Most HR leaders’ put this high on their priorities: Recruit and retain for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
And a few HR leaders have done extremely well with the effort. So other companies aiming to improve DEI can learn from what they’ve accomplished.
Guidance and best practices couldn’t come at a better time because most executives say DEI is a top talent management priority, according to a Gartner survey. But – and this is a big BUT – 80% of organizations admit they’re ineffective at developing a DEI program.
DEI is top of mind for employees, too. In fact, nearly three-quarters of employees say DEI is somewhat or very important to them in their workplaces, according to Workhuman’s report Two Years Into COVID: The Great Resignation Isn’t Over, as Many Employees Are Still Considering Leaving.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic data shows the disparity in workplaces: The entire U.S. workforce is 77% white. White employees are also significantly more likely to be in managerial positions than Black and Hispanic employees.
“Doubling down on connection, community, and belonging makes the most sense financially, in terms of mitigating turnover, and it’s also what employees expect,” says Chris French, EVP of Customer Strategy at Workhuman. “Regardless of where your company is at on its DEI journey, make sure you communicate your values and the steps you’re taking to make progress.”
Some best-in-class organizations and leaders are successfully making DEI efforts work, and here are five practical, transferrable ideas:
Take a serious leap
At Discover, leaders took a big leap three years ago, saying DEI wouldn’t just be a trendy sentiment. Instead, they said they were “committed to creating and supporting a workforce that reflects our communities, our customers, and a just society. We’ve established and are evolving measurable North Star Goals in four areas.” Those are:
- Diversity. Increase the representation of women and people of color at all management levels to 50% and 40%, respectively, by 2025. Increase representation of Black and Latinx at all management levels to 15% by 2025.
- Equity. Establish equity measures to identify and address potential biases so we can improve recruiting, retention and internal mobility.
- Inclusion. Achieve equally strong employee inclusion across all identity groups by 2024.
- External impact. Use our full platform of jobs, supplier spend, charitable contributions, products and more to advance equity and motivate others to effect change.
Invest where it matters
For Discover, one of the biggest pushes for DEI was investing in an underserved and underrepresented Chicago neighborhood.
They transformed a 100,000-square-foot vacant store into a customer care center so they could attract local talent and strengthen the community with needed jobs. They’re on track to fill 1,000 positions with employees who live within five miles of the building.
“We hope our commitment to Chicago’s South Side will serve as a springboard for further economic development and a call to action for other companies to use their own means to drive lasting change,” says Juatise Gathings, Director of Operations Center and Community Outreach at the Chatham Customer Care Center.
Many DEI initiatives include the B – belonging. It’s an important element at Workhuman.
“We go back to those three magic words: thank, talk, celebrate – the great thing about that is that it can be done in a virtual way so you’re connecting and sharing values,” says Niamh Graham, SVP of Global Human Experience at Workhuman. “Our company’s core values are imagination, determination, innovation, and respect. And respect is respect for colleagues, respect for customers, respect for urgency, respect for teamwork.”
Fostering overall respect within the organization encourages inclusion. When employees have good relationships, respectful conversations and team accomplishments to celebrate, they feel they belong.
On top of encouraging diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, Workhuman uses technology for peer-to-peer recognition and rewards. Those can be shared across time zones, continents or departments.
“If you have a unified group of values and behaviors that everybody is aligned to and everybody believes in, if you feel that through a program that includes recognition, conversations and celebration, you’re going to feel more connected to an organization like that versus an organization where you don’t have any of that,” Graham says.
Hold people accountable
Despite corporate and leadership efforts, making workplaces more diverse, equitable and inclusive still depends on people’s desire and ability to make it happen.
So if employees who work one-on-one or on small teams don’t know how to foster safe workplaces, and manage toxicity, DEI initiatives will fail.
“70% of employees tolerate toxic behavior,” says Edward Beltran, Chief Executive Officer of Fierce Inc. “We need to give people the tools to hold toxic employees accountable.”
For Fierce, the initial tool is a Feedback Conversation. They train employees to have and accept healthy conversations where one person can “objectively call out observed behaviors” – such as exact instances of shouting, using negative language or belittling – instead of generalizations such as, “You’re miserable.”
If that doesn’t resolve situations that break down inclusion efforts, then someone might move to a Confront Conversation – “when they change the variable and bring up what’s at stake,” says Beltran. For instance, an employee might say to a colleague, “I held up my part of the bargain and here’s what’s at stake now. If you don’t change the behavior we discussed, I won’t be able to work with you to meet our goal.”
“If you’re dealing with a toxic person and your blood boils and you walk away and tell other people, it just amplifies the toxicity,” says Beltran. “But having the conversation enriches the relationship.”
It also helps maintain DEI efforts.
Make it someone’s mission
Discover didn’t want to make DEI a passing initiative. So, to make it a core part of the organization, they created the position of Chief Diversity Officer.
Jonita Wilson leads the DEI evolution, transforming established systems to build greater equity across the organization. Some examples:
- Shine Bright pairs Black and Latinx directors and managers with a director or officer. That gives them greater exposure and networking opportunities so they have more advocates across the company.
- Rise offers Black and Latinx employees self-paced training sessions, workshops and experiential learning opportunities. That helps them develop their leadership skills for future roles.
- Empower people with disabilities through new partnerships with Rangam and Disability:IN to deepen this commitment.
- Empower veterans with the Honoring Military & Veterans (HMV) Employee Resource Group and a partnership with Blue Star Families.