Many companies are struggling to address the issues of diversity and equity within their organization especially when their leadership teams have little to no diversity within them. The bad news is those companies will face many challenges without the benefit of diverse representation and input. The good news is where there are allies and a real commitment to addressing these issues there is real hope that companies can embark on a transformational diversity, equity and inclusion journey. The challenges don’t go away nor do they get easier with the presence of real commitment, but that commitment allows the company to stay the course and keep their eyes on accountability and action.
There is no doubt that it can be difficult to embark on a DEI journey without diverse representation so here are four ways which should help you get started and could serve as the foundation for your approach:
Identify where there are inequities and disparities within your company
- This is simply corporate soul searching. Companies have the quantitative data and qualitative input where at a minimal they can identify some issues and challenges within their organization. While companies like the Kaleidoscope Group help analyze that data it can even help to generate additional data to unearth insights, most companies have enough data to begin identifying the problems. Companies know if they are paying their women less than men on average. Companies know if they have LatinX employees in leadership roles. Companies know if they have had complaints of racial discrimination. And when you know and acknowledge, you are in a great position to address it. Don’t ignore the data!
Communicate what you know and that you plan to address it
- One of the biggest mistakes companies make is to keep the data and information to themselves. Notwithstanding the legal reasons some might withhold information, the rule of thumb is transparency is a key component in building trust and more effective teams. When you communicate that you are aware of the problem, the impact that problem has on the business, your desire to address the problem and the desired outcome you hope to achieve, you help remove the barriers for real discussion and problem solving within your organization. There is power in thinking about an issue, writing it down and sharing it with others. To be successful in transforming your organization you must engage others, by being inclusive, and creating buy-in at all levels of your organization. Don’t ignore your employees!
- We have all heard the adage “Talk is cheap” and believe that the proof is really in the pudding. Identifying a problem and talking about it is not enough. There must be action. The challenge is to resist doing something because the issue is important and urgent. Many companies jump to the do before they determine the what. Let’s raise women’s pay by 20%; Let’s hire 2 LatinX employees or ; Let’s put a person of color on our Board of Directors. All of these things may end up being what you do but first you must develop a strategy for what you are seeking to accomplish. The data you have will help drive this but you may need to uncover some data as well. Communicating to your organization will also help drive this as they will provide insights beyond mere numbers. And don’t forget, they are pretty smart people- you hired them. Don’t ignore a plan!
Think outside The Box
- One of the most common tactics companies employ is to do what we have been doing. The problem is doing what you have been doing got you to this situation in the first place. It is not a cliché that doing what you have done will get you what you’ve got. Thinking outside the box is important when problem solving. As an example, companies frequently lament that the talent pool for diverse talent is just not there. Many of these companies throw their hands up and say there is nothing they can do about the unavailability of diverse talent. These companies solve some of the most complex problems in the world yet when it comes to this issue somehow they are helpless. Challenge your company to seriously look at solving the problem versus having the problem negatively impact the organization. Solutions which include working and funding professional organizations that seek to develop diverse talent, instituting programs and lecture series to primary, secondary and colleges and universities and creating paid internships to help people learn and sample the industry are just a few examples. Ignore the box boundaries!
If your organization lacks diversity at the leadership level you can still positively impact diversity equity and inclusion within your institution. There are many tips for making an impact and these four ways can serve as the foundation for any effort. Don’t ignore your power.