approach, and the marriage of company values and company actions.
Where Does Leadership Truly Stand When It Comes to DEI?
As a leader it’s important that you support the relationship between your company’s values and mission statement, and its actions and actualities. I would even go so far as to suggest that it’s our job to embody those mission statements and ensure they are a priority that colors every movement, service, and project the company undertakes.
When it comes to DEI, your visibility as a leader is extremely important, particularly when it comes to authenticity, commitment, buy in and ongoing education from the top down. You set the tone and expectations for the rest of your senior leadership team (SLT), and they in turn for the other structures within your organization. Your leadership team need to embrace your vision for DEI, understand their role within it, be aware of the pitfalls and biases in play, and be committed to change.
But with almost every organization addressing DEI or outlining their own DEI policies publicly, how do you make the authenticity of your own stand out from the crowd or ring true?
Driving Authenticity in Your DEI Strategies
Within RPO, we often see organizations commit to DEI statements on their websites and leave it at that, there may also be a dedicated page outlining their efforts, but there is typically very little evidence of the success of that strategy. Leading an international organization of consultants and advisors in this space, I can tell you it requires a bit more than that. Steps you can take from there to create an authentic DEI strategy include:
Enacting Equity-Centered Design
According to RAND Center, equity-centered design should be your first step when reinvigorating your DEI efforts and is:
The practice of involving diverse communities throughout planning and implementation, to allow their voices to impact solutions to the inequity at hand.
An ideal approach for an authentic DEI strategy, it allows you to unify your DEI mission and goals with your actions and execution.
Examining Your Written Vs. Actioned Commitments to DEI
Another good place to start when injecting authenticity into your DEI policy and efforts is with the current state of play. This means your current policy(ies), communications, public and internal statements and resources, existing advocates, committees, and HR structures. Conducting a full audit of your current DEI materials and workflows will allow you to understand your current tone and authenticity and communicate the gaps between what you preach and what you practice.
Examine the evidence of what your DEI policies have achieved for your workforce, this includes looking at diversity metrics against profit and productivity, but also measuring collaboration, problem solving and even the number of employee complaints, etc.
Providing DEI Training for Your Entire Organization
This can mean expanding beyond the usual unconscious bias training for hiring managers to include a mix of round table sessions, webinars and story sharing which allow opportunities for interaction. Training should come from both internal and external sources as it is important to avoid adding additional burdens on minority groups within your organization by expecting them to provide education, unpaid labor, or mentoring to others.
1. For Leaders:
Senior leaders in your organization should have explicit training around the issues of power, privilege, and structural inequality. Encourage greater interaction between your SLT and junior employees to foster an environment that values ‘shop-floor’ listening as a useful tool.
2. For HR and Talent Acquisition:
Research has found that 80% of HR professionals are beginners when it comes to DEI. Here unconscious bias training has its place as a valuable tool for HR to counter bias in recruitment, selection, and progression processes.
3. For Others:
Web-based learning tools combined with interactive sessions are a great way for your entire workforce to understand topics like privilege, microaggression and how to be an ally rather than a bystander for DEI.
Taking Steps to Diversify Vendors, Suppliers and Contractors
Research diverse suppliers and engage with communities and local resources such as minority business directories, action groups and local business associations to find alternatives to your existing supply chain.
Changing long-established vendors and suppliers can be a hard sell within your organization. Set achievable targets based around a solid business case for change to secure continuous senior leadership buy-in and don’t attempt to change too much at once. Authenticity is a long-term project.
Remember to think broadly and encourage participation across your organization. Everything from catering company events to guest speakers for training, to where you source your office supplies can be considered so you may need assistance from a wide range of departments from finance, to housekeeping, to marketing.
Encourage the Establishment of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
ERG’s can be excellent ways to foster a sense of community and encourage employee participation.
First gauge employee interest. ERGs are employee-led so passion and participation at employee level is key here. Be sure to define organizational support for ERGs at the outset, including clear rules and processes around financial assistance and the availability of organizational resources.
Documenting Your Efforts in a Unified Way
All the above strategies are great ways to inject authentic diversity, equity and inclusion at the core of your business and will be a great way to support your current workforce, improve their job satisfaction and overall happiness. A worthy endeavor at all times, but you can still promote this in an online, public-facing format without impacting the authenticity of your DEI values.
Use pictures of your actual teams on social channels and the company website, inject their voices into your blogs pages, testimonials, public review sites and more to allow your public representation to mirror your internal culture. This will allow your DEI strategies to support your recruitment needs, creating a way for potential employees to understand your DEI vision, and appreciate how you have enacted it so far, and create belief and confidence in what you will achieve in the future.
Diversity, equity and inclusion can form the basis of every business approach if it’s embedded properly into your organization, appreciated and championed by every person within it. With productivity and profitability on the line, it should be on ever leader’s agenda to authenticate their approach.