What steps can companies take to embrace diversity and inclusion?

Companies that successfully create a company culture of diversity and inclusion reap many benefits including increased innovation, problem-solving, and growth. While many CEOs want to establish a more diverse work environment, they struggle to do so. Need help knowing how to begin or what steps to take next to make your business more diverse and inclusive? Keep reading for suggestions from our panel of business leaders.
Tara Jaye Frank

Tara Jaye Frank

Tara Jaye Frank, CEO, TJF Career Modeling LLC. Tara Jaye Frank is an equity consultant and C-Suite advisor who helps Fortune 500 companies build a bridge to a more inclusive future.

Culture Assessment Within Your Company

Whether you are starting fresh or are refreshing your diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy, the first step any organization should take is to assess its readiness by conducting a thorough culture assessment. This [assessment] includes understanding how a culture is defined and by whom, as well as learning the best places to look for data and how to meaningfully interpret it. You need to know who you are before you can become the company you want to be.

A few things to consider:

1. Recognize that you are what you do, not what you say.
It doesn’t matter how loud and proud you are about your DEI journey if your employees can’t see it in your norms – the daily choices and behaviors you make and abide by.

2. Assess your climate beneath the surface.
Not only using your existing data like representation, retention, promotion, pay, or engagement surveys, but at the intersection of race and gender, too, and augment with listening sessions. The voice of the employee is critical in understanding the true essence of your culture. Surveys get at the head, not the heart.

3. Define what great looks like for you.
How will you know which steps to take if you don’t know where you want to go? Gather your leaders and ask this crucial question: If we do everything right, what will our company feel like, look like, act like three years from now? Describe it with words, phrases, and adjectives. Then, identify the behaviors necessary to realize your stated aspiration.

When you know who you are and where you’re headed, you can make much smarter decisions about what to do to cross the bridge to the diverse and inclusive culture you say you want.

Invest in Career Coaching for Diverse Employees

I believe an essential, actionable tip for organizations that want to embrace diversity and inclusion is to invest in business coaching for mid-level managers from diverse groups. Many times, these employees do not have access to coaches or mentors in their communities. A career/ business coach can help them develop skills for growth and prepare them for leadership roles.

Additionally, a mentor can help introduce them to new contacts and opportunities within the organization. An organization can choose to offer to coach internally or externally. Internally, the organization can recruit existing mid-level and senior managers to coach employees from diverse groups. This option allows the organization to recognize and develop assets from with the organization.

Another option is to reimburse employees for career/business coaching services. This option empowers employees to secure a coach that can help them develop the leadership skills they need to excel in their careers.

Lisa Swift-Young

Lisa Swift-Young

Lisa Swift-Young, Account Executive and Success Strategy Coach at Change We Seek. She is a marketing maven, author, philanthropist, and global wanderer.
Joe Wilson

Joe Wilson

Joe Wilson is the Senior Career Advisor at MintResume.

Follow Attitude with Action

Inclusive workplaces are the place to be. Forward-thinking companies are paving the way in terms of inclusion. It’s not just about hearing loops, physical access for all, and ensuring a balanced workforce (which should now all come without saying).

It’s about promoting an attitude. An attitude not only that everyone is welcome and equal, but that diversity is encouraged and celebrated. This ethos should be apparent in everything you do as a company. The real leaders are offering flexible working for parents, extra paternity leave, support for women facing menopause, celebrating pride, flexible work during religious festivals, and coaching counseling.

Four Tips to Make Your Employees Feel Respected and Equal

Embracing diversity and inclusion takes a company-wide approach, which starts with the leadership team modeling the behavior they want to see in their teams. These simple tips enable behavior modeling and promote a culture of inclusion where all individuals can feel valued, respected, and equal. The underlying tip throughout is to listen deeply.

1. Get to Know ALL Staff Personally
Create a list of names of everyone in each department and invite them all individually to meet with you. Ask two or three semi-structured but open-ended questions to get to know them better.

Don’t discuss work and keep the questions very easy to answer.

  • Tell me about your favorite family mealtimes. This is likely to be funny and memorable.
  • Tell me a story about a language you can you ‘hello’ in. i.e., I learned to say ‘Hello’ in Greek from a holiday with my first boyfriend.
  • Tell me about a life-changing experience you have had or something you are passionate about. This [answer] is likely to encourage additional conversation where you can build rapport.

Don’t expect them to join in at staff socials or in meetings to be accepted and valued. Show them they are valued regardless of how they contribute socially. Getting to know them will give you something to discuss each time you meet and will help you build a rapport.

2. Request Feedback and Contributions
This [step] is simple, but it enables those who didn’t feel able to speak in a meeting to have their say afterward. The more people contribute to a meeting, the more creative the potential outcome. Invite people to have their say in multiple ways – written, video, voice memo, anonymous, etc. Be open to the way they may feel comfortable engaging. Communicate each piece of feedback based on its merits by introducing its value. Complement the contributor later. i.e., avoid saying ‘Ahmed said XYZ. Recognize the contribution and then the person. This [recognition] helps them feel valued for what they have to say and avoids [making] them feeling patronized.

