Part 1: Setting Yourself Up to Become Unbeatable
Defining Diversity & Inclusion
Before we dive deep into the power of Diversity and Inclusion, let’s take a second to establish our terms and clarify what D&I actually looks like.
- Workplace Diversity: The practice of hiring, promoting, and building a team in a way that brings together people of different backgrounds, educations, personal histories, experiences, and areas of expertise.
- Workplace Inclusion: The practice of ensuring diverse voices are fully comfortable, integrated into, and valued as members of a thriving, complementary, interdependent team.
To be clear, diversity is nothing without inclusion! It’s pointless and somewhat dishonest to build a diverse team only to maintain a leadership framework where a certain “in-group” maintains the power to impactfully steer the ship while a nominally diverse team underneath them feels disenfranchised or fearful.
Why Diversity and Inclusion Build the Best Possible Team
The true potential of humanity lies in our ability to come together and build a unit that’s more powerful than the sum of its parts. A group of people from similar backgrounds, educations, and ways of navigating the world might be able to put their heads together to come up with one, two, or even three ways of solving a given problem, but when you invite professionals of diverse backgrounds to the table, the possibilities are far more open-ended.
When businesses make diversity and inclusion main values and priorities, they can gain incredible benefits, includes:
- Increased brainstorming/innovation potential
- More access to outside-the-box problem-solving
- A wider skill and knowledge base across the organization
- A thinktank and business team that accurately reflects the national and global marketplace
Building a Foundation for a Great Team
There’s no magic recipe you can learn to turn D&I into areas of pride and opportunity for your business, but the key is to foster a strong culture. If that culture is one that values diversity of people and ideas, fights for representation and inclusion in every situation, and works to give everybody a voice, then you can really capitalize on the innovative power of D&I.
Workplace culture determines both the levels of buy-in, engagement, and persistence your team will put into their work on a day-to-day basis, their feeling of personal investment and their job, and the dedication they put into embracing and maintaining the company culture. Great talent wants to work in a culture that supports them and sets them up for success. When they encounter a situation where they don’t feel comfortable, valued, or positively plugged in, they leave quickly.
Creating a Level Playing Field Through Education
While diversity hiring programs are nearly ubiquitous in the big business world, they often lack the crucial, consistent ground-level follow-through (inclusion) that turns that diversity into business power. Employee education (in the form of in-house training or formal professional development) is a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to shaping your existing culture into the kind of inclusive environment that sets the business up to win big with D&I.
Of course, you can’t just do diversity and anti-harassment education to check them off the list for compliance purposes – employees can smell that from a mile away, and it directly affects their ability to engage authentically with the training and reflect on the information in a way that’s going to augment their mindset or behavior at work. Discussions of diversity and inclusion need to be powerful, real, and backed by thought-provoking human-to-human engagement – not a comprehension quiz at the end.
Designing and building that education program is a key step in articulating, fostering, and supporting a great employee culture. When you give great talent something important to aspire to and make it real for them, the possibilities are endless. At the same time, worker education creates a foundation for accountability and makes it easier to remove toxic mindsets that do damage to inclusion or morale.
Don’t Hesitate to Be Great!
The biggest mistake organizations make is waiting to articulate the perfect approach to D&I. Every business can and should be doing something about diversity and inclusion at scale today. If you think diversity training or inclusion workshops would be valuable to your team, seek out a great independent PD provider who can help you today – don’t form a committee to discuss what the training might look like two years from now.
Of course, long-term initiatives are key to harnessing diversity and inclusion as business strategies over time, but the best thing any organization can do from a talent-centric and corporate decency standpoint is to identify a starting point and dig into exploring the challenge and addressing the issues at hand.
In the next section of this book, we’ll explore some of the thinking points and strategies businesses can use to find a starting point for their D&I program, articulate a commitment to diversity and inclusion and begin creating that great culture and winning team. Depending on the size, industry, or existing culture of your business, some of these approaches might be more relevant or feasible early-on in the process than others, but any of these strategies will help you grow in your ability to embrace D&I in a powerful, data-driven way.
