Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) was a “nice to have” a few years ago. Today, DEI is a top priority.
HR is hyper-focused to improve and sustain the DEI equation in a hybrid workplace.
Diversity, equity and inclusion jumped up four spots on HR’s top priorities this year, according to the McLean & Company’s 2021 HR Trends Report. (The top three – recruiting, developing leaders and controlling labor costs – stayed the same because they’re perennial struggles.)
Almost 95% of organizations took up DEI initiatives, the trends report found. Specifically, HR and other executive leaders took steps to:
- provide inclusion training to managers and employees
- find diverse groups of job candidates
- track and report DEI metrics
- create employee resource groups geared toward DEI, and
- establish diverse project teams throughout the organization.
“Crafting a truly effective … strategy is no small effort, but the potential benefits of stronger business performance are well worth it,” say researchers Vivian Hunt, Sara Prince and Sundiatu Dixon-Fyle in the McKinsey & Company study Delivering Through Diversity.
Companies with diverse leadership were more profitable and had greater market value than those without it, the study found.
With DEI one of HR’s top priorities this year – if not your absolute highest – here are nine best practices for implementing, improving and sustaining DEI efforts.
Create a strategy
Just 38% of organizations have a DEI strategy, the McLean & Company study found. So while almost all companies made diversity a priority, most haven’t created a plan to achieve it.
Instead, many HR leaders and executives plan initiatives, execute some ideas and address issues when they come.
At companies with a defined strategy, employees are more productive, HR is more effective and DEI efforts perform better, the study found.
For better strategy, consider – and address – these key areas:
- the types of diversity across the organization
- how diversity, equity and inclusion play out for employees – and how you want it to play out going forward
- ways to create alignment and commitment across the organization
- how you’ll train for DEI, and
- how you’ll sustain efforts and evolve with time.
It seems the “inclusion” part of DEI would mean everyone in the company is part of the initiatives. But many organizations take a top-down approach, which drives compliance instead of commitment.
Survey people at all levels and talk with a diverse group so you understand the differences in employee experiences. You also want to help everyone understand their role in company culture.
Hold leaders accountable
Diversity, equity and inclusion doesn’t need to be a top-down initiative, but you still want leaders to be accountable for its success.
Let them lead DEI training. And make leaders accountable through personal performance metrics and evaluations.
Also, add DEI discussions, training and analysis to every leadership meeting. Regularly update them – and have them update HR – on what’s done to address inequality.
Update hiring practices
If you don’t have a diverse workforce now, you can build one by updating hiring practices.
Experts at ADP offer these improved hiring practices:
- Expand recruiting. Try more methods than the one or two you’ve always used to diversify the applicant pool. Reach out in communities that are underrepresented in your workforce. You might build relationships with professional and neighborhood associations, schools and community organizations. In addition, attend or host job fairs in new locations.
- Diversify your hiring committee. As you hire a more diverse workforce, get them involved in your hiring committee. Also train decision-makers to identify and avoid biases.
- Go in blind. Try more “blind auditions” in your hiring process. For instance, remove names when you give resumes and applications to members of the hiring team.
- Get over credential inflation. To attract top talent, many organizations require degrees, experience and other inflated qualifications for positions that don’t really require them. That can eliminate a more diverse pool of candidates who have necessary skills but not the unnecessarily required ink.
Stay ahead on training
The worst kind of training is reactionary – especially when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. HR doesn’t want to ever have to offer DEI training in response to an event.
Instead, be proactive with these tips:
- Give them options. Whether you’ve adopted a hybrid workplace or not, you’ll want to create different opportunities for employees to participate in DEI training. Build an internal plan and consider outsourced webinars for different perspectives.
- Expand training, but don’t mandate it. You’ll likely want and need to offer companywide mandatory diversity training. Offer more specific or intense training – and encourage managers to take it – but stop short of requiring it. Researchers found mandatory diversity training is often ineffective.
- Be unique. DEI training is not one-size-fits-all. What works for one company may not work for yours because you have a different population and face different circumstances. Be ready to evolve.
Focus on recognition
Recognition makes a difference in DEI efforts. At companies where there’s a strong culture of recognition, almost 90% of employees say there’s also a high level of inclusion, an Achievers study found.
Employees who are praised – and praise each other – feel part of the organization and its mission, according to researchers. What’s more, some companies reward employees for inclusive behaviors and efforts to increase equity and inclusion.
Achievers’ researchers suggest leaders and managers recognize employees when they:
- demonstrate corporate values such as teamwork and collegiality
- work toward shared – not just personal – goals
- practice welcoming and inclusive behaviors such as mentoring new employees and seeking their insight
- help others feel like they belong
- recognize and learn about colleague’s diverse backgrounds, and
- recognize and support colleagues who support DEI efforts.
Make changes with biggest impact
Some efforts have a bigger impact on diversity, equity and inclusion than others. The McLean study found companies that focus on these five areas get better DEI and overall organizational results. They:
- Identify and address pay gaps in underrepresented groups
- Make inclusive behaviors part of their company values
- Evaluate inclusive behaviors in leadership performance
- Communicate the link between DEI and company goals, and
- Plan interviews to eliminate bias.
Assess your efforts
You know the mantra: What gets measured gets done. Monitor and measure changes to see if your efforts to increase diversity, equity and inclusion work. For instance, what are your diverse hiring goals? How many employee resource groups do you plan to implement and what are the goals of each?
Set markers early in your DEI efforts and determine qualitative and quantitative measures, plus timelines, for them.
Benefits for making DEI changes
McKinsey researchers found that companies that improve diversity, equity and inclusion can expect to:
- Recruit better talent, beat competitors at attracting and hiring the best candidate.
- Make better decisions. Diverse views help leaders make less bias decisions that drive better company performance.
- Drive innovation and customer satisfaction because diverse input builds better ideas and products that exceed customers’ expectations.
- Improve employee satisfaction because you reduce conflict and increase collaboration.