Diverse and inclusive cultures increase tolerance, build trust and improve morale.
This is a thesis that is not just a fad, but should be the starting point for establishing a DEI strategy in any company.
Why’s that? Let us explain:
We believe that an inclusive work environment leads to everyone reaching their full potential. Only by engaging diverse talents and personalities, and creating an inclusive workplace, can we access the full range of skills, insights and creativity that humanity offers us.
Studies show that an effective DE&I strategy also improves a company's profit. Above all, a diverse workforce leads to diverse thinking and, correspondingly, more innovation.
In case you need another reason besides social responsibility to be convinced of the need for a good DEI strategy: Most companies want to reach as many people as possible within a diverse society. One approach to achieving this goal is to have a homogeneous workforce that also understands and thus reflects the spectrum of potential buyers or recipients of a service.
How can companies drive their DE&I initiatives?
1) Goal Definition
The first step, as always, is a goal definition. You've decided to implement a DEI strategy.
But why? Start with "Why a DEI strategy"! For internal collaboration? For your customers? For your business partners? For your public image?
As soon as goals are determined, we have reached the implementation phase - the "How". After all, a change of mindset is not as easy to implement as it is to proclaim. Many biases play out unconsciously. Our advice: Guidelines are great as a reference and orientation!
For example, if your goal is an equal gender split, a first guideline for talent sourcing (going backwards) would be a 50:50 gender split when arranging job interviews. With such a policy, you automatically commit to a goal and achieve it faster than without the policy. This way, the policy is also integrated into your company culture.
2) Involve your workforce
Now we’re already talking about policies. Policies set from the top are not necessarily effective, as your workforce won’t stand for it. For your DEI strategy to work, it's paramount that everyone involved has a vested interest in the effort.
You need others to join you for a successful DEI implementation. Noteworthy, is all management and Team Leads. When decision makers understand why DEI is important from a business perspective, they drive that strategy in their respective spheres of influence.
No matter how great a strategic plan looks on paper, it will never work if not everyone is invested in the outcome. Consistent and clear communication across all channels is a prerequisite for success. This communication includes soliciting feedback. How are efforts going from the perspective of all employees?
3) Measure your DEI efforts and successes.
... right from the beginning. Measuring efforts is not always the most attractive task, but it is one of the most effective steps in checking to see if you are headed in the right direction. Data is essential to any business strategy.
Some metrics you should consider are employee demographics (general breakdown, in hiring, in retention, in employee development), employee surveys, exit interviews, promotion rates.
4) Invest in your workforce
Support your employees with resources and training to raise awareness and eliminate bias in the talent selection and assessment process.
5) Define "cultural fit."
How should you know that a cultural fit exists in a (potential) employee? During interview rounds and subsequent hiring, one should stay aware of not favoring candidates who resemble oneself and therefore elicit an immediate liking or familiarity. This person can (in theory) be a cultural fit and therefore a "lucky punch", but if it is a similar version of yourself, there is a high probability that it will not drive diversity in the workplace.
Finding a cultural fit is thus more difficult than it sounds. Discuss a person's cultural fit over and over again. Otherwise, it will quickly be forgotten. Which is perfectly human…
6) Internal Mobility
Internal movement is a driving force for diversity in the workplace! In our opinion, this is an underrated method. Diverse teams can be built by shifting current employees across departments. This way, you work with the workforce you already have at the ready and create variety. A software developer can sit down with the accounting department, can't he? Maybe he’ll quickly develop a new accounting feature for the team there? :-)
7) Know where and how to target different talent.
Your channels for sourcing should also be diverse. We all know the saying "never change a winning team". Once you’ve celebrated a success, you tend to continue following exactly that strategy. Conversely, this would mean that you’d always continue using that one channel for recruitment with which you’ve celebrated a success once. Remember, however, that diversity in your sourcing channels gives your company different perspectives.
8) Your company's image
It goes without saying that you need to market yourself. Create an appealing web presence that also highlights your DE&I efforts and describes what your company & employee culture is all about.
This is an indirect way to hold yourself accountable. After all, you don't want to market yourself differently or better than you actually are.
9) It's time to renovate
Take a look at what is already happening internally. Compensation, procedures, benefits. Are employees treated differently? Who is included in decisions, who is excluded? And does it make sense? Differential treatment does not preclude the possibility of inclusive treatment. Question the different treatment, however.
There are a lot of issues here. Don't expect everything to come together all at once. The important thing is to always question yourself, make adjustments, and remain patient. Implementing a DEI strategy is a journey, not a project designed to take weeks or months to complete.
It is a way of living and acting in the world that will always require strategy, planning and commitment.
And when something goes differently than expected, what do you do? Correct. Question it. Adjust. Continue.