3 Steps to Move Your D&I Strategy From Talk to Action
Today's conversations about diversity are slowly growing more authentic and are expanding to include the topics of inclusion and equity as well.
Growing interest in diversity and inclusion within the business community is no coincidence: Studies show that a strong D&I strategy can improve a company’s bottom line and boost innovation. After all, if an organization succeeds at including people of varied backgrounds, any risk of group-think and tunnel vision, which hamper overall performance, can be avoided.
This requires us to collectively move diversity and inclusion talk from conversation to action. To that end, here are three strategies to kickstart your organization’s program into high gear. With thoughtful action at the core of your company’s D&I plan, your organization has the potential to create a workplace culture where all employees feel valued and proud to be a part of the team.
Hire and Provide Resources for a Chief Diversity Officer
A recent survey found that in organizations where D&I is a business priority, 75 percent of respondents agreed their employer set them up for their highest level of performance; that figure drops to 43 percent for those working at organizations with a more reactive approach to D&I.
Findings like these prove that diversity, inclusion and equity are not a “nice to have”—they are an imperative to the growth and success of a business. Yet less than half of all Fortune 500 companies have a chief diversity officer (CDO), and executive surveys indicate that D&I ranks consistently low on lists of business priorities.
Not only should every company have a CDO, but more importantly, companies must ensure these leaders—and their teams—are fully resourced and have the CEO’s full support. Research shows that for a CDO, support in every way is the key; buy-in from leadership, access to the data needed to make changes, as well as the understanding that D&I is a top priority for the company. If D&I isn’t integrated into broader business goals, CDOs will face an uphill battle.
Create New Pipelines to Recruit Diverse Employees
A focus on D&I is a focus on the importance of company culture. To build and maintain a forward-thinking and inclusive culture in a rapidly changing environment, companies should create pipeline programs for future candidates, while simultaneously investing in the diverse talent they already have.
In order for D&I to work, companies must be committed to recruiting diverse candidates with the skills and backgrounds needed to fill available positions. If you think you can’t find qualified candidates with diverse backgrounds, you aren't looking in the right places—and you aren’t looking hard enough. It’s crucial to meet talent where they are, and business school career fairs are not the only place to find the talent you need.
For example, one upcoming study suggests companies would be wise to look toward current and former military personnel as part of their labor pools. Military personnel learn valuable STEM-related skills such as information technology and surveillance, and they tend to be more racially and ethnically diverse than the civilian workforce—particularly among enlisted women.
Ensure Your Efforts Are Measurable
Putting the right people in key roles focused on D&I, as well as creating strategies around how to move forward with D&I planning, only makes a difference if deliverables are attached to goals and data are used to measure progress. Research suggests that data measurement around D&I programs can make or break a company’s efforts, as the effective harnessing of data allows companies to tailor D&I programs toward their specific interests and broader goals.
Furthermore, if companies are serious about moving the needle on D&I, executives should be measured based on how they as leaders are fostering a diverse and inclusive environment. If boards across the country, and the world, incorporated inclusion efforts when considering executive pay, we would likely see movement in the right direction.
The Bottom Line
D&I isn’t a buzzword: It has a direct and measurable impact on the bottom line. Millennials are beginning to take on leadership roles in their companies, followed by Gen Z, the most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet. Both groups bring with them into the workplace the inclusive mindsets they’ve developed growing up in what has become a more diverse America—and they’re not afraid to speak out against injustice.
As these generations come of age, the future of business will depend on an action-focused D&I strategy in which leaders think critically—not only about diversifying the workforce, but making it an inclusive and equitable space as well. No plan or organization will be perfect, but we all can—and should—strive to create environments where people can bring their whole identities to work and see an opportunity to thrive there.