July 24, 2020

Why You Need More than a Diversity Statement

As the saying goes, diversity means being invited to the dance, but inclusion means being asked to dance. Just increasing the number of diverse hires in your company doesn’t mean that people will feel welcome. But it is a good start, and there are ways to make it easier for your diverse workforce to feel more included once they join.  

A large body of research shows that the hiring process is filled with opportunities for biased decision-making . If There’s only One Woman in Your Candidate Pool, There’s Statistically No Chance She’ll Be Hired is the title of a 2016 Harvard Business Review article. The authors describe their research that confirms that the same holds true for hiring racial minorities. “ Basically, our results suggest that we can use bias in favor of the status quo to actually change the status quo. When there was only one woman or minority candidate in a pool of four finalists, their odds of being hired were statistically zero. But when we created a new status quo among the finalist candidates by adding just one more woman or minority candidate, the decision makers actually considered hiring a woman or minority candidate ,” the authors state.

A thoughtful, sincere newly issued statement of your company’s commitment to diversity sends a strong message to employees, and it is important to follow up with action. Ask for advice from a group of employees who are committed to productive and open discussions about what can be done differently. And then listen!

The messages that are indirectly broadcast by management are one way to reinforce a commitment to diverse perspectives and points of view. Floating holidays that accommodate religious preferences, holiday parties that do not specifically celebrate Christmas and company events that offer diverse menus of food and drink that accommodate cultural preferences and views on alcohol use and food allergies send clear messages about inclusion. Letting employees know repeatedly and in many ways that events such as informal lunches, happy hours, and golf outings are open to everyone, not just those who are the same race, social class, color, or age of the management team is also important.

Other suggestions for increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace? Having a mentorship program that crosses organizational boundaries, since most departments and functions are segregated by gender or race, makes a difference. Also, transparency - collecting and reporting corporate diversity data including compensation information to a diverse group of involved, interested managers. Another suggestion is to use a third party such as an EAP to investigate and resolve complaints about inequity and harassment so that employees feel safe reporting incidents of discrimination.

Diverse work teams have proven to be more effective at solving problems. Inclusive workplace practices result in a more committed and engaged workforce. But creating that environment takes active, continuous work. Let’s get it done!

Sources: 5 Ways to Improve Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace, by Charong Chow, 9/24/2019; Diversity and Inclusion Efforts that Really Work, David Pedulla, HBR, 5/12/2020; If There’s Only One Woman in the Room, There’s Statistically No Chance She’ll be Hired, HBR, 4/26/2016, by Stefanie Johnson, David Hekman and Elsa Chan.

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