The last year has been a rollercoaster for all of us. Between a global pandemic (more than one for some of us), a global recession, social reform protests, political controversy, and many other unforeseen incidents, it has been an experience that most of us were never prepared for. Though there was much adversity over the last year, we have seen some great advancements. Most notable has been the unprecedented global collaboration for vaccine development, the new work-from-home flexibility, and social reforms for immigrants and people of color. While the vaccine has been saving countless lives and being home with family has been a blessing for most of us, the lack of advancement for underrepresented ethnicities has been snowballing for decades and there is much work to be done.
Organizations across the world are doing their part to help drive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. Adidas has pledged to fill 30% of all open positions with African American and Latino candidates over the next 5 years. Google plans to elevate the number of underrepresented employees in leadership positions to 30% over the next few years. On top of this, 25 other larger employers (including Amazon, JPMorgan, IBM, and Microsoft) plan to hire 100,000 New York residents from the low-income African American, Asian, and Latino communities by 2030.
With the growing list of large organizations making positive moves to promote DEI, where are you positioned and how can you get started?
The organizations that seem to do the best when implementing cultural changes all have something in common – they have a person (or a team of people) in place that oversee all efforts. This can be at the CXO level, the VP level, or the Director level. Generally speaking, the companies that take this seriously have a division focused on DEI at top of the organization. If marketing and DEI are equal priorities with your company, why is the CMO your top marketing position while Director of Diversity is your top DEI position? In this case, the title matters.
Building a DEI Strategy
When it comes to DEI, many companies focus primarily on their corporate strategy and on those in leadership positions as these people will generally decide who is hired and who is promoted – this is a good start, but not a great strategy. If a company truly wants to embrace change, everyone must be involved. Simply setting hiring metrics and adhering to them will not ensure that your diverse new hires will feel welcomed at your organization. If the plan does not encompass all levels of the organization, your efforts could be lost to attrition months down the road.
From what I have gathered, there are three main areas of focus when trying to drive this effort through the organization: Awareness, Training, and Accountability.
Just as your organization discusses sales metrics, market penetration, product development, and customer retention, DEI must also rise to the forefront of your company’s focus and join these regular discussions. A way that I have seen organizations tackle this is by scheduling monthly meetings to ensure that everyone is on the same page. If your company is truly invested in promoting this social directive, it needs to be measured, monitored and broadly communicated on a regular basis and given equal priority with other strategic objectives.
In a study completed by the Journal of Organizational Behavior, researchers investigated whether demographics and pre-training competence predicted participation in voluntary diversity training. The findings showed that demographics had zero impact on a trainee’s interest or participation on diversity training. When it came to pre-training competency, the researchers found that trainees with high pre-training competency levels were more interested in additional diversity training and were more likely to attend a voluntary training session. Those with lower levels of pre-training competency were less likely to attend training programs designed to increase their diversity competence. This is due to this subset being unaware that their competency levels were lower to begin with.
Focusing your energy into awareness on the DEI issue is paramount to the success of the rest the strategy. As far as training and accountability, these ones are much simpler. Training can be conducted in-house by your DEI team and integrated into your Learning Management System.
If employees are effectively trained to correctly identify situations where harassment or bias is unfolding, they will be more likely to address the issue as it arises. A common way that we have seen organizations proactively monitor and measure the success of DEI initiatives is by making it a part of your Performance Appraisal and 360 Survey process.
This is the first part of a four-part series focused on promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace. In the next three parts, we’ll look at Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion each on their own in more specific detail. I encourage you to check back in with us over the next few weeks for my next blog post.
Jordan Kennedy is a Senior Account Executive at TalentQuest. He graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Aviation Business Administration. Jordan has spent the last five years in the automotive and IT industries with a focus on sales training, employee recognition, talent management, and learning management solutions.