Nobody can say diversity and Inclusion is suffering from a lack of attention. Companies now spend over $8 billion a year on diversity programs and nearly 1,000 CEOs have signed the CEO for Action Diversity and Inclusion pledge.
But diversity and inclusion is suffering from a lack of results.
While women make up 50% of the world’s population and non-whites make up a sizable and growing part of the population in many countries, talent from these groups remain woefully underrepresented in many sectors—especially at the top of the corporate world.
The time for talk is over. Organizations now need to take clear and decisive action to diversify their talent pools and create the inclusive environment needed to make diversity a success.
Below, we outline six steps you can take to increase diversity and inclusion in your workplace.
1. Diagnostic: understand current levels of diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Before you can take your organization to another level of diversity and inclusion, you need to understand where you are right now. Where are the biggest obstacles and barriers to individual development? What are the root causes of behavioral and structural biases? Which systems and processes need to be redesigned?
The answers to these questions are not always obvious. Take one of our clients, a global technology consulting company. Despite hiring consultants at a nearly 50-50 male/female ratio, they were struggling to retain female consultants at the five- to seven-year mark. The cause, they told us, was a 60-hour work week and intense travel requirements that left no room for work-life balance.
To which we said: how do you know that is the cause?
We then ran our diversity and inclusion diagnostic. It revealed that women were in fact leaving the company due to the poor management skills of their people managers. This issue applied equally to men and women. But because women did not have access to the same informal support systems as men, it had a disproportionate effect on their ability to thrive and grow. The problem was further compounded by the people managers’ lack of understanding about gender inequity dynamics.
Without our D&I diagnostic , none of these issues would have been uncovered. The organization would have wasted precious time and resources addressing barriers that were in fact not barriers at all. This is why the first step of every successful diversity and inclusion journey has to be understanding.
2. Strategy: set priorities to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Some best practices—such as employee resource groups and mandated diverse candidate pools—are so compelling that once leaders implement these, they think their work is done. But while these solutions are powerful, they are not comprehensive.
No organization can increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace through a single initiative or action. Instead, you need to take a comprehensive approach, setting and working towards strategic priorities in key areas.
Think back to the example of the global consultancy that was losing female employees due to poor management. Their response was to address the root cause of the problem by implementing targeted training for managers and leaders and by introducing reinforcing mechanisms, including accountability metrics. An all-encompassing solution that is backed by data helps to ensure that change will take root in your workplace.
3. Inclusive leadership: increase diversity and Inclusion in the workplace through leaders at all levels
Improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace is not a task that can be delegated. The CEO must lead the charge. Your senior leaders need to be accountable for the diversity and inclusion strategy and its implementation. And, most important, you need to cultivate inclusive leaders at every level of your organization.
What is an inclusive leader? Inclusive leaders are leaders who empower team members to take risks, manage their own development, and bring their authentic selves to work. In this way, they unleash individual potential, enabling all talent to contribute and excel.