November 11, 2020

Diversity and Inclusion Part II: How to Create an Inclusive Workplace

Senior management and HR executives who are committed to an inclusive workplace must successfully grapple with the complicated issue of how to ensure that their workplace practices are both inclusive and equitable. As diversity advocate Verna Myers, puts it, “Diversity is being invited to the party, but inclusion is being asked to dance.” 

  • Did you know that women in the financial service industry are 20% more likely to be fired than men?*
  • Or that just 8% of managers and 3.8% of CEOs in the U.S. are black?**
  • Or that 75% of LGBTQ employees report experiencing negative day-to-day workplace interactions related to their LGBTQ identity?***

Statistics like this reinforce the need for change in our workplaces. It is a challenge that is worth tackling. There is a financial payoff according to a 2015 McKinsey Report, which reported a 35% increase in financial returns for companies with a diverse management team****. And as Molly DiBianca, Labor and Employment attorney at Clark Hill noted in a recent conversation, there’s a legal payoff as well. “Companies that have a truly inclusive environment have more satisfied employees, which translates into fewer lawsuits and less turnover—both things that are good for the organization’s bottom line.”

What creates a successful diversity and inclusion effort? It is more than just a yearly diversity training. Here is what we’ve learned:

Secure a commitment from the top: A diversity effort should begin at the top and permeate through the management team to rank and file employees. The Toigo Foundation compares diversity and inclusion initiatives to the total quality management programs of the 1980s, which filtered down to every level of the organization.

Conduct diversity and inclusion training: The best diversity training educates employees and management about the concepts of bias and privilege, and offers an opportunity for employees to engage in self-reflection and goal-setting.  A work environment where people feel safe to discuss their personal experiences with bias and discrimination is also important, and these tough conversations are challenging to conduct in a group work setting. It is critical to supplement classroom training with smaller follow-up sessions and one on one discussions. These discussions can be led by HR, senior management, or an outside facilitator.   

Create cross-functional teams: The creation of cross-functional teams that are diverse in terms of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, and in other ways can allow people to get to know one another on a personal level and create new ways of seeing one another and recognizing one another’s strengths and connectivity as they work together to complete a project within budget and time constraints.

Track your progress: Ask yourself how your organization measures success in the diversity and inclusion space - and who is informed and interested in the results.  Take the standard metrics of measuring diversity in your organization a step further. How diverse is the pool of internal candidates considered for stretch roles and high potential assignments in your organization? How are your performance management ratings broken down by group?  Tracking metrics on recruiting, promotions and turnover among various groups and across departments is critical, as is exit interview data and engagement survey data.  Once the data is tracked, there should be periodic review, goal-setting and a task force formed to move the organization towards its goals. 

Consider mentoring and development: Candid, balanced feedback to employees about performance that focuses on strengths and identifies missing skills is a critical part of ensuring success for all employees.  In addition, a formal mentoring program that educates new hires about the power structure in the organization and provides access can be impactful, especially for those in marginalized groups.

The HR/AA consulting team partners with Clark Hill’s legal team to deliver impactful, effective Diversity and Inclusion initiatives that strategically position your organization to maximize the potential of your workforce. 

Sources: *Harvard Business Review, “Women Receive Harsher Punishment at Work than Men,” Michael Blanding, 12/17/2018, ** Bureau of Labor Statistics 2019 Labor Force Statistics*** ****Harvard Business Review, Toward a Racially Just Workplace, 11/20/2019

The views and opinions expressed in the article represent the view of the author and not necessarily the official view of Clark Hill PLC. Nothing in this article constitutes professional legal advice nor is intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice.

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