Diversity and Inclusion Needs to Be a Top-Down Incentive

Time to Read: 7 minutes

Updated: October 6, 2022

Meet in the Middle to Succeed in Your Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Objectives

Like many other leaders in HR and recruiting, equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) is a high priority on my list of leadership to-dos. Leading a multi-national RPO provider for manufacturing, life sciences, retail and hospitality, IT, tech & software, healthcare, financial and professional services, and consumer brands, I feel a responsibility to fully understand, appreciate and enact EDI within my own company so we can all better support our end-clients and the people they employ. While at Pierpoint a good amount of progress has been made, the gender diversity within the leadership team is currently at 75% female and 25% male, however, I’m humble enough to admit that we still have a way to go.

What is EDI to Me?

As an immigrant to the US, EDI is very dear to my heart and something I have fought for throughout the course of my career in the recruitment world. Having been in companies where EDI was not enacted properly and working in leadership teams who didn’t prioritize or rate it as important, I am passionate about doing it right within my own organization. And I have an important role to play in that. I define EDI as the following:

  • Equity: The equal and fair treatment of all employees regardless of demographic. It means equal access to learning, development, and advancement opportunities within an organization.
  • Diversity: A range of people from different socio-economic backgrounds, races or ethnicities, religions, gender, and cultures, neurological differences, political beliefs, ages, and much much more.
  • Inclusion: Giving everyone in the company a voice, influence, and empowerment to contribute to decision-making.

However, when you work in an international organization and cater to different cultures, working practices, and ideologies, EDI has to be understood as a much more flexible concept. Approaches to EDI in Asia Pacific countries or the Middle East or Africa are very different from EDI in North America. Even on a more granular level, EDI means different things to the different groups within my own organization. Deloitte has documented how inclusive work environments can foster up to 83% more engagement from millennials in their work practices compared to other generations.

And, as no workforce is static, people come and go and progress, EDI goals and priorities within Pierpoint are also constantly changing. This has put me in an interesting position and allowed me to experiment with what works best when it comes to creating diverse teams, giving them equitable opportunities, and ensuring they feel included.

What Works Best to Drive Change, Top-Down or Bottom-Up?

As the CEO, and as a non-white businesswoman in North America, I have been able to influence from the top down. I’m immensely proud of my majority-female leadership team and the gender equity we are able to drive throughout the company. Particularly considering that 80% of organizations rate themselves as ineffective at developing a diverse and inclusive leadership bench.

I’ve always held the belief that “If we take care of our employees, our employees will take care of our clients,” which makes good business sense, drives higher retention, and allows all of our company culture policies to penetrate deeper. And when it comes to EDI and leadership, what leaders say and do makes up to a 70% difference as to whether an individual report feeling included. However, EDI isn’t just the responsibility of the CEO and HR teams.

EDI requires buy-in at every level or it’s not true equity or inclusion, it’s just a leadership mandate with limited organizational penetration. Leadership needs to be seen and heard communicating authentic EDI priorities and goals, it’s a great start, but your entire organization needs to be bought into the concept, enacting and communicating it too. In the top-down, bottom-up debate, both driving forces are required to meet in the middle for full, company-wide equity, diversity, and inclusion.

How to Address EDI Imbalances or Lack of Buy-In

1. Audit Your Existing Policies and Practices

Before you move forward, you need to know what you currently have and whether it works or not. Review your existing EDI statement, and internal or external communications, and see if it rings true with your living, breathing company culture and mission statement. EDI should change and evolve with your organization. Perhaps your EDI policy was crafted when your company was at one stage in your growth or business lifecycle and now that you’ve entered a new one, perhaps it doesn’t ring true or hit the mark.

What current bias or recruitment training does your company offer management? Does this need updating? Could it be offset with a more holistic approach? EDI can’t be solved through training or unbiased hiring alone, but they are a good place to start when it comes to educating your teams.

2. Start at The Top and Work Your Way Down

While most leaders might like to think their reach is infinite throughout their organization, most only really have immediate control and the most impact at the top – especially in large corporations. But that doesn’t diminish the importance of your role. You set the tone for the entire leadership team and leadership culture.

Have a look at your own EDI communications after you’ve audited the official policies to ensure you’re completely aligned. Consider the frequency of your communications too, your audiences, and your tone. Do you tend to only speak to your senior leadership team about EDI priorities or do you send out company-wide communications? If you do the former consider also doing the latter, if you do the latter consider increasing the frequency of your communications and expanding onto different platforms.

3. Gather Company-Wide Data and Feedback

Gather feedback from all levels of the company on how effective your EDI policies are. An anonymous survey gives your workforce the safety and reassurance to speak truthfully and relay objective data. Some questions to include are:

  • Whether people know what your EDI policy is
  • Whether people know there are EDI resources and communications to refer to
  • How effective do they think their managers are at fostering inclusivity and equity
  • What they think of your own EDI communications
  • What they think could be done better
  • What they think is currently working to encourage EDI
  • What they thought of their recruitment process as a candidate
  • What have they seen from new team members coming in
  • Have there been any changes they think are notable, positive or negative

4. Examine Your Perceptions Against the Data

As a leader, it can be very easy to form a perception of your organization that reflects more of an idealized scenario than fact. In light of the feedback you gained from your company in the step above, have you been operating with rose-colored glasses on rather than tackling your real EDI situation and challenges?

5. Find Solutions, Support, Training, and Education Materials that Suit All Levels of Your Organization

Once you have an idea of the current state of play of EDI within your organization and understand your perception of it as well as the wider workforce’s, you can identify what kind of support is needed to get your company achieving EDI goals, delivering higher collaboration, problem-solving and productivity across the board.

Find resources that are continually reviewed and make them widely available to all levels of your workforce. Foster a culture of continual learning, collaboration, and exploration to encourage all members of your teams to embrace your EDI efforts more wholeheartedly from the top down and the bottom up.

6. Stay Flexible About the Future

Your company can change very quickly, particularly if you are in a high-growth phase. This means your EDI priorities, metrics and KPIs will need to be monitored regularly and adjusted quickly should any new shifts or patterns emerge. Accurate reporting and real-time data will also provide the insight and oversight you need to keep your EDI policies on track to achieving your north star EDI goals; a diverse, welcoming, inclusive culture that celebrates difference and provides outstanding career opportunities for all.

Bridging the gap between leadership and the full workforce is vital to the true effectiveness of your EDI policies and efforts. Top-down isn’t enough and won’t cut it, you need to also encourage bottom-up EDI buy-in and create a happy meeting ground in the middle for an organization that retains, nurtures, and uplifts every employee.

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Alyssa Thach

Alyssa is the Co-Founder and CEO of Pierpoint. She plays a key role in the continued growth and overall business strategy. Her people-first approach builds loyalty, resulting in 94% client retention for Pierpoint. During her 20+ years in recruitment, Alyssa delivered talent solutions that increased revenue growth for Fortune 500 companies worldwide. She is an ambassador for EDI with a passion for helping businesses and people reach their full potential.

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