As companies and their CEOs increasingly embrace a leadership role in advancing racial equity, they face the difficult question of what really works. Many executives are unsure what actions are most effective at increasing diverse representation, improving feelings of inclusion, or making progress on other DEI goals.
Many corporate leaders admit that they don’t know where to start or note that the amount of information and tools is overwhelming. Many are looking for a blueprint for what’s been effective for other companies. But DE&I is not merely a policy. It has to be a core value of your business that becomes part of its DNA – the connective tissue of an organization.
So what steps can you take to build an effective team with a DE&I focus?
Reevaluate Your Hiring Practices
Hiring presents one of the biggest opportunities to broaden your company’s diversity and inclusion – but it also presents the greatest opportunity for unconscious bias to impede your progress. Revisiting your hiring practices and processes is a critical first step to improve DE&I across the board.
Start by providing bias training for everyone who is involved in the hiring process. Take a step back to consider who is included in this group: one of the best ways to ensure that DE&I remains a priority when making a hire is to include existing diverse perspectives in the hiring process.
Once your team has undergone training, rethink the language you use in job descriptions, and across your digital footprint to ensure you are inviting the broadest cross-section of the qualified candidates to apply.
Widen Your Talent Pool
Focus on developing strategic partnerships that connect your organization with diverse talent pipelines, so that your talent pool continues to expand. Many companies make the mistake of setting an arbitrary statistical quota which designates what percentage of their open roles should be filled by a different race, ethnicity, gender or other demographic indicator. Filling a quota, however, can keep you from hiring the best candidate for the role – which in turn can create a pattern of bad hires that unfairly skews DE&I success metrics. Instead, widen your talent pool so that your best candidate is selected from an increasingly diverse list.
Offer Development Opportunities
Hiring from a diverse candidate pool can have a huge impact on the make-up of your team, but there may be someone already on your team who deserves a new challenge. It’s important to develop the people you already have and to provide equal learning and growth opportunities for all of your employees.
Professional development can take shape in a number of ways – through informal mentoring and coaching as well as more formal training – but should be equally available to everyone on your team. Evaluate internal talent and set new learning and development goals with each individual employee. Work to identify those who are a fit for a leadership pipeline and benchmark your internal promotions to identify trends and potential areas of bias.
Communicate with Your People
One of the best ways to ensure inclusivity in your workplace is to listen to your people. By listening to your whole team – through informal chats, structured one-on-ones or larger town halls – you make them feel their opinions are valued and stand to learn from a broader sample of perspectives.
But don’t just pay lip service; act on what you’ve heard. This may include modernizing some of your legacy HR policies such as allowing for the flexibility and work-life balance that many people today are seeking.
Lead by Example
At the end of the day, DE&I has to be fully embraced from the top down. Lead by example and take responsibility for dealing with your own biases. Expect your team to share responsibility for eliminating discrimination from your workplace. People start to really engage in the overarching mission when they understand the why, so be sure to clearly and continuously articulate the many ways DE&I impacts your team and your organization.
Creating teams with a DE&I focus is about recognizing that great talent knows no race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation or socio-economic standing. Developing a truly diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce is no easy task to achieve, but the outcomes – both quantitative and qualitative – are more than worthwhile.