Improving Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I)

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiatives

Poline Associates has been actively creating, evaluating and fine tuning its Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives over this past year. Our recent blogs have commented on the recruiter’s role in DE&I, the inspiring work of Project REAP as well as our firm’s own DE&I efforts, including participating in ICSC’s Partners in Diversity and Inclusion (PIDI) initiative.

One thing that’s become clear is that DE&I initiatives only achieve results from a long-term, ongoing commitment to facilitating real change in an organization. Part of that commitment is consistently researching and reviewing articles on this topic to better understand how to improve and refine DE& I efforts.

And why do we do this? Because “a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment is not only the right thing to do but it can also result in new and innovative ideas and a more engaged workforce,” according to a recent ADP article.

Diversity Training: Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Every article I’ve read about DE&I expresses the need for diversity training as a starting point. Unfortunately, many companies only consider this route after a PR mishap. That shouldn’t be the case.  In many situations, companies would be better served by being proactive versus reactive when committing to participate in diversity training.

Companies can use “implicit bias training, unconscious bias training and anti-bias training…to reduce bias against certain groups, such as women and black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), by making people aware of their biases,” according to Chief Learning Officer magazine.

The article goes on to offer five steps it argues can actually improve diversity, equity and inclusion.

  • Measure your progress: It seems intuitive that if you are not measuring progress, you will not be able to act on new data and encourage change. The article suggests a company-wide survey to track progress.
  • Make diversity training part of a larger effort: Diversity training is not a one-and-done activity; it needs to be ongoing.
  • Make diversity training voluntary. This one is tricky. The article says employing voluntary training ensures workers do not feel personally attacked and gives them some control. It also directs employers to use research that shows diversity training makes companies more productive and profitable to urge participation. But what if employees still don’t participate?
  • Evaluate workers on inclusion. It seems reasonable that if you weave DE&I performance into an employee’s evaluation, he or she would be more invested in implementing DE&I practices.
  • Engage leadership. I think this step might be the most important one. Broad-based firm leadership, and not only from HR, needs to drive DE&I initiatives. The article’s recommendation to create diversity task forces from leaders of different departments is on point. These task forces would “examine hiring, retention, pay and promotion data…and identify areas for improvement.”

Other DE&I Suggestions

In its “15 Ideas for Improving Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” article, ADP also included “training all employees and managers,” but presented many additional steps to improving inclusion. I’ve highlighted the few I found most interesting:

  • Diversify your hiring committee: This seems like one of the most obvious yet effective ways in preventing bias in hiring. If you cannot diversify your hiring committee, that might point to a problem.
  • Consider blind auditions: Removing names from resumes and applications is a smart technique, especially when you consider the data that “hiring managers were 74 percent more likely to hire candidates with white-sounding names when their resumes were identical.”
  • Address microaggressions. First of all, it’s important to define microaggressions for all employees. The ADP article states, “A microaggression is a statement, question, or action that subtly demonstrates hostility or discrimination against members of a marginalized group.” If a microaggression has occurred, investigate and respond appropriately.
  • Take all complaints seriously. Enough said. The article encourages a thorough investigation and immediate corrective action if needed.
  • Encourage ideas and feedback. We all know healthy relationships are built on communication. Work relationships are no different. The article says to use “regular employee surveys, meetings and exit interviews” to secure feedback. Employees like to be heard.

DE&I Efforts: An Ongoing Commitment

These ideas are just a sampling of the many directives out there to promote a healthy, diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment. And every company should seek what best fits its culture and community in these efforts.

One thing is for certain: Improving DE&I is a long-term, ongoing commitment that is essential to the continued productivity and positive growth of any company.