When inclusive diversity is at the core of an organization's practices, employees are more engaged, and say they're encouraged and happier at work.
Seventy-nine percent of survey respondents, according to a report found on The HR Director, indicated that working within a diverse workforce is an important factor in their happiness at work. Just under half of respondents said their organization could put in greater effort for diversity in the workplace.
Organizations are declaring their commitments to diversity, equality and inclusion, but they're struggling to find substantial resources and a solid foundation, fully implement a strategy, and get off to a strong start.
Here at Phenom, we built our company-wide Diversity, Equality & Inclusion (DE&I) initiative from the ground up, and before too long, it was running strong and steadily. At your organization, the right DE&I action will bring teams together to have critical conversations and take collective action to build a more inclusive workplace for your team.
"We never shy away from anyone, but rather, embrace their uniqueness," our CEO and co-founder Mahe Bayireddi says. "We see past race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, marital status, disability, or any other factors as they add color to our diverse team."
For high-performing organizations, starting a DE&I process can be less complicated than your leaders might expect. First things first, DE&I initiatives are processes rather than programs, so they should never have a finish line. To help you get started, our DE&I team shared their tried-and-true tips.
Unite business leaders and HR efforts from the get-go.
As HR professionals, support each other in the DE&I process, especially if you've already started talking about implementing a strategy in the workplace. Leaders can build off what HR has started or seek their guidance and support as they begin putting pen to paper.
HR provides expert insight on including the entire workforce, analytics and metrics on your organization's headcount, and a baseline on the company's demographics.
At Phenom, HR supported the entire process to ensure alignment with its mission, values and culture. Our employees lead the DE&I process, and HR oversees its development and provides direction.
Choose a small group of employees to lay the foundation.
Start small — limit the initial DE&I group to 5-10 employees. Once the foundation is set, extend the conversation to a larger audience to brainstorm and collaborate.
According to Hannah Aune, who leads the DE&I Service and Community taskforce at Phenom, her small team brainstorms and has regular check-ins on their initiatives.
Phenom's taskforce groups operate on the principle that change starts from within. As the team learns together, there's a shared sense of tenacity and courage that drives the organization's supportive culture of inclusive diversity — one built around trust and respect for all.
"Think outside the box when brainstorming ways to get employees involved in the new normal," she said. “We want to pursue and discuss topics that are important to us and cultivate progress through outreach, communication, and community involvement.”
Establish your baseline, observations, and data.
Business goals vary across organizations, but which metrics should you measure? Here are three considerations to help you identify them.
1. Create a survey that assesses how people perceive your organization from a DE&I lens.
"Not only within ourselves as individuals, but also within our companies, it requires creating a culture that is built around trust and psychological safety," Phenom's DE&I Taskforce leader Christine Kensey said. "To create this kind of space, you need to know where you're starting from.
Items to consider adding to the survey:
- I feel I can bring my whole self to work.
- Perspectives similar to my own are included in the decision-making process.
- I can express an opinion that's different from that of my peers or leadership without fearing negative consequences.
Use the survey results to explore where you're succeeding in creating inclusive spaces and where you're not. Then target efforts where it's needed.
2. Observe and think outside the box.
Diversity and inclusion conversations can cause some employees to become uncomfortable and confused.
It's important to convey that DE&I conversations are about opportunity, not an HR compliance “check-the-box" activity. Organizations should get creative in their approach to DE&I, according to Hannah, understanding that there's no right or wrong answer when it comes to this topic.
“We seek to do this by creating space for open dialogue around DE&I at Phenom through our Slack channel, internal employee DE&I podcasts, speaker series, discussion groups, documentary viewings, and more," Christine said. "We help transform perspectives and expand understanding of critical themes in DE&I by curating and sharing resources such as articles, videos, and coursework on our D&I page.”
3. Understand your baseline and analyze existing survey data.
After you've created your first DE&I survey, take time to review your employees' current perception of DE&I efforts within your organization. This will serve as a baseline for establishing goals to address areas that need improvement, ultimately providing guidance and focus for your diversity efforts.
“Give employees the opportunity to share their thoughts on the current company culture through surveys," Ellen Hughes, Phenom's Talent Acquisition Taskforce leader said. "Once data is collected and interpreted, organizations can be strategic in the way they respond to employees internally as well as candidates externally."
Get real and be transparent.
When sharing diversity & inclusion initiatives externally, create thoughtful, data-driven content on company career pages, social media and other sites she said.
Starting a DE&I process takes effort and time, but the ongoing results are worth it. Your organization will gain a culture of inclusion and your employees will work smarter (and harder) knowing that they belong and are appreciated for their unique views, talents and behaviors.
"We believe our ability to create and sustain change in the world starts from within," Christine said. "By learning together as Phenoms we can ignite in one another the perseverance to move forward, accountability to support each other, responsibility to take action, and courage to speak up."
Leaders must keep focus on their people's performance and growth, and partner with HR to start with — and make the most of — an effective DE&I strategy. Does the strategy align with the company's mission, vision and values?
DE&I strategy demands more than what might be given. Processes should include plenty of access points, various learning methods and measurable goals.
"Continue the conversation and take action whenever possible," Hannah said. "Change doesn't happen through silence."