Part 2: Planning to Become Unbeatable
Aligning Your Values
Everybody knows diversity is good, right? Everybody believes people should be represented and have voice at the table, right? Those statements are hopefully true, but creating a culture of excellence through diversity and inclusion requires that you as a business shout those values from the rooftops.
Articulation is the first step for you as an employer to tell your team members what you really stand for as an organization and what you expect out of them as employees. At the same time, your company values help you establish a public face that can be used as part of on-going marketing or recruitment campaigns.
When you as an organization show your employees and the public through your actions and business practices that you care about diversity and value inclusion (and don’t just tell them), you set yourself up to win big on many levels including:
- Improved recruitment capabilities
- More talent from diverse backgrounds
- Fewer toxic team members who don’t embrace diversity
- Improved reputation in the public space
- Improved opportunities for partnerships with other diverse companies
- Improved ability to create logical, powerful procedures that are rooted in established values
Building the Strongest Possible Understanding of Your Current Team
Of course, before you can hone yourself into a diversity and inclusion powerhouse, you need to build a rich understanding of the current state of D&I in your organization. Without that foundation of data, it’s hard to know what the challenge/opportunity really looks like and what you need to do to get there.
A few years ago, gathering that data would’ve been pretty tough, but thanks to advances in human capital management technology such as Paylocity’s demographics dashboard, mining your HR records to create a “state of the business” diversity report for your business only takes a few clicks. That data can help you understand your workforce in terms of:
- Age makeup
- Experience level
- Education level/background diversity
- Gender representation
- Diversity among leadership
- Diversity by department
- Diversity by team
Once you’ve created that roadmap of your current state, it’s much easier to understand the work at hand. When it comes to understanding the state of inclusion in your organization, that can be a little trickier, but employee surveys and other engagement markers can be useful to fill out the picture.
Setting Ambitious but Achievable Goals
With your commitment to diversity and inclusion articulated and a rich understanding of your existing team’s make-up and culture, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get down to the work of determining what your D&I strategy is going to look like and how it will impact your business. The key here is to be sure you’re setting data-driven goals – things that you can measure either through qualitative or quantitative means to determine your success.
If your program is going to grow into something great, you need to dream big, but it’s important to think at scale and in a logical order. When it comes time to set those tentpoles that will guide the vision and work moving forward, ask yourself:
- If we’re not satisfied with the current state of diversity in this organization, what would we like to look like three years from now?
- Does the diversity of our leadership
align with the diversity we envision for our workforce?
- If not, how can we step up recruitment and promotion of diverse leaders? Where would those leaders fit best?
- How will our regular recruiting, on-boarding, and P.D. approaches need to be modified to support our commitment to making these things happen?
- What can we do to improve workplace culture
in a way that maximizes talent and invites everybody to the party?
- How will we use data to measure whether or not this is happening?
- What will we do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to reinforce our commitment to D&I and ensure the work environment stays healthy?
Creating Powerful Policies & Procedures
The answer to some of those questions will likely lie within your policies and procedures. The best way to guarantee the success of your D&I initiatives is to give them real teeth by backing them with official, well-defined rules and policies. It’s one thing to say you value diversity and inclusion, it’s another to codify your beliefs in a way that make it easier to hold everybody accountable to organizational ideals.
Some of those procedures will be dictated by government compliance. The EEOC is responsible for ensuring that diversity and inclusion – at least to the levels articulated by the federal government – occur in the workplace, and many states are adopting increasingly specific racial or LGBTQ+ inclusion laws to hold businesses to a higher standard.
You’ll never become a leader in the fields of diversity and inclusion by sticking to government guidelines, however! If you’re looking to get a better sense of how your HR department can support a diverse workforce better, take a look at some of your industry’s identified diversity leaders. What do they do to attract talent? How has that diversity, inclusion, and strong culture created wins for them? What can you do at scale to replicate their success?
By using legal guidelines, industry best practices, and emerging trends, you can create a D&I framework that speaks to both the current climate and what’s unique, special, and exciting about your business.
Building Benefit Packages that Truly Value Diversity & Inclusion
Part of inclusion is recognizing everybody’s needs and ensuring they are met in a way that supports productivity and a positive relationship with work and the workplace. That means taking care of your diverse workforce away from the office is just as important as building a great environment for them to work in.
