It’s easy for companies to talk about diversity and equality in their human resources practices. Incorporating those concepts into their mission statements extends beyond an ethos to make the world a better place. There’s a profit motive as well—diverse workforces can bring about an increase in productivity and competitive advantages.
Consensus holds that the best educated candidates and the ones most able to do the job are attracted to an environment that embodies diversity and equality. There is another attitude set on avoiding the kind of high-profile gender discrimination lawsuits that rocked the financial industry around the turn of the millennium. Both narratives fund budgets for diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs and initiatives in the corporate world.
At many forward-thinking companies, having a diverse workplace is a way to build up their brand. As noted in our report on the top diversity and inclusion trends of 2020, companies have opened to sharing data around their diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives. Intel has disclosed salary information to illustrate the gap between what women and men earn, and Dell has made D&I a centerpiece of its 2019 social impact campaign.
Companies telling a data-driven story about D&I results offers a contrast to others that pay hollow lip service such programs. The prime example is Google, which has taken a PR hit in recent years for having a “bumper sticker” approach to diversity when it was exposed that their compensation practices suggested otherwise.
Often companies cannot quantify a return on the millions of dollars invested in D&I programs. In some instances, company culture becomes less diverse and less inclusive as a result.
Poorly executed corporate D&I initiatives and programs are well documented across every industry. Here are three of the most commonly understood reasons why they fail:
Using D&I to create a company culture that fosters innovation doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly requires more than viewing a VHS tape and answering 20 survey questions.
Striving for a culture of diversity and inclusion means extending beyond simple acts of compliance. Consider initiatives that possess these qualities:
Is an ongoing practice, instead of a couple hours once or twice a year. The more that inclusion and awareness are the everyday reality of the workplace, more effective it will be.
Fosters belonging. A good place to start at any company is to establish a sense of belonging for everyone that works there. This looks different for every company. But programs and initiatives that foster connection between the company and among the employees serves diversity and inclusion and results in greater engagement and creativity.
Starts at the top. Effective D&I programs will not survive in a vacuum. The company must live it in a literal sense—and for that to happen, the C-suite must be all the way on board. Executives should be ready to explain to directors why diversity and inclusion is important, and why it should matter to their direct reports.
Encapsulates the whole business. Hiring, recruitment, mentorship, and team building present obvious opportunities for D&I. Beyond that, companies can look at who they are working with in terms of supply chains and sourcing.
Rethinks “fit”. Whether a candidate is a good “fit” for the company might be an outdated idea and reflective of societal inequities. Only when a company refashions its organizational values, mission, and purpose with D&I in mind should cultural fit become a consideration for new hires.