In recent years, discussions surrounding the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion (D,E&I) have become more commonplace in work settings. Employers are aiming to move toward a culture where everyone can feel welcomed and appreciated.
At the same time, more people are seeking to work in such environments where they are accepted and can be themselves. Given that the typical work week is an average of 40 hours, it’s not an unreasonable request.
Even with the upsurge in remote work opportunities, a healthy and inclusive work environment has become paramount.
However, as in most cases, the implementation of new initiatives and policies can be a difficult task to manage successfully. With the many operational, logistical and human elements at play, sometimes companies miss the mark.
Let’s take a closer look at the common elements that are often missing from employers’ diversity and inclusion initiatives and what they can do to rectify the situation.
What’s missing from D,E&I initiatives?
Difficulties and setbacks will always be present when running a business. Additionally, many issues may also be the result of oversight.
Therefore, the important thing is that companies are able to recognize when there’s a problem so they can take the necessary steps toward improvement.
Here are the top three setbacks:
1. A lack of commitment from leadership
When it comes to policies regarding D,E&I, leaders at a company should be the first ones to get on board. They determine the culture of the company and influence how departments are run. In most cases, leaders are excited about implementing initiatives. They do courses such as unconscious bias training and best practices for interviewing.
The downfall usually occurs after training when the initial fire starts to die. Leaders begin to see it as another project, something they do by adhering to a set of standard principles and policies rather than something they genuinely practice.
Without the right systems in place, their focus will always be redirected to areas that they deem crucial and more important to the company’s bottom line such as product development, strategic partnerships, and profits.
Not only does this lack of commitment from leadership nullify the effects of the training but it also wastes the time, money and effort it took to get it done.
2. Failure to establish psychologically safe environments
It then follows that without backing from leaders, employees won’t feel supported or comfortable. They will be less likely to express their views on diversity even when training or meetings are conducted and open communication is encouraged.
This is especially true for those who already see themselves as being in traditionally disadvantaged positions such as entry-level employees, women or persons of color.
That’s because existing practices have perpetuated creating safe spaces for those who are already in agreement with established plans and procedures rather than everyone in general.
Therefore, due to their lack of power and resources in the workplace, these employees fear that speaking up may work against them in the future.
3. Not having D,E&I in their strategic plan
When we look at the driving force for the first two setbacks thus far, it can be concluded that they are primarily a result of companies failing to incorporate D,E&I initiatives into their strategic plans.
Without a consistent way to embed D,E&I as an integral part of the company’s goals and values system, it won’t translate into the day-to-day operations.
Even if successfully implemented at first, it’s unlikely that it would be sustainable.
Solutions for better D,E&I
As we’ve just considered, issues in one area consequently affect many others. In the same way, implementing solutions will impact many areas of your company at once and eventually help to reach your overall goal of achieving greater D,E&I in the workplace.
1. Embed D,E&I initiatives into your strategic plan
Even if your company promotes diversity on paper, if it’s not included in your plans and every operation, employees will notice the disconnect.
Working towards greater diversity should be seen as a business initiative that forms part of the regular schedule rather than a check box to be ticked off. Work to include D,E&I initiatives in your strategic plan in all areas such as planning, marketing, training, key performance indicators and recruitment.
While you may not perceive the monetary benefits, studies have shown that corporations identified as more diverse and inclusive are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors.
2. Get creative and encourage feedback
In addition, employers must think of other areas to encourage diversity. It takes a bit of creativity and thinking outside of the box but it’s possible. Always keep developing processes, activities and opportunities to make them better.
One of the best ways to get that done is by asking those directly impacted: the employees.
Encourage a truly psychologically safe environment where people will feel free to voice their concerns and ideas without fear of victimization.
Getting ideas from your employees is also a great way to ensure buy-in upon implementation and encourage loyalty. It’s also an added bonus that diverse companies attract 73.2% more top talent than non-diverse companies.
3. Provide opportunities for mentorship
Mentorship can be seen as the bridge to equity. Quite often when employers think of equity and what they can do for employees, their minds go to salary increases and training.
While these are all important, mentorship and sponsorship go a long way in giving employees a voice and can significantly improve your company’s retention rate.
Mentors are experienced enough to offer support and advice. This will then give employees the knowledge to make strategic decisions over the course of their careers.
Mentors can also use their social capital to provide other employees with opportunities within the company that can lead to promotion. When it comes to the importance of mentorship, collaboration and constant communication, 75% of senior HR managers agree that they will become the future mandate of a high-performing workplace.
Small steps can go a long way in advancing your company’s vision to create a work environment that’s more diverse, inclusive and equitable.
In summary, make this a reality by embedding DEI initiatives into your company’s daily operations, getting leaders on board and providing opportunities for mentorship.
Not only do you stand to improve your bottom line but your employees will be happier and more fulfilled.
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