More and more companies realize the importance of having a more diverse workforce. For some companies, it is the first time they see a shift in what their workforce looks like. In fact, just because those new hires fit specific criteria does not mean that all is well. Diversity in hiring practices should be just the start of the process for creating a genuinely inclusive corporate culture. It is important to remember that diversity isn’t just about race. It also includes sexual orientation, religious background, cultural differences, and those with various disabilities.
A company’s culture starts with the senior leadership. Feeling valued as an employee comes from those in management. Regardless of skin color, sexual orientation, religion, or personal identity, every employee wants to feel like they are part of a team, a family, a group. That sense of belonging is where the rubber meets the road for D.E.I.
In a past blog, we discussed microaggressions, titled “Microaggressions in the Workplace.” It is your job as the leader of your organization to set the tone for your company culture. Therefore, as you see that you are achieving diversity goals in your workforce, you also need to look at how those you have hired that are “different” are being treated. Are their opinions, ideas, concerns, and complaints being heard in a way that fosters more open communication?
Equity is the second leg of the D.E.I process and include various steps needed to create a level playing field for everyone in the organization. Many will say, “why not just treat everyone the same? Isn’t that equal?” Equity is about giving a leg up to those who come from disparate backgrounds and who may not have grown up with the same ecosystem of support that many of us have been fortunate enough to enjoy. A sports analogy can help illustrate this more clearly. Let’s suppose that one side always gets the football on the 50-yard line, no matter what.
The other team, by contrast, must always start play at their own ten-yard line, with their backs up against their own end zone. The game is “equal” in the sense that both teams play and operate under the same rules, but one is disadvantaged because of always starting deep in their own end of the field. Equity is about correcting this imbalance and ensuring that both teams start playing with the same field position. In practical terms, this may mean things like providing scholarships to those from disadvantaged backgrounds, additional training/coaching to those who need it, and taking the time to learn how different individuals communicate due to their cultural background.
You will never achieve perfect equity; to some extent, life is always going to be unfair to someone, but by making a strong and concerted effort, you can lessen the differences, and that in turn leads to a sense of inclusion. Inclusive organizations will make an effort to be welcoming and make sure that everyone has a seat at the table and that their voices are heard equally. As the company leader, you can make an effort to recognize different holidays and cultural traditions among your employees. You may also want to consider establishing an ongoing task force or committee composed of interested staff members to monitor compliance and make recommendations for future D.E.I initiatives. Diversity, inclusion, and equity will be essential characteristics of successful organizations for the foreseeable future. Of course, the sooner you get started, the better it will be for you and your company.