Companies who walk the talk realize financial gains & worker satisfaction.
Six simple ways to take a more active approach.
Article by SABRINA HALSTEAD
More and more, companies are moving beyond passive diversity and inclusion practices and taking an active approach to these efforts. It’s not just because it’s the right thing to do; these efforts can also yield positive financial results.
In fact, a McKinsey & Company report, published in 2015, examined the relationship between diversity and financial performance, and drew two compelling conclusions (among others): The top quartile of racially and ethnically diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to financially outperform their respective national industry medians, and the top quartile of gender diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to financially outperform their respective national medians.
The benefits of embracing diversity and inclusion practices, however, are bigger than just financial performance, says Andrea Voorhees, employee benefits consultant with USI Insurance Services.
“It’s good for the employee base—having people feel appreciated is really going to help everyone in the long term. It’s going to help the employees, it’s going to help the HR department, it’s going to help the company, and it’s going to help the customers that they’re serving. If employees are happy, that’s going to reflect all around—360 degrees,” Voorhees says.
Taking action and implementing diversity and inclusion practices in the workplace doesn’t have to be complicated. There are simple
things that business leaders can do to initiate or ramp up their efforts.
MAKE THE CONVERSATION A PRIORITY.
To really build comfort and trust, and to form a strategic approach to implementing diversity and inclusion practices, companies have to commit to having the conversations and creating a safe space for those conversations. “For us, in our journey, the first step was having that conversation,” says Anetra Brown, Equity and Engagement Manager with United Way of Lane County. “It shifted from, ‘OK, we value this,’ to ‘OK, so what does it look like to value it?’”
CONSIDER HOW YOU’RE FINDING EMPLOYEES AND HOW YOU’RE KEEPING THEM.
This includes where you’re posting job openings, what the balance is like between recruiting internally and externally, what benefits you offer that a diverse employee population will value, helping you to retain those employees.
“Voluntary benefits are important; it gives employees flexibility in how much it costs them, what kind of coverage they want—it takes the whole family situation into account,” says Voorhees. Additional benefits to consider could include daycare, doggy daycare, legal options, dependent benefits, paid time off and more. Think about your employee demographics and what they would value.
DESIGNATE A CHAMPION AND FORM A TEAM.
While not always the case, human resources is often the change agent for many diversity and inclusion practices. But to be most effective, it shouldn’t be the only place where these practices and initiatives are carried out. “One of the real benefits that people can get from it is having it be a real team, not just one person, not just a policy on paper. It can affect so many parts of the business—innovative, creative thinking,” says Voorhees. “It’s shared responsibility at all levels.”
TRAIN YOUR EMPLOYEES.
Your employees should understand how diversity and inclusion impact the workplace and how they fit into that equation. Providing training opportunities can help build effective communication and problem-solving skills among diverse teams. One of the places where training has come in for United Way of Lane County is simply creating a common language around diversity, equity and inclusion.
“These are really hot terms right now—equity, diversity, inclusion,” says Brown. “And sometimes we use them interchangeably, but they have different meanings.”
By providing training, you give your staff the opportunity to get on the same page with what this looks like, what it means to the company, and the work they’re doing.
ESTABLISH GOALS AND MEANINGFUL METRICS.
Like any other aspect of your business, it’s important to set goals and track your progress, so that you can clearly see if your efforts are yielding the results you’re after.
“There are two sides to it: the qualitative side and the quantitative side,” says Voorhees. “The qualitative side is the ‘it’s the right thing to do,’ and getting everyone’s opinion or consideration. But then the quantitative side is really the business argument for it.” Think about your company’s mission and values, what you want to achieve, and how diversity and inclusion practices could help you get there. Consider making goals and metrics-tracking a committee responsibility.
BE PREPARED TO TAKE ACTION.
The goals you set and the data you choose to track shouldn’t be arbitrary. Conversations, committees, training and metrics are positive steps in the right direction, but if you’re not prepared to take action based on data outcomes, you risk losing your employees’ trust. “You have to ensure that you’re getting the right people and actually listening to them,” says Voorhees.
Looking to dive a bit deeper into the research behind the business impacts of diversity and inclusion? We recommended the following studies:
- MCKINSEY WHY DIVERSITY MATTERS
- HARVARD UNIVERSITY: THE ECONOMIC RATIONALE FOR SOCIAL COHESION
- THOMSON REUTERS BUSINESS CASE FOR DIVERSITY
Enjoy the read? Check out more great content.