In today’s competitive business environment, a diverse workforce provides a powerful advantage, and ignoring it can be devastating and costly for companies attempting to grow with the times. Diversity, equity, and inclusivity in leadership and work environments are essential for making employees feel valuable, therefore correlating to higher productivity and innovation. Diversity brings forth various narratives and skills that create a rich talent pool. Diverse organizations have proven to be more capable than their non-diverse counterparts in attracting quality talent, developing stronger relationships with customers and stakeholders, and increasing employee engagement and satisfaction. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential to an agency’s success in 2021 and beyond. It is critical to assemble and retain a workforce committed to furthering the company’s vision and key business strategies. It is no secret that diversity is beneficial to company morale, but diversity alone is not enough to achieve these stark performance advantages. A vibrant mix of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a perfect cocktail that enriches an innovative and successful work environment. Here are the most critical aspects of business strategies for implementing a successful DEI plan.
1. Empathetic leadership
To make marginalized employees feel heard, leaders must first show empathy in their leadership practices. Empathetic leadership encompasses the ability to understand the needs and feelings of others in context. Empathy in the workplace is positively correlated to job performance, and managers who practice empathetic leadership are viewed as better performers in their job by their bosses. Especially in today’s social and political context, employees want to feel seen and protected.
2. Establish a sense of belonging (inclusivity) amongst diverse employees
Inclusion is often tacked on alongside diversity and equity. But it is important to note that it is its own concept that the lack of inclusion leads to a hostile work environment. Despite company pledges that seek to change the workforce for good, minority employees continue to be otherized in the workplace. Historically, marginalized people have been treated as a burden rather than an asset. Education is crucial in helping people understand the historical implications that racism has on today’s power structures. Forming trust and healthy workplace relationships helps to strengthen your team’s performance and attracts and retains diverse talent.
3. You have to work from the bottom up.
When it comes to reframing an organization’s DEI plan, starting with higher-ups is not always the best route to take. Most diversity and inclusion programs are planned and overseen by people whose experiences come from a place of power, paving the way for an ultimately unhelpful result that will not influence organizational change. If your company is working toward showing unwavering dedication to DEI training, they must be willing to receive thoughts and feedback from employees of all ranks.
4. Hold focus groups to discuss opportunities for advancement in DEI investment.
When forming a DEI plan for employees, leaders can have an unconscious bias that blocks their views. One of the first steps of creating an effective DEI plan includes leading a focus group with members across the ranks of the workforce to conduct an in-depth analysis of their experiences. Leaders must hear first-hand accounts of employee experiences to draft a plan that effectively addresses relevant issues in the workplace.
5. Emphasize the importance of forming human connections in a tech-centric society.
Especially considering the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the workforce has shifted to being increasingly, almost exclusively, online. While the convenience is undeniable, remote work has caused employees to feel more alienated and unsupported than ever. Feeling a sense of connection to your team highly affects productivity and company morale. Whether your staff is dealing with remote work, in-person, or a combination of both, people need encouragement more now than ever. This underscores the importance of being there for your team members and peers as an ally. Leaders can promote healthy colleague friendships through scheduling activities or community involvement that encourage positive communication and fun interactions outside of work. DEI training can effectively teach employees how to respectfully approach difficult conversations with an open mind.
6. Focus on providing equitable resources that help people not just fit in but thrive.
Equity is the practice of providing opportunities to those who were denied it because of societal power structures. It is crucial to understand how access or the lack of access determines people’s pipeline to success. Underserved communities lack access to relevant opportunities within their life simply because of their placement in society. A company’s commitment to equity consists of investing time and resources to provide marginalized team members with the support they need to reach the potential that society historically denies them of. Companies must seek to elevate employees, whether through more frequent check-ins, training courses, development programs that promote building relationships, rewarding employees for good performance, or creating more opportunities for diverse ideas to be put into action. Leaders must provide the right resources and form an environment that nurtures individual employees. Even if you have numerous board members representing minority groups, more modes of resources and support must be put into place to make minority employees feel like they have a supportive team behind them. Marginalized employees will only feel valued if they are given equitable resources that encourage their professional growth.
7. Communicate about the DEI initiative continuously.
Inclusion is an ongoing practice, not a one-time training course. These deep-rooted societal issues can not be solved overnight, but through effective communication will come growth. Companies must show long-term efforts toward inclusivity and equal opportunity to clearly set their narrative as a company. Through inclusive messaging, company communications can underscore the value of diversity in the workplace and tie it to its organizational values. There are no quick fixes for racial equity, but starting by creating an inclusive work environment that encourages employees to thrive is a step in the right direction.
8. Training must take an intersectional approach that promotes the visibility of minority employees.
Intersectionality is a key term that describes the correlation that social identity has with power, specifically, how different forms of oppression overlap with sources of privilege. To understand where a person stands in society, you must consider the aspects of their identity that may be simultaneously oppressed. For example, injustices inflicted upon women of color must be viewed with an intersectional lens as a combination of race and gender discrimination to see the full picture.
An intersectional framework allows employees to focus on mutual understandings and open themselves up to new conversations and points of view. Approaches must address all forms of discrimination, be it labels of race, gender, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, physical/mental ability, status, etc. Doing so allows companies to grow and maintain a workforce that reflects a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Intersectionality helps understand the importance of position in society. And being aware of it allows those in leadership roles to evaluate employees fairly and work toward implementing inclusive practices.
9. Make modes of communication accessible across different generations within the workplace.
Communication between generations has never been so important or challenging. Our lived experiences shape how we choose to communicate, making it increasingly difficult for differing generations to coexist in the workplace. Generations embrace technology at different rates, so channels of communication must be intentionally created with hopes of fostering conversation between age groups.
10. Stray away from performative activism
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