Diversity and inclusion (D&I) needs to be a top priority for businesses today. Aside from the moral imperative to create more equitable and progressive workplaces, diverse companies, simply put, make more money: Companies with more diverse management teams have 19 percent higher revenue, according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group.
But let’s be real. Despite the best intentions, organizations still fall short of recruiting, hiring, and retaining diverse talent.
Why? Too many companies begin D&I initiatives with ill-defined goals, limited knowledge of or experience in implementing programs like this, and a lack of cohesion among leadership. Further, they lack the planning, technology solutions, and metrics to monitor the changes they want to achieve.
Here are some tips to get your D&I initiative started on the right foot:
1. Get Leadership to Be D&I Champions
D&I initiatives require executive buy-in and ongoing support. If your decision-makers are convinced of D&I’s importance from the beginning, you can make real change much more effectively.
Educate leadership on the benefits of a more diverse workforce. With diversity and inclusion efforts proven to positively impact the bottom line, it shouldn’t be hard to capture their attention and advocacy. Highlight the concrete benefits of supporting a more diverse team — improved innovation, reduced employee turnover, better ability to attract top talent, etc. — so your leaders prioritize your efforts.
Create a policy that formalizes your company’s commitment to D&I. Our CEO at Cielo, for example, signed an action committed to advancing women in leadership at our company. Fifty-percent of our global executive team is female, and approximately 65 percent of our director and above leaders are female. These outcomes would not be possible without the support of leadership.
In addition, establish a D&I council of leaders across your organization with a clear purpose and framework. Clarify that D&I duties should be prioritized as real responsibilities rather than secondary ones.
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2. Take Stock of Your Organization and Define Achievable Goals
When talent acquisition teams talk about diversity in recruiting efforts, they often focus on the more obvious identifiers, like race, gender, and sexual orientation. However, diversity also includes factors like age, physical and mental ability, class, religion, and more. Diversity also looks different depending on the industry and location of your business. Keeping this in mind, be realistic about how you can change the makeup of your company through new hires.
Reflect on your employee population and ask yourself some critical questions: Does everyone look the same? What does your leadership team look like? How does this population compare to industry standards and the population of your city?
If you identify opportunities to diversify your organization’s employee base, direct your outreach at specific populations and go from there. Look at populations historically under-hired and see how they can fit into your company. For example, autistic employees (a population with an estimated 66 percent unemployment rate) have recently thrived in areas like cybersecurity and programming.
You can’t rely on the same old recruitment tactics to diversify your workforce. Make a conscious effort to use more inclusive language in job postings and target messaging to reach specific populations. Additionally, provide unconscious bias training for all hiring managers, and use diverse interview panels when evaluating new candidates.
3. Know When to Call for Help
Improving D&I in your organization can be challenging, and it’s often a sensitive topic to even discuss. It’s easy to fumble important conversations and derail your efforts. Further, even if you manage to recruit a more diverse population of candidates, you won’t keep them on board for very long if you don’t foster an inclusive workplace environment that supports diversity.
Fortunately, you don’t need to achieve all this on your own. Many businesses are now hiring formal roles like “director of diversity and inclusion” or “chief equality officer,” with postings for such positions increasing by nearly 20 percent between 2017 and 2018. While many businesses aren’t in a position to make these hires, that doesn’t mean they can’t call for outside help when necessary. Bring in experts to lead conversations around these topics and facilitate discussions to ensure every new hire feels welcome in your organization. Experts can also educate existing employees and facilitate important conversations around why diversity matters.
Consider partnering with a recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) provider or other third party that can help recruit more diverse candidates and create a more inclusive workplace culture.
Some RPO providers specialize in promoting diverse hiring, ensuring compliance, and making certain your dedication to D&I is reflected in your culture and values. They may also be able to help your organization overhaul its recruiting and onboarding processes through market mapping, diversity job boards, emerging talent programs, veteran programs, and more. With the help of the right partners, your diversity efforts can become effective and valuable long-term talent acquisition strategies.
A diverse workforce isn’t a nice-to-have — it’s a key component of what makes your business successful. With companies struggling to fill roles in an increasingly competitive market, those organizations that are able to cast wider nets into more diverse talent pools are more likely to land the talent they need to succeed.
Anne Bucher is SVP of customer experience at Cielo.