5 Ways to Make More Progress: How businesses get Diversity Wrong.
It is well-known that workplace diversity can be a positive factor in productivity. Why aren’t Diversity programs better? Many organizations have diversity targets and measures. Why is it that even those who are responsible for these programs turn their heads? One reason could be that diversity and diversity hires suggest that people sought are not the norm. Instead, the people hire diverse people who set the standard.
Gena Cox is an organizational psychologist, executive coach, and author of Leading Inclusion. How to Drive Change Your Employees Can Feel and See. Suppose recruiting diverse people is your primary focus and all else remains the same. In that case, the employees who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of Diversity will not feel happy about their lives. These five strategies will help your organization reap the benefits of diversity efforts.
Find out what matters to employees.
If that is the only change, you are making, hiring more diverse employees may not be enough. Cox says that while you may be able to generate temporary Diversity, those individuals won’t remain in an environment that doesn’t support their belonging. She explains that underrepresented people seek “tangible evidence” to prove they live in a positive environment. These include “being seen, heard, and valued.”
Being seen is expressing yourself freely without conforming to a mold or being accepted by others. Being heard means “being able and confident to voice my opinion and know that there is room for me to be influential.” It also includes being given positive feedback, recognition, promotions, career opportunities, equity in compensation, and access to high-profile client-facing or customer-facing positions. You’re more likely to be surrounded by diverse candidates, employees, and attrition if you don’t have these qualitative experiences.
Leadership Level: Set the Stakes
Do not ignore issues that you are passionate about. You can ensure equity and inclusion by granting diversity achievements and measures to those at the leadership table. It won’t help if you assign the job to someone lower down or unfamiliar with the organization or the leadership’s inner circle. Don’t give the job away to anyone who doesn’t believe it. All employees will be able to see the issues of equity and inclusion and whether or not those in charge of these initiatives are committed and able to take action.
Leaders who say, “I think we spend too much time on these ERGs” (or “You’re asking us to do things that aren’t core to our business”) may not reach their diversity targets, but they don’t intend to invest much in equity or inclusion. Cox says, “You can either lead 100% of the people and be an effective leader, or you are consciously choosing not to lead for 75% of them.” You may feel content with your situation, but it could signify that you are an ineffective leader.
Make sure managers are skilled at giving feedback.
Cox explains that the number one complaint of underrepresented people is that their managers do not give them the feedback they need to grow and thrive. “Our leaders and managers have been overtly educated in operations, finance, and marketing, but they aren’t trained on [providing realistic feedback]. So they pretend these issues don’t exist and will disappear if they ignore them.”
Mistakes and other irritations can build up when feedback is not given quickly or effectively, and eventual harsh feedback can feel unnecessary. Cox states that leaders who bury their heads in the sand don’t necessarily see the problem, but it does not mean those around them aren’t seeing them. They may even wonder why you’re still in the sand.
Recognize cultural norms that have an impact on your workplace
Senior leaders must be mindful of the feelings of all employees. Qualitative factors often determine “whether they stay, learn, and can innovate.” People who feel ignored or misjudged will not perform well.
American business culture is one where employees are prone to withhold negative news from their managers about customer dissatisfaction or operations snafus. Even less likely are they to openly discuss how lonely they feel or don’t believe that anyone cares or supports them. It can appear as whining or weakness. For people who fear they are only there to increase Diversity, this vulnerability can be too difficult to handle. People who speak out can feel more isolated or shut down.
Employees who believe, like Cox, that every day they have to deal with this “uncomfortable or disempowering stuff,” it becomes urgent. They don’t care. There are only two options. Or I could remain here, keep my mouth shut, and accept it. Or, I could leave.
Strengthen your interpersonal relationships
Leaders should invest time in getting to know their staff, especially those different from them. They must also direct the management below them to do so. Leaders must be open to learning about the experiences of all employees, regardless of whether they are different in race, disability, or neurodivergence.
Cox suggests using three-pronged approaches curiosity, connection, and comfort. Even when your body tells you to go in the opposite direction, you must begin there with the willingness to explore. Then, you can move towards connection, which Cox defines as a combination of empathy and respect. It doesn’t matter how many formal structures you have; Cox says it all comes down to one-to-1 interactions. There is no shortcut to comforting other people, but we all know it is possible. It is best to walk up to someone, get them to a safe place, and have a one-to-1 conversation.
This work is more difficult and takes longer than hiring people in a representative way. These relationship norms and practices will increase your chances of creating an enterprise that is both diverse and productive, as well as being viewed by all employees as a great place to work.