Diversity Isn’t a Problem to Solve. It’s an Initiative to Support

Devin Foster

This recap shares highlights from our April 8 episode of Talent Experience Live, featuring Cliff Jurkiewicz, VP of Strategy at Phenom. He explains why diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace isn’t a quick-fix situation, and how to shift organizational mentality to create a truly equitable culture. 


As Phenom’s VP of Strategy, Cliff Jurkiewicz spends a lot of time focusing on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) for organizations. According to Cliff, it's a major problem for company leaders that doesn't just "get solved." 


“It’s an initiative that’s ongoing and lasts forever," Jurkiewicz said. "As long as you’re employing people and working with others, this is something in your strategic thinking that needs to be embedded in everything that you do.”
 

Watch the full episode of Talent Experience Live below, and read on for his insight into developing a successful DE&I strategy with the help of intelligent technology to reduce bias and foster a more diverse talent experience.
 

 

Breaking Down the DE&I Equation: How Diversity + Inclusion = Equity
 

First and foremost, DE&I should be seen positively rather than in a negative light. Company cultures that are supportive of DE&I benefit everyone, from employees to the wider community. They encourage greater creativity, are more innovative, and foster inclusivity for all segments of the employee population.
 

DE&I is a complex topic, and no two organizations' initiatives will be alike. One way to simplify thinking about it? Rearrange the acronym into an equation: Diversity + Inclusion = Equity.
 


Take action to increase diversity and foster inclusion, and the outcome will be equity. This means including diverse groups in opportunities to lead and develop the organization, Jurkiewicz clarified. 
 

“For me, that’s where equity becomes such an important part. It’s almost the driver and the equalizer in determining whether a DE&I initiative is actually working or not," he said. 
 

For example, consider inequalities related to women in the workplace (a common DE&I talking point). Equal pay is important in bridging the gap, but to achieve true equity, organizations have to commit to equal opportunity for advancement as well.
 

“You can pay individuals equally, and that’s part of supporting the initiative. But if you’re not advancing underrepresented groups within your organization, then the pay is just half of the equation. It’s pay plus advancement that’s important. If you aren’t doing both, you aren’t really being diverse, and you’re not really being inclusive,” Jurkiewicz said.


READ MORE: Diversity & Inclusion: The Definitive Guide for HR



Setting Goals for Integrating DEI into the Culture
 

When it comes to employing diverse talent, leaders should focus on attraction over promotion. What’s the difference? Living according to your commitment to DE&I rather than just talking about it. 
 

Simply promoting diversity (for example, by announcing a goal to hire a certain percentage of employees from underrepresented groups) won’t result in a truly diverse culture. Companies that attract diverse talent do it through action. Dedicated leadership and community outreach demonstrate a company’s commitment to DE&I.


Using self-reporting metrics is another important part of attracting diversity. Publicly sharing what’s working (and what isn’t) elevates the authenticity of DE&I efforts. 
 


Let Your ERGs Shine


Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) offer a deep well of resources for supporting DE&I. When given the opportunity, ERGs can help identify inclusivity shortfalls and opportunities, internally and outside the company. 


Talent acquisition departments should look to ERGs to validate the candidate screening processes, job descriptions, and bias reduction methods. 


“A lot of it has to do with hands-on, tough work," Jurkiewicz said, "but in most cases they’re willing to do it. And if you let them, they will make your organization better."

 

How to Address Unconscious Bias 


Whether or not we want to admit it, humans are wired for bias, Jurkiewicz pointed out. Organizations should look at bias as something that can be managed through awareness. 


The Succession Planning Dilemma 
 


When an employee leaves, it’s natural for managers to seek out a new hire with similar qualifications and attributes to fill the role. 


Jurkiewicz has seen the debate play out among business leaders since the beginning of his journey with DE&I: Should we be filling roles with an individual from an underrepresented group who may be less qualified (but who shows potential), or with someone who has all the attributes and skills of the previous employee? 


It’s a chicken-or-the-egg conversation, he said, and it’s about opportunity for diverse talent as well as organizations. 
 

“How are individuals that are underrepresented supposed to get the skills if you don’t give them the opportunity to prove that they can do as good, or even better than someone that fits into a more privileged community?” 


Hiring for diversity creates opportunity for individuals and organizations.


RELATED: 9 Ways for Recruiters to Prioritize Hiring for Diversity 


Research consistently finds that companies with more diverse workforces benefit in terms of profitability, productivity, performance, innovation, and talent retention. 


“People have tried very, very hard to prove that diversity doesn’t work,” Jurkiewicz said, but studies show the opposite.


His bottom line on the issue? We need to change our thinking, and start giving talent from these underrepresented communities a chance to develop.

 

How Technology Can Support DE&I Goals and Achievements


The mentality of 'initiative-to-support' rather than 'problem-to-solve' also applies when selecting technology to advance DEI efforts. Investing in technology isn’t the only solution. 
 

We as humans need to be in the driver’s seat, Jurkiewicz pointed out. 


AI-powered technology can be used to set goals and identify underrepresented communities from which to source talent. Then it comes down to human effort to work toward those goals and effect true change. 


“It’s incredibly important that you start with the community that you’re serving, and know the demographic of that community. And make sure that your goal is to equalize the internal population of your organization to the community it’s serving,” he said.


Technology can enable reporting, and automate and personalize communication methods to attract talent from underrepresented segments. And for individuals in those underrepresented communities, technology can help identify career path opportunities.


WEBINAR: The Future of AI & Automation for Talent Experience 



Key Benchmarks for Advancing DE&I
 


How can organizations ensure that they’re making progress in creating a culture supportive of diversity and inclusion? Jurkiewicz shared two important indicators that often get overlooked:


WCAG compliance is an important attribute supporting DE&I. WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) is a set of international standards designed to make websites and digital assets accessible to the disabled population. Maintaining WCAG compliance equalizes career opportunity for this group.


INFOGRAPHIC: Career Site Accessibility Study 


Allocation of funding toward DE&I activities is another measure of an organization’s commitment. 


For example, how well-funded is your ERG program? It takes an outlay of money for employees representing ERGs to be able to go out into the community or even to build internal awareness. 


Without adequate funding, companies compromise the ability of ERGs to make a difference.
 


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