We hear a lot about "Diversity and Inclusion" (D&I) as a critical Human Resources strategic initiative. Most companies say they need D&I to achieve their business objectives and support their growth. But what are they really doing to attract and retain a diverse workforce while building an inclusive culture that leverages these differences?
In the current work environment, there are more dynamics at play than just coming in, doing your job, and going home. Focusing on employees’ level of engagement, the degree to which they will go above and beyond what’s needed, their overall well-being and how they contribute to the organization’s objectives are more important than ever. But what can you do to move the needle on your D&I initiatives while staying focused on the key aspects of successfully running your business? Here are 3 strategies that have been used by many successful organizations to build an engaged, diverse workforce…and how to keep it that way.
Google the search term "Diversity and Inclusion Strategies." There are 159,000,000 (!) results. It's safe to say there's a lot of information out there now and it can be really overwhelming to know what will work best for your organization. As an HR professional, you already have a lot on your plate. You are simultaneously juggling recruiting, employee performance and talent development, just to name a few. First, step back and take a longer view. D&I initiatives are about changing culture which affects all aspects of your business. This takes time and is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Focus on the most critical needs for your company. Determine what will make the most significant impact and build your D&I plans on that priority—and stick to that plan. You don’t have to look very far to find examples of where too many initiatives create distractions for your business and end up not moving the needle at all.
Partner with your business leaders to create a shared understanding of what aspects of D&I need to change, the business imperative and how they benefit from these changes. Your D&I plans need to be truly embraced by your senior leaders right from the start. Empower D&I “champions” at all levels of the organization to communicate your plan and be visible supporters of what’s changing. Most of the time there isn't a clear finish line where you can say you’re “all done.” But with small, actionable goals to attain, you will see the needle move on D&I just a little bit more. And before you know it, you will step back and begin to notice those small changes really add up.
Hire for the Company You Want to Be
Building the company that you want can be as clear as hiring the right people. Recruiting and hiring have become more than just asking about the requirements of the job. Use your HR data to examine all dimensions of diversity across your entire workforce. Where are there gaps that you believe would make for a more diverse workforce that really reflects the diversity of your customers and the communities you serve? How can you actively recruit those candidates? Statistics show that over time, a diverse workforce can be more innovative and perform at higher levels than homogeneous work groups. According to ClearCompany, radically diverse teams outperform non-diverse ones by 35%. So, as you can see, making diversity a priority in your entire talent strategy pays off.
When you bring candidates in, look beyond the resume. Do you think they have the right leadership competencies that align with your organization's goals? Good recruiters instinctively know who they're hiring for and can read a candidate’s interpersonal dynamics, decision-making skills, and how he/she builds strategic relationships. If your recruiters don't have a greater understanding of the culture that you are building, they won't choose the candidates that can help your company achieve its vision.
Hiring managers know the minute details of the job requirements and qualifications they are trying to fill. Recruiters are in a unique position to help managers see the potential of a candidate when it might not be obvious from their resume. They have the ability to ensure both the manager and the candidate are clear on the job expectations. More importantly, recruiters can help both understand the culture of the organization and what it takes to succeed in that unique environment. As mentioned earlier, D&I initiatives change the organization’s culture. Candidates need to understand the behaviors and competencies they need to bring to the job to succeed and grow their career. That way, when and if they are accepted for the job, they are starting on the right foot and can be a valuable contributor to your organization.
Create an Environment of Inclusion from Day 1 - 1,000
Twenty percent of employee turnover starts in the first 45 days. A comprehensive on-boarding program is imperative to retain your valued employees and sustain the company's success. A new employee’s perception of your company starts with their first conversation with the recruiter and builds with every interaction through the first six months to a year of employment. Everyone needs to understand the company’s values and culture you are working to create. Creating a positive, welcoming first-day experience establishes a solid foundation for the employee to embrace the company's mission and gauge how their success is measured.
Employee engagement and well-being are often based on an employee’s relationship with their manager and team. Managers who actively support their employees’ development and career goals can expect higher performance and overall engagement within their teams. This is critical for both the new and employee with many years of service. And don't forget about remote employees: 3.7 million employees now work from home at least 50% of their working time. Managers need to take extra steps to help remote team members connect with the team and feel included and valued.
Present your employees more opportunities as they progress in their job, starting right from their first day. According to LinkedIn, professional development is one of the top 3 factors for accepting a new job. Make sure all jobs are posted internally and promote from within. Continue to build up your teams as they are your biggest advocate and the engine that runs your overall success.
Today’s business climate is incredibly competitive, dynamic and fast-paced, but we simply cannot let D&I goals slide. We cannot put employee engagement in the background, or it will not only hinder our overall employment brand, but the overall performance of the company as a whole.
About the Author: Sue Passante currently serves as Diversity & Inclusion Leader for Day & Zimmermann and is responsible for the Company’s D&I initiatives and enterprise onboarding program. Sue holds a Liberal Arts degree from Susquehanna University and has led many business transformation programs during her 24 years with the Company.