Do you know who heard the calls for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion? The entire world. The tremendous social unrest that took global attention over the last several years made the terms diversity and inclusion a part of the daily dialogue. Racial trauma, studies of gender disparity, and conversations of sexuality and expression made the world realize that there was still a fight going on and work to be done. Many organizations have taken notice to implement diversity and inclusion initiatives to contribute to the solution. For these initiatives to be successful, the key is successful Diversity management.
What is Diversity Management?
Diversity management refers to organizational strategies to build a diverse and inclusive workforce. These strategies include creating an inclusive work culture where every employee feels safe, seen, heard, and an integral thread in the company fabric. Diversity Management is a strategy centered on sustainability and longevity, focusing heavily on systems, policies, and procedures.
What Diversity Management is not.
It is not Affirmative Action - a legal mandate to sanction or coerce organizations into hiring or maintaining employees from diverse backgrounds. To misconstrue the two would be to miss the point, intention, and function of diversity management ultimately. Organizations enact these strategies because there are inherent and tangible benefits to a successfully diverse and inclusive workforce that transcend “checking boxes” that include morale, innovation, and profitability.
Like any deeply rooted initiative, Diversity Management is not an easy undertaking. There are some advantages and disadvantages, but the process promises monumental outcomes if appropriately implemented.
Management. Maintaining diversity and inclusion initiatives and goals is a top-to-bottom endeavor requiring total commitment from the leadership team. Still, unfortunately, leadership is often too tied up with their many other responsibilities and obligations to participate in the process.
For any strategy to be successful, management must fully commit to a shared vision. From top seniors to management, the leadership team is responsible for crafting the policies and procedures required for long-term success. Without this commitment and participation, diversity initiatives will lose all steam, efficacy, and impact.
Conflict. Without proper implementation, more tension may arise. Diversity and inclusion touch on sensitive concepts, so the initiatives may stoke more flames than they extinguish with insensitive or improper handling.
There aren’t too many substantial downsides to diversity in general, but disagreement is inherent to diversity. Yes, diversity can make consensus and some conversations more difficult, but that’s expected with diverse perspectives. As difficult as it may seem, this is also the beauty of diversifying the workforce (described below).
Innovation. As described above, diverse perspectives lead to innovation. Of course, homogenous workplaces are easier because everyone relatively thinks along the same lines, but innovation doesn’t occur unless norms, standards, and ideas are challenged. Disagreement and discourse are the basis for philosophy; it’s what the phrase “think outside the box” means.
Higher profits. Innovation drives market share, leads to new products and services, and increases profits. A Harvard Business Review study reported that “employees of firms with 2-D diversity are 45% likelier to report a growth in market share over the previous year and 70% likelier to report that the firm captured a new market.”
Forbes also reported that “Companies with above-average diversity produced a greater proportion of revenue from innovation (45% of total) than from companies with below-average diversity (26%). This 19% innovation-related advantage translated into overall better ﬁnancial performance.”
Talent retention. Companies with a diverse workforce that focus on inclusion create environments that increase morale, employee engagement, and fulfillment, reducing rates in employee turnover.
Creating a Diversity Management Strategy
Leadership support. Leadership sets the example for the rest of the team. If they are on board, engaged, and supportive, initiatives will be quickly adopted, adhered to, and successful.
Policy and procedure. The same way an organization has guidelines for sexual harassment, attendance, and production, there should be policies that promote diversity strategies by creating a safe, professional environment. There should be a zero harassment / no tolerance policy for hate and harassment of any kind. This isn’t to make the workplace strict or over-police employees but to show a clear stance by reducing ambiguity.
Evaluation. Companies can evaluate leadership by taking diversity and bias self-evaluations and can assess the rest of the team through anonymous surveys to get an honest impression of what everyone feels about themselves and their employer.
Organizationally, companies should evaluate the following areas:
● Diversity - Executive leadership, management, and staff
● Diversity in hiring and promotions
● Harassment claims
● Company - client representation
● Brand/media representation
Clear goals and metrics. From the evaluation, find the current baseline, review any issues and areas of improvement, create a vision of success, develop a plan with measurable goals and milestones, and execute.
Make inclusion a priority. Diversity for workplace diversity sake is disingenuous, creates more issues, and will inevitably fail. By focusing on inclusion, you cultivate a welcoming culture that creates a sense of belonging where employees can be their best selves and contribute to their fullest capabilities.
We all heard the calls for diversity and inclusion. Collectively, we know the issues, what’s needed, and have a vision of the world we’d like to live in. Through continuous action from thoughtful strategic diversity management, we have the key to sustainability and long-term success.