Every June, companies worldwide rainbow-wash their logos to show support for the LGBTQ community. Brands launch rainbow-themed products, and people put rainbow filters on their online avatars. "Pride month" paints the world with colors of gender equality.
Today, we see more and more people raise their voices to support marginalized groups such as LGBTQ, blacks, latinos, women, and AAPI. They also demand the private sector to do more. Businesses are responding by amping their DEI efforts and moving beyond the business case of "more diversity, better performance."
More than 1,600 CEOs have pledged to foster an equal workplace with PwC's CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion program. Google says that by 2025, it will have 30% of its leaders from minority groups. More than 25 of the largest companies in the US said they would hire 100,000 low-income black, latino, and AAPI people by 2030. Almost half of S&P 500 companies now have chief diversity officers or CDOs.
Still, the corporate sector has a long way to go to deliver on these promises. Fortune 500 companies have seen only 21 black and 16 hispanic CEOs. FTSE-100, zero in the top three roles: CEOs, CFOs, and board chair. 31% of AAPI and 25% of colored employees experience discrimination at work. 80% of HR leaders see their companies' DEI efforts as ineffective. White job applicants still get more callbacks than black ones. Frustrated by all talk but no action, many CDOs leave.
So, how can HR leaders turn their intentions into action? They're trying hard to deliver results, and COVID-19 has only boosted their efforts. We recommend changing the perspective and making DEI a part of the business strategy, not just another issue managers need to fix. That way, you can start at the very beginning, deploy necessary technologies, and hold people accountable for progress. Here are some steps you need to take:
Improve your hiring by removing bias
Diversity takes the backstage where it could have the most impact: Hiring. Recruiters focus too much on factors such as skills, experience, and culture fit. Apart from these obvious reasons, many unconscious biases undermine efforts to hire more diverse employees. Even the cutting-edge machine learning algorithms that advanced HCM recruiting systems rely on have bias.
It's time to set diversity as a factor in hiring along with skills and culture fit. You can reduce biases with an objective approach to resume screening by hiding name, race, and gender information or markers from resumes. Diversifying the interview panel itself will also mitigate biases. You can also create relationships with black-majority colleges and professional organizations to attract more colored talent. Having a diversity-focused employee referral program will help you get more diverse applicants.
Take a data-driven approach
As the business adage goes, "What gets measured gets managed." Or rather, it gets improved. Companies devote resources to further diversity, equity, and inclusion. To see whether those efforts are paying off or not, they need to measure the progress, do more of what works, and drop what doesn't. HR leaders find measuring DEI impact the most challenging part. Frameworks can help.
Gartner has developed one that they call "The Gartner Inclusion Index" to measure a company's DEI efforts. There are seven statements in the framework that you can ask your employees to agree with or disagree:
- Fair treatment
- Integrating difference
- Decision making
- Psychological safety
The more the employees agree with these statements, the greater the diversity inside your company. We recommend you conduct employee surveys based on these seven factors, measure the results, and then recalibrate your DEI goals and plans accordingly. Remember, data must drive your DEI goals. Otherwise, you will have processes but no real-world impact.
Upgrade your HR tech to listen
You must involve people impacted by racism, sexism, ageism, etc., while setting your DEI goals. Listening to how they feel working in your company, issues they face, and their input on improving will help you make better decisions and get their buy-in. Be humble, listen, take notes, and then integrate that learning into your DEI programs.
You also need to upgrade your HR tech to give those employees a platform to share, complain, and connect. Because they face discrimination every day, you must have continuous feedback systems. Your HR tech should also have recognition, pulse surveys, and 1:1s to empower your diverse employees. Use employee assistance plans (EAPs) to deal with discrimination and harassment issues.
Educate and expose employees to different worldviews
Misconceptions, stereotypes, and ignorance about other people's culture, race, gender, religions, etc., cause discrimination. Exposing your employees to different cultures, worldviews, and DEI movements with mandatory coaching and development programs will help address the root causes. Companies can't outlaw biases, but debunking them and making people aware of common blind spots will help overcome discrimination from within.
Encourage executives to take a public stance
DEI is not an HR issue but a company-wide effort. Appointing chief diversity officers is a step in the right direction. But, encouraging CEOs and other top-line leaders to take a public stance on DEI issues will help employees see the company's commitment. Leaders who display a growth mindset, listen to employees from marginalized groups, and play an active role in DEI programs inspire other employees to mirror and drive the change.
Share results and hold leaders accountable
Many people, inside and outside the corporate sector, still believe that it's none of companies' business to solve race and diversity issues. Many executives see DEI as a luxury than a necessity. To overcome this mindset, you need to take a two-pronged approach. First, you need to address this evading of responsibility by setting measurable targets for executives. You can do it by comparing your DEI numbers with those of other companies. Second, you need to share the progress with every employee. Exposing real issues and the progress you are making helps you see what works, what doesn't, and plan for the next steps you need to take.
DEI is a complex topic with no single solution. Racism and discrimination are deeply ingrained in many parts of work life. It's challenging to uproot the biases in a single stroke, so you must have long-term plans, measurable goals, and accountability. But first, you need to shift your mindset from a "DEI issue" to a "DEI imperative." Rainbow-washing is only laudable as long as there's also an on-ground action to make the workplace more diverse and equal.