While organizations have realized the necessity of D&I as a cultural change across the workplace, implementation is the biggest challenge they face.
The past few months of the pandemic were a hurdle that slowed down most of the efforts on this front. McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace report found that women took the burden of home, childcare, and work, resulting in many dropping out of the work pool due to exhaustion and burnout.
Read: Championing Gender Equality and Work-life Balancing Act in the Pandemic
Today with some amount of normalcy back in the workplace and lives, the challenges of making the initiatives effective remain the same, if not more. Let us work out a few solutions to the prominent questions which remain in the implementation of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I).
Where does the D&I initiative start in the organization?
D&I involves a change in employee mindset and behavior. For most organizations, inclusivity is an enforced change in culture, processes, and practice. Unlike other people-practice initiatives, it cannot be planned and rolled out in totality. The best thing is to start somewhere and magnify it with time and speed. D&I can start as a thought voiced by management and grow to become awareness creation, conscious recruiting practices, and parallel rolling out of inclusion initiatives. The idea is to start with the necessary, go on to the possible, and slowly the impossible will be achievable!
What is the role of the top and middle management in D&I initiatives?
Change starts small, but D&I change needs to accelerate the pace and gain visibility for cascading across the organization and industry. The sincerity of any initiative is often gauged by the involvement of the top management. Besides, leaders of the organization need to be the trigger to get this initiative moving within the organization through speech and action. The message of zero tolerance to discrimination has to come from that level. They can create the affirmative spark for HR to launch hiring based on diversity and roll out other initiatives like peer coaching for cultural inclusivity.
Involvement cannot end with the top-level management, the middle-level managers and leaders are the real drivers of this initiative. Managers work daily with multiple teams, sales groups, customers, and top management. They approve recruitment numbers, attend to serious client issues, and are the decision-makers for the teams that report to them. They are accessible to all and hold a corporate position that can forward the D&I initiative. Using inclusive language, building resource groups, and creating a welcoming workspace for underrepresented groups through appropriate action, communication and delegation can be part of their everyday work. Any D&I initiative cannot be successful without the active participation of the top and middle management.
Read: Beyond Diversity Training, It’s Time for Diversity Coaching
How does diversity throughout management increase productivity?
The top and senior management levels’ participation in the D&I implementation needs to include a diverse representation throughout management for effective implementation. Employees recruited from underrepresented groups gain confidence and motivation knowing there are persons similar to them in top management. People easily align to persons like themselves, and organizations with leaders from diverse backgrounds can motivate and retain critical talent by being role models. Surveys have proved that organizations with diverse group employees and women in senior management are more productive in comparison. Employee engagement, retention, and productivity naturally improve in these organizations.
What are the challenges for a multi-location organization in D&I implementation?
Implementation of D&I is a complex process with organizations initially implementing successful initiatives at head offices and large metros. Often, the same model which is successful at one place is replicated in another. That can probably fail as every region has its challenges, and individuals are in various stages of the journey of acceptance and understanding. What has to be understood is that the population in every location is different. What works in one place or region may not work for the other. The experience has to be fair to all. The implementers of D&I have to study the population and gather tacit knowledge on the existing attitudes to implement the process successfully. Having patience with perseverance and being prepared for the challenges with information on the location is the way forward.
How do organizations weave the D&I message into the hiring processes?
Recruitment, as an important function in the organization, sends out the message of diversity to the prospective employees and the talent marketplace. It is a good place from where the organization’s commitment to D&I can be communicated. All jobs postings must convey the message of equality and the need to have diverse and underrepresented groups in the workplace. The job description for senior levels should clearly state the job needs to build and lead diversity in teams with inclusive team practices. The talent pool has an active social media grapevine that listens, discusses, and spreads the message in the marketplace. The interviewing process also must convey the commitment to inclusivity.
How important is it to take feedback on D&I initiatives?
D&I initiatives, similar to any HR initiatives, require feedback to complete the loop of effectiveness measurement. Incorporating the feedback suggestions and reimplementation with changes gives further momentum to the initiatives. Employee engagement surveys, pulse surveys, one-to-one feedbacks, and drop-box suggestions make employees involved and participative with a greater understanding of inclusion at the workplace. Collecting D&I feedback about the hiring and interview process from interviewees gives clarity and insights, showing gaps in the process.
How to keep the implementers motivated and maintain the momentum of D&I implementation?
The efforts to drive D&I throughout the organization can be an overwhelming process for all the implementers. D&I implementation is about bringing change to mindsets and is an ongoing activity till it becomes a normal workplace behavior. Implementers can face the feeling of frustration, incapability, and exhaustion through the process. Setting specific and measurable goals can give the team a sense of achievement. Make recruitment initiatives with time-bound targets to see the outcomes. Support the initiative through peer coaching. Incorporate D&I into formal organization policies, and top management should take every opportunity to communicate about it to employees.
Diversity and Inclusion have to become an unavoidable business priority for organizations to induce cultural change in the workplace. Inclusion retains critical talent and fosters creativity and innovation. The positive change to the reputation of an organization is an additional advantage.
2022 is the year when leaders must invest in D&I for increased growth and productivity in the organization. #AskNumly how to get started!