As an HR professional you may be challenged with the task of developing a diversity and inclusion initiative program. According to research by McKinsey, it is found that companies that lag in diversity and inclusion pay a performance penalty of 27% when it comes to profitability. We have evaluated D&I programs and statistics from McKinsey, IMPACT, and others develop a path to creating a successful and lasting D&I program.
Why are D&I Initiatives Vital Now?
There is one true and constant fact, the world is always changing. World demographics have drastically changed with the Millennials and Gen Z. These two generations are larger than the baby boomers and more diverse. According to the Glassdoor Diversity Hiring Survey, if organizations and recruiters want to attract Millennials and Generation Z, they will have to have a diverse workforce with inclusion initiatives. In addition, companies that embrace this requirement are likely to see better-than-average profits -- about 33%.
What are Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives?
Diversity and inclusion initiatives are the policies, programs, and efforts made by an organization to build and maintain a workforce and environment wherein all are treated without bias and have equal opportunities for advancement.
Diversity refers to the differences of a population. These differences include race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs. Inclusion is the acceptance of a person into the populace. When looking at Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, HR professionals should look beyond the numbers and delve deep into their culture and policies.
Benefits and ROI of D&I
Your executive team may be wondering what the return on investment and benefits are for diversity and inclusion initiatives. Companies that invest in D&I programs see increases in the following:
- Innovation: Companies that have a diverse workforce see an increase in innovations. The collective of various ideas opens space for creativity. Team members of diverse backgrounds maximize brainstorming efforts because their life experiences, education, and perspectives differ.
- Profitability: In a report by McKinsey & Co., diverse companies were 25% more likely to see above-average profitability.
- Performance: In the same report, those companies that increased gender diversity were 25% more likely to outperform those who did not; and those that increased ethnic diversity were 36% more likely to outperform those who failed to do so.
- Client relationships: Consumers and clients are more likely to do business with companies that share their ideals and demographics. Who is better to understand your customers than someone who looks and believes like them?
- Employee engagement: Employees that work in organizations with robust and consistent D&I initiatives are happier, more engaged, and share a greater buy-in.
Diversity and Inclusion initiatives maximize recruiting and employee retention dollars by creating an environment that all employees feel a sense of value and opportunity. D&I efforts allow employees to have equal space to share their ideas, take on new challenges, have fair compensation and advancement. In return, they are more likely to stay with the company and increase in production. This reflects in revenue, innovations, and overall company culture.
Diversity and Inclusion Initiative Strategies
There is not a one size fits all answer to D&I. Human Resource professionals and executives have to implement those initiatives that fit their individual organization’s goals. Here are some strategies that have shown success:
- Getting every level of the company involved: Successful D&I initiatives are those that are incorporated into every level of organization. It is one thing to have policies in place in theory, but for them to become part of the culture, executives, HR, and all employees have to do their part to actively practice and encourage compliance. One great way to accomplish this is to have each department collect a census of ideas from each member to bring to a retreat where they are discussed. A game plan can be developed, and simulations performed to test their practicality.
- Recognition of inherent bias: It is not the intention of an organization to be biased in its hiring, team selection, and promotion practices. Yet, there still exists inherent biases from avoiding certain names because they are stereotypically associated with an undesired trait. Another example is writing job descriptions or promotion requirements that are tailored more to one group than another. It is the duty of HR professionals to recognize and remove these inherent biases to open the door to a diverse workforce.
- Listening objectively to your workforce: Pay attention to the sentiments of your workforce in the availability of opportunities, freedom of creativity and taking on of more demanding projects, representation within the organization (especially on the executive level), salary satisfaction, etc. If the general sentiment among the various demographics is that there are barriers or inequalities in these areas, it may be time for a review of your organization’s practices. It would be even more beneficial for your less recognized or represented employees to recommend ideas on how they think these issues could be solved.
- Do not focus only on numbers, but inclusivity: If the number of under-represented groups are low in your organization, it is a red flag that either there may be bias in our acquisition process, or the environment is not conducive to retaining them. It is time to develop a viable diversity and inclusion solution. Inversely, the numbers of each demographic may be high, but how do they feel about their acceptance within the organization? You can Google large companies that profess having diverse and inclusive policies and culture, but protests from their employees shed a different light. Employees want action, not lip service. Make D&I training a requirement for all staff and have it at least once a year.
- Learn from the thought leaders of the minority groups: Attend seminars, read books and other publications, and listen to podcasts from thought leaders of other races, genders, religious orientations, and sexual orientations to understand their experiences in the workplace and what barriers or issues they combat on a regular basis. Then, decide if these same barriers or issues exist in your organization and work to remove them.
“The best way to handle diversity is to understand everyone has had their own life experiences that have shaped how they perceive and understand the world around them. If you want to be inclusive, learn to understand and see things from multiple point-of-views." -Unknown
- Make holidays, benefits packages reflective of all of your employees: Part of having a successfully inclusive workplace is retaining it. If you want to maintain a culture of diversity and inclusion, you need a benefits package that reflects the concept. Include in your holiday schedule those that are practiced by your workforce. It does not have to be every holiday, but at least one shows the effort of inclusivity. Have your benefits package actually benefit all of your employees (i.e. maternity and paternity leave, remote capabilities for employees that may have to stay home with a sick dependent, flexible hours, ample paid time off and/or sick leave, etc.).
Evaluating Which D&I Initiative is Needed
You may be wondering as an HR professional where to start creating strategies for D&I. As stated before, this process should include the executive suite as well as the employees. There are a few ways to get a well-rounded understanding of where your organization stands when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
- Gather demographic data of your existing workforce. This data should include how many of each demographic is currently working and in what positions.
- Analyze how many of each demographic applies, are interviewed, and hired.
- While conducting a survey may help generate information on the sentiment of inclusion, they tend to be biased and are voluntary (some may be scared to respond out of fear of retaliation). More effective ways would be to actively listen to conversations by your employees (this can be through tag lines on social media, reviews on sites like Glassdoor and other platforms, complaints placed with the HR department, and so on). Be cautious not to retaliate in anyway for the unfavorable commentary as you could run the risk of ethics and discrimination violations.
- Again, learn about the workplace barriers and problems your targeted demographic faces on a regular basis from their thought leaders to see if they exist within your own.
- Assess the demographics of those that have left your organization and their reasons for leaving.
After conducting these analyses, collaborate with all levels of the organization on viable solutions that benefit all. Openness, understanding, empathy, and compromise are all vital in this process if you want your initiatives to be successful.
Hit the Ground Running
Once your organization has developed its diversity and inclusion initiative strategies, hit the ground running. Allocate enough resources and funding to successfully run the programs. It will be easier to get employee buy-in since they helped develop the programs. Ensure the D&I Training is done consistently with all levels and with all new employees.
There should be consequences for failure to adhere to the D&I policies so everyone understands the importance and seriousness of them. Reward and congratulate those that truly embrace D&I to promote positive conditioning and, in turn, create a truly diverse and inclusive culture.
Diversity and inclusion initiatives should be an ongoing process. This means they are to be evaluated on a consistent schedule and adjusted accordingly. Those initiatives that were implemented successfully will reflect in the overall culture, bottom line and production of the organization. If your organization is not seeing these results, then adjustments need to be made.
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