A diverse workplace is a successful workplace: organizations that embrace diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) enjoy increased revenue, greater readiness for innovation, and improved retention.1 Improving workplace diversity and inclusion entails more than hiring more women, BIPOC, nonbinary, or neurodiverse employees, however. It includes weaving genuine inclusion into the fabric of the organization — that is, not simple having diverse people on board but also ensuring that they’re involved, empowered, and trusted within the business.
Workplaces can move the needle only if they make DEIB a key organizational strategic priority with clear goals and performance measures that are regularly reviewed and discussed by the CEO and leadership.
The U.S. Equal Pay Act may have been passed in 1963, but the gender pay gap still persists, with a woman earning an average of only 82 cents for every dollar a man makes. The disparity is even greater for Black women and for Hispanic or Latina women, who earn 61 percent and 53 percent, respectively, of the average salary of non-Hispanic white men. Organizations that are committed to DEIB should conduct formal reviews of their pay structures and make adjustment to address pay gaps.
Having a diverse slate of candidates is essential, but it’s not enough. If it wants to be a truly inclusive workplace that supports DEIB, an organization also needs diverse hiring panels to improve objectivity and fairness in its recruitment and hiring processes.
The options for providing employees of underrepresented groups with greater exposure to mentorship opportunities are endless. Initiatives such as cross-department shadowing and breakfasts with the CEO, for example, boost engagement and prime employees for promotion, no matter where they are in the company hierarchy. A robust mentorship program sets clear expectations for both mentor and mentee, crosses all levels of the business, and encourages dynamic, two-way mentorship that enables both parties to learn from each other (rather than simply set up a teacher-student arrangement).
Although diversity and unconscious bias training is required in many workplaces, it doesn’t always a have long-term impact.2 When DEIB training programs are presented as lessons to be passively absorbed, they may raise awareness but don’t necessarily stimulate behavioral change. To be truly effective, training needs to be interactive, ongoing, and part of a broader conversation within the organization.
Companies should evaluate their employee benefit plans and programs to ensure that they adequately support the caregivers (of both children and elders) within the organization’s workforce. Caregiver resources (such as designated nursing spaces or eldercare seminars) and flexible schedules go a long way toward enabling employees with caregiver responsibilities to contribute fully at work and balance their workplace responsibilities with their obligations and needs at homes.
To be effective, employee resource groups (ERGs) need to be developed, encouraged, and supported (with both time and money) by the organization. Although senior leaders who pledge to assist ERGs usually believe that their companies encourage ERG participation, most ERG leaders report low budgets and a lack of influence within their organizations.3 Leadership should participate and engage with ERGs more and leverage them to support the organization’s DEIB goals.
If the composition of an organization’s board and executive team doesn’t reflect the diversity of the geographical area, its leadership should take action. They should make sure that action is effective, though, and beware of what one diversity expert has termed “the Black bluff”:
Black employees are now being hired into leadership positions at companies that aren’t actively anti-racist and committed to cultivating a sense of belonging among all employees. Because these employees are set up to fail as a result of working amid systems that are not equipped to effectively support them, they’re at risk for falling victim to the Black bluff.4
A DEIB strategy will take hold within an organization only if leadership supports space and accountability for it. Once a company’s goals are set and its DEIB results measured against them, the leadership team must be held accountable for those results — good or bad. Employees look to their workplace leaders for guidance but will follow if they believe that those leaders are changemakers alongside them.
This list of best practices may seem overwhelming, but it’s really just a set of steps that together lead toward an important — but achievable — goal. Selecting one task and doing it well will help any organization make progress on the path to greater diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. One step at a time!
1Matt Bush. 2021. “Why Is Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace Important?” Great Place to Work blog, April 13, www.greatplacetowork.com/resources/blog/why-is-diversity-inclusion-in-the-workplace-important..
2Doyin Atewologun, Tinu Cornish, and Fatima Tresh. 2018. “Unconscious Bias Training: An Assessment of the Evidence for Effectiveness.” Equality and Human Rights Commission website, www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/research-report-113-unconcious-bais-training-an-assessment-of-the-evidence-for-effectiveness-pdf.pdf..
3 Marcus Erb. 2021. “Leaders Are Missing the Promise and Problems of Employee Resource Groups.” Great Place to Work blog, June 30, Proven Methods for Improving Diversity Equity Inclusion and Belonging in the Workplace.html.
4 Akilah Cadet. 2020. “Black Employees in Leadership Roles Are at Risk for Falling Off the New Glass Cliff: The Black Bluff.” Well+Good website, July 15, www.wellandgood.com/the-black-bluff/.
Laurie Minott is a partner at Great Place to Work, where she consults and coaches CEOs, CHROs, and executive leadership teams on advancing business performance and culture change through strategies and solutions that create a great place to work for all.