Organizations are constantly on the move. They are evolving and advancing their practices to build a progressive culture and meet the needs of the dynamic workforce. While companies strongly desire to embed Diversity and Inclusion in the ethos through their values, it is also crucial to do a reality check on the current stage of D&I.
Every organization is in a different phase of the D&I journey, considering the nuances of the context, industry, etc. Therefore, they should know their strategy and actions toward building a diverse and inclusive workplace.
As per Harvard Business Review, every organization goes through various phases of D&I. Unfortunately, if they do not move to the next stage, it can bring a certain level of fatigue and stay as tokenism within the workplace.
The five different phases of D&I Maturity are;
Every organization becomes aware and moves to sustainability. However, D&I can be sustainable only if it is firmly embedded in the values and becomes a second nature of the organization.
Every organization aspires to reach the sustainable phase of DEI maturity. We are transitioning from what to how an essential element that can move us from promises to results. These are a few actions to embed D&I in the organization’s ethos.
Leaders: A Call to Action
Leaders must move from sponsorship and get into action to build Inclusion within the workplace. While leaders have been actively promoting their workplace as diverse and inclusive, it is time to commit to this priority by making it a part of key performance indicators.
They need to make their direct reports accountable and answerable for leading and driving D&I within their respective functions and teams. They must support and act as enablers in building necessary structures, processes, and other initiatives. The leaders are responsible for embedding diversity and Inclusion in the organization’s values.
They don’t need to take large initiatives all the time. Still, small efforts like meetings, creating forums for people to speak up, and making everyone a part of the decision-making process during a meeting are some inputs to building an inclusive organization and enhancing the sense of belongingness among employees.
The leader can ensure that the meeting setups reduce power dynamics during the meeting. They are having meetings in a conference room rather than their cabin. Create a culture of sending pre-reading to everyone so that all can be aware of the agenda of the meeting and prepare their input.
They facilitate the opinions and views of everyone within the team to make people feel heard and add value to organizational outcomes.
While leaders are mentors to encourage diverse groups, going beyond mentor-mentee conversations is also pivotal. They can be the right people to help the individuals navigate the organization’s culture from the perspective of the glass ceilings and glass cliffs.
Moving Beyond Employee Resource Groups
Employee Resource Groups are formed as the first few fundamental organizational steps to strengthen diversity and Inclusion. Several times, the Employee Resource Group includes the marginalized group.
It begins with a lot of enthusiasm; however, they begin to experience fatigue and feel that D&I is their agenda, not rather the organization and other people’s.
Therefore, embedding D&I in the values has to be everyone’s responsibility in the organization. People managers should be facilitators enhancing Inclusion across the employee life cycle.
Enabling people managers only through intervention is not relevant; however, empowering them by giving them ownership and accountability of the decisions around the employees’ growth and development. People managers should be authentic in providing candid feedback and having high-stakes conversations on performance. Typically, there are two situations-
- Employees often feel they are doing well, but their performance is average or below average. During this time, people managers should have the ability to talk about giving feedback on their overconfidence bias.
- Managers are also believed to practice benevolent sexism (meaning giving only positive feedback and inputs) and do not give open and candid feedback, which will encourage women to grow in their careers.
There can be several heterogeneous groups to drive the D&I initiatives, which will involve multiple people from diverse groups and can bring innovative ideas to embed D&I in the organization’s values firmly.
Organizations should reward team successes rather than solely focusing on individual achievements. The outcomes of D&I programs are not impactful when they are limited to HR or personal projects and efforts of marginalized groups; the actionable are not sustainable as they operate in silos. The change agents start feeling burnout and turnover. Moreover, incentivizing employee resource groups will encourage them to be consistent in their efforts.
Beyond Attracting and Recruiting Diverse Candidates
The real work begins after onboarding various candidates. Diversity and Inclusion must be evident in the employee life cycle. Employees’ development and career aspirations should be based on fairness and equity. It is inevitable to give them what they want. Personalization in development is a key to catering to employees’ career aspirations.
From mentoring to stretched assignments, cross-functional collaboration to role rotation, the development must be personal to the development of the employee. Engaging a diverse workforce is only through inclusive practices. Leaders should have the ability to do willful interrogations.
The principle of willful interrogation is the ability to hold conversations in small groups where leaders listen and ask questions rather than talk. Leaders must not only know and listen to the positive experiences of employees but also should be aware of unpleasant experiences. Leaders and people managers should have empathy to understand the sensitivity of team members. They should not be myopic about who they are but also how they will add value to organizational outcomes.
Cultivating Inclusion Through Personal Networks
An organization’s go-to measurement of diversity and Inclusion is employee engagement surveys and pulse checks or structure-focused groups. However, organizational informal networks can give one of the most pertinent insights. Network analysis reveals when and why people pursue individuals for information, ideas, career advice, personal support, or mentorship.
Insights from informal networks can help identify opinion leaders and influencers who can lead and drive the agenda to the last mile. Organizations can leverage informal networks to build and strengthen trust to foster candid conversations and provide opportunities for people to share their narratives, enhance the sense of belongingness, and nurture their performance, contributing towards organizational outcomes.
Organizations have their mental models. The thoughtfully crafted right moves and celebrating small wins can instill D&I in the mental model of the workplace.