Most business leaders recognize they need to value, practice and train for diversity and inclusion in their workplaces to be competitive and attract top candidates. Yet, tackling discrimination and improving diversity is not a compulsory one-time online course for inductees and a refresher for other staff.
Diversity and inclusion initiatives are never complete – they should remain a conscious part of an organization’s continuous learning and approaches are evolving.
I wanted to hear from companies that take out ‘best workplaces for diversity’ awards, so I asked a couple of them. Rod Adams, who heads talent acquisition in the U.S. and Mexico for professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, or PwC, had this to say.
How they do it
“PwC has deliberately focused on diversity over the past three years, in fact, tripling hires from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in that time. It made the company more attractive to would-be employees who can see the diversity practiced.”
Decent results, but how did they do it?
PwC continues to partner with 35 HBCU. The company has dedicated staff to work with the faculties and students year-round, plus there is a summit each year. A $10K grant helps those colleges and universities upgrade their tech for more online interactions, too.
Meanwhile, tech company Cisco is making headlines with its approaches to diversity with 27% females on its board of directors and women making up 47% of staff overall. Across the company, women and non-white people constitute 62% of the workforce.
Shari Slate is Cisco’s VP of Inclusive Future & Strategy as well as the Chief Inclusion & Collaboration Officer. She says a diverse and inclusive workforce and culture create bridges to connect different perspectives, imagine new possibilities, and disrupt the status quo. D&I boost decision-making, innovation and financial performance because it “unleashes the full power and potential of our people”.
Cisco’s approach is to harness collaborative technology to connect people and support them across the company. They also do blind hiring, regularly review pay scales, conscious promotions and digitize their diversity and inclusion programs and solutions, making them accessible to all staff.
We’re seeing signs some companies are putting the quest for a diverse and inclusive workplace in the ‘too-difficult’ basket. Think McKinsey — their recent report said the clawback had started. A pulse survey found more than a quarter of diversity and inclusion leaders said the pandemic had mothballed their initiatives.
But, what happened during the Great Recession? Actually before, during, and after it, publicly trading companies with very inclusive workplaces thrived.
The Black Lives Matter movement jolts all society levels to operate and work differently. PwC recently set up a D&I staff advisory council so all staff can have input into the leadership team on these issues. And, at CISCO, their company-wide meetings are now setting aside time to talk openly about racism. They’re doing a lot more, as CEO Chuck Robins wrote in his recent blog.
Plus, there are new ideas on how to train staff to be more inclusive. A paper in the Academy of Management Learning & Education, says the groundswell of diversity training for staff fails.
The standard approach uses dogmatic communication in training groups. Trainees say what they think they should say, rather than what they believe — they’re just trying to be politically correct. To use an analogy, teachers often hold ‘alternative’ scientific conceptions at the same time as espousing the ‘proper’ ones to their students. It’s like they know which concepts to trot out depending on the context.
The researchers suggest a “tolerance” model that accepts staff have a right to hold and express their own values and are obligated to talk about differing values without superiority claims. (Sounds like that upholds the first amendment right to freedom of speech.) Importantly, the researchers highlight that tolerance is not “pressure to endorse values that differ to your own”.
Think your company can’t do this online, perhaps utilizing the latest technology?
PwC’s Virtual Reality Soft Skills Training Efficacy Study recently found people who were taught via a tolerance model scored a 245% boost in confidence discussing issues of diversity and inclusion after training. That compared to a 166% confidence improvement for those who learned in a classroom and 179% by elearning. VR training also increased staff confidence to act on diversity and inclusion issues on the job after training, too. This approach talks to the confronting work of Jane Elliot’s ‘Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes’. First released in 1968, it’s still a powerful way to help change attitudes and behavior through personal experience and empathy.
Those changes are your key metrics to assess if your diversion and inclusion training works and continues to do so. The Harvard Business Review nudges us to keep experimenting, diversifying training approaches as well as collecting and analyzing business data on diversity and inclusion training and its results.
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace are not luxury goods. They are everyday essentials enlivened by deliberate planning and continuous learning. As Sonny Kalsi, founder and partner at BentallGreenOak said at the 2020 Global Talent, Diversity & Inclusion Symposium in June, “talk is cheap — anyone can do it … but if we don’t follow up with tangible action, then I believe George Floyd’s death will be in vain.”
How will you frame, implement, and measure your organization’s real action on diversity and inclusion?