Employee benefits are an area in which businesses frequently send subtle, non-inclusive messages that employees pick up on. For example, many health plans provide no coverage for same-sex couples. For organizations that value diversity and inclusion, those kinds of biases must be eliminated from your compensation, benefits, and healthcare packages in order to build a system that’s truly valuable and authentic for everybody.
At the same time, it’s important for HR to consider how their offerings will support a wide variety of workers from different backgrounds. Ask yourself questions like:
- How can you build value for young families?
- What about single, relatively healthy folks? How can you save them (and yourself) money while still providing a strong healthcare safety net?
- What about transgender or intersex employees who need access to preferred doctors to get their medical needs met?
- What about employees with long-term medical issues who require expensive medicines and therapies?
- How can we help provide culturally responsive medicine and services? How can we make sure all our employees have access to services that make them and their families feel comfortable and happy?
In order to support a diverse workforce and live up to your values as a progressive, inclusive employer, you need to find a way to answer those questions without making the classic benefits plan design error of trying to offer everything. It’s important to remember that more doesn’t always mean better when it comes to benefits. Building a truly inclusive benefits framework is a tall task, but it’s incredibly rewarding and can set your business apart from the pack at a time when talent is more conscious than ever of their healthcare needs.
Part 3: Staying Unbeatable
Keep Your Eye on the Data
So, you’ve established diversity and inclusion as core values, devised a recruitment and promotion initiative, beefed up your policies and training procedures, and gotten the feedback you need to build a really great culture. It’s tough work, and it’s rewarding, but it’s important not to fool yourself into thinking the work is done once your program has been created and rolled out in its initial form.
Part of inclusion is being responsive to the evolving needs of your team members as individuals and a community. Those targets move month-from-month and year-to-year, and for your organization’s D&I approach to remain strong over time, you need to keep evolving to keep up with shifts in your employee culture.
Of course, your most powerful ally in this work is data! You can and should continue to monitor your HCM data and survey your employees regularly to provide yourself with a strong understanding of the state of diversity and inclusion across the organization.
Create a Built-in Feedback/Assessment Loop
Part of getting the data you need to stay unbeatable is creating a formal framework through which employees can conduct on-going discussions about diversity and inclusion to help you, the employer, understand how well you’re doing and what they need from you.
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are a great way to support a diversity and inclusion strategy, as they provide tremendous two-way value. For employees they provide the opportunity to speak frankly with their most direct peers about the needs of their specific community or interest group and finally create a space that’s specifically designated for talking about the personal side of work at hand. For the employer, ERGs are a great way of making sure team members feel empowered to discuss the issues that concern them in the workplace, and they create a feedback loop that lets you know very clearly what people’s needs, wants, and goals for the office culture are.
Once again, it’s important to mention that you can roll out ERGs at any point in your D&I journey. As soon as you’ve identified particular communities or interest groups within your team, create a framework for them to get together, talk about their shared experience, and discuss their vision for the workplace and issues that are relevant to them. There’s no need to wait until you’re three years into the initiative and have greatly increased the diversity of your workforce – in fact, it’s better for you to start small early on and allow the ERG program to scale up with your business.
Maintaining the Commitment to Greatness Together
Diversity and inclusion are all about commitment – commitment to talent, commitment to values, and commitment to greatness together. When you create a great cultural platform, create a diverse, complementary team, and focus on inclusion in a way that ensures everybody is heard and their abilities are maximized, you set your business up to maximize its potential for profit, innovation, and high-level problem-solving.
- Diversity is nothing without inclusion – A hiring/recruiting initiative is just one piece of a much larger picture
- A strong, positive culture and employee education framework must be in place in order for a D&I initiative to be successful in the long term
- Every business should be doing something to tackle D&I at scale today – Progress over perfection
- Good HCM data is necessary to benchmark your current state of D&I and measure the success of your initiatives over time
- HR policies and procedures, along with employee benefit offerings, must reflect the organization’s deep commitment to diversity and inclusion
- Diversity and inclusion is a complex, evolving challenge/opportunity, but businesses that get it right have the power to maximize the potential of their individual team members and their organization as a whole.