Diversity and Inclusion: 3 Ways to Make Your Company More Inclusive

By now, you’ve probably heard about the case for centering Diversity and Inclusion (D+I) at the core of your business. In fact, the reasoning only gains increasing merit as both candidates and consumers demand that companies reflect them and their values. It’s becoming increasingly clear that organizations that are not already inclusive need to work on becoming more diverse and inclusive.

Maybe you’ve already realized the value of D+I and don’t know where to start – increasing equity can feel very nebulous. Maybe it’s been difficult to take action in the areas you’ve identified as lacking on your teams. Maybe, like many companies, you’ve been struggling to find ways to recruit and retain diverse candidates.

There is no yellow brick road to succeeding at D+I and benefiting from the returns on your bottom line in terms of employee engagement, better products and services, and creativity. However, here are a few places to start:

1. Have a Strong Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

One consistent theme in D+I is that it’s tough to make progress if it’s not a priority for leadership. In fact, diversity and inclusion should not just be a priority, but an integrated part of the leadership team’s goals. Some companies have even tied D+I metrics (e.g., raising a certain percentage of people of color (POC) in leadership positions by a certain time) to executive compensation.

Part of building a strong, diverse culture means asking yourself: “Who is my company culture going to attract?” This question can be very difficult to articulate if you assume everyone feels welcome already just because you do. Do the images on your website and social media encourage potential candidates to see themselves on the team? Does your reception seating enable candidates of different sizes and physical abilities to feel welcome? Does senior leadership go out in the community and visibly support diversity and inclusion?

For many companies, making a conscious effort to create a welcoming environment creates a snowball effect – when you start focusing on including diverse employees, candidates, and customers, you begin to attract more diverse employees, candidates, and customers.

However, still be sure to hold yourselves accountable by defining what success will look like. What are the key objectives of your D+I programs you will measure (e.g. increased diversity in hiring? Establishing employee resource groups to support existing employees? Leadership training for underrepresented groups?) to know you’ve made progress?

2. Be Intentional in Your Recruiting Practices

Recruiting diverse candidates is not necessarily more difficult than recruiting generally, but it does require companies to be very intentional about sourcing, screening, and hiring candidates. If we want a more diverse hiring pool, we must pause, get conscious, and do something different. Examples of intentional practices include:

* Eliminating gendered keywords in job descriptions.

* Creating and honoring salary ranges rather than basing pay off previous salaries, which often penalizes women and POC. City and State policies often dictate this practice.

* Requiring a diverse slate of candidates (evidenced by candidate pools that reflect the population, or by including a certain number of candidates from an underrepresented group at your organization in the hiring pipeline).

* Eliminating talk about “culture fit” and focusing on talk about “culture add”.

* Tracking candidate sourcing by role, and making sure you’re advertising in ways that will reach a larger pool of candidates – Partners in Diversity job board, the Urban League, Hispanic, Asian, Veterans or disabled Americans websites, or by hosting job fairs in typically overlooked communities.

* If you can’t find the talent you need, be open to creating it, by empowering diverse candidates internally to take on stretch projects or by investing in internships (like the Emerging Leaders Internship program), or training programs.

* Having a structured hiring process and directly addressing unconscious bias when discussing candidates after an interview.

Although it’s important to have diverse representation in your hiring team, making sure you’re not tapping the same team members for every interview or to go to every hiring event, every time – you don’t want to burn them out or make them feel like a token or symbol.

Hiring intentionally can initially take more time. After all, you’re developing new pipelines and building up the parts of your culture and brand that would attract diverse candidates. However, we’ve found the benefits far outweigh the initial investments of time and energy.

3. Create a Culture Where Employees Can Be Their Authentic Selves

If you’ve been struggling with retaining or engaging diverse candidates, it’s important to remember to distinguish between diversity and inclusion. We appreciate the popular analogy that diversity is being asked to the party, while inclusion is being asked to dance.

We love the definitions we heard from Stephanie Ghoston, an Equity Consultant at the Center for Equity and Inclusion:

Diversity: the range of differences that make people unique, both seen and unseen

Inclusion: an environment that engages multiple perspectives, different ideas, and individuals in order to define organizational policy and culture

By focusing our attention on inclusion, we move from the “who” of diversity to the “how” and “why” of inclusion. Diversity is still incredibly important, but if all employees do not feel welcome and able to express their authentic selves at work – if they feel they have to cover, or assimilate, or hold part of themselves back – then we have failed at creating a truly inclusive workplace.

We should be seeking equity (treating each person according to their needs) over equality (treating everyone the same). We should be curious about people for who they are as individuals first, and celebrate what they have to offer.

Although we seek to champion diversity in our office and community, we are by no means D+I experts. There are some incredible resources, locally and nationally, to tap. However, we are open to learning, work hard at being transparent, and always keep people as our North Star.

You don’t need to be an expert either. You just need to be committed, curious, and open to learning. Make it clear that D+I is a priority for you, and you’ll start seeing the change.

Contributed by: Abby Pfeiffer, Recruiting Consultant, HR