3. Hold an Open Forum or ‘Town Hall’
To build trust, encourage team members to have their say. They can bring any topic. You need to practice and model good self-control, diplomacy, respect, and vulnerability. These competencies and characteristics show your team that you are there to serve them as their leader. You are not all-knowing. You are doing your best just as they are. You take your role seriously. You care and value them, and you are listening.

4. Take Actionable Steps to Implement Suggestions
Show you care by taking small, actionable steps related to the contributions they make. If they make a suggestion, log it and take action to show you recognize and respect it. Let the whole organization know what you did and why it was important.

Kath Lewis

Kath Lewis

Kath Lewis founded MMM Communications in 2004 supporting business leaders in creating authentic and effective communications to enable them to connect with their communities.
Tony Martins

Tony Martins

Tony Martins, An entrepreneur and founder of the media platform Profitable Venture.

Get Ahead of the Problem

The best way to do this is to nip any issues in the bud. Have a responsive HR team that cares about your staff, not just the business. Have regular diversity training where necessary. But most of all, make sure that all of your employees know that everyone else is just a fellow human being. I do this by ensuring that each of my businesses has regular socials in non-office environments, in which everyone can participate. So, if a team has a Muslim employee, I take them for paintball rather than drinks. [These activities] allow everyone to get to know one another on a person-to-person basis, removing any sense of “othering” or alienation.

Support Open Dialogue Among Employees

What people need more than ever from a leader is to create an inclusive environment, which means creating an environment where the leader is empathetic, compassionate, and transparent. When a leader can embrace being more transparent, understanding, and allowing opportunities for people to bring their entire selves to work, it establishes the pathways to find out what makes people unique and different instead of being afraid to reveal parts of themselves.

As a leader, the best way to do this is to create safe, open dialogues where people have the opportunity to reveal aspects about themselves that no one would have ever known. To go further, not only reveal aspects about themselves but, in turn, respect it and shine the spotlight on what makes people unique and different.

Holly Dowling

Holly Dowling

Holly Dowling, Founder of Holly Dowling. She’s also a member of the United Nations Girl Up, a two-time Stevie Award winner, a recipient of The American Riviera Women Entrepreneur of the Year Award, a global speaking member of the AICET Council.
Matthew Kincaid

Matthew Kincaid

Matthew Kincaid, CEO, and Founder of Overcoming Racism.

5 Ways to Support Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

1. Ensure that DEI initiatives are both moral and structural priorities of the organization.
Embracing diversity and inclusion isn’t just “the right thing to do.” More diverse companies are more innovative, better problem solvers, engage with their client-base better, and have a higher bottom line.

2. Focus on changing systems over changing people.

People are more likely to adapt to the culture of the institution than the culture of an institution is to adapt to the people within it.

3. Engage in staff-wide anti-racism training.

4. Audit existing systems and practices for disparities between staff based on race, gender, etc.

5. Share the responsibility of achieving diverse, equitable, and inclusive outcomes across all staff regardless of race.

Resist leaning on people of color for additional labor, especially if that labor is unrecognized or unpaid.

Three Tips for Creating a Diverse and Inclusive Company

Prioritizing the wellness of our employees is like placing your bet on the top runners in the field. As a CEO, I think that diversity and inclusion are necessary for every organization.

You might consider the following tips if you want to embrace diversity and inclusion in your company.

Conduct Team-Building
Team-building activities help the employees to create and tighten their connection with each other. It will make them feel a bond and companionship. The feeling of belongingness will be strengthened.

Promote Equality and Fairness
One great factor in promoting diversity and inclusion is the elimination of biased treatment and prejudice. The company should initiate activities and policies that highlight fairness and equality for all its employees.

Train Your Leaders
In a company, leaders or managers are the ones that should take the first action to achieve the company’s goal. Make your leaders aware of the right things to do to embrace diversity and inclusion.

Martin Seeley

Martin Seeley

Martin Seeley, Chief Executive Officer at MattressNextDay.
Caroline Lee

Caroline Lee

Caroline Lee, Co-Founder of CocoSign.

Lead Employees Through Action

Be an Example
The most impactful way to make everyone feel welcome is to be genuinely welcoming. Employees always take cues from their leaders. Leaders should set an example for diversity and inclusion through their actions.

  • Volunteer for social activities.
  • Mentor employees who come from diverse backgrounds.
  • Be fair and impartial to everyone.

Actively Create a Diverse Culture
Diversity needs to be acknowledged and even celebrated. Inclusion doesn’t come from pretending that everyone is the same but from acknowledging and being okay with differences. Even the smallest actions help. You can acknowledge important dates and traditions with cards, for example.

Building an Inclusive Environment

1. Portion out time and space for diverse employees to work on their initiatives with the understanding that they might need more flexibility and different types of support.
2. Build a culture of receptiveness to change in which every voice is heard, including those whose voices are often marginalized or go unheard.

3. Create a set of guidelines that help staff navigate hot-button issues such as race, religion, disability rights, sexual orientation, or gender identity. These guidelines avoid potential discrimination and help you figure out where your company’s weak points are. You’ll be able to hire diverse staff members who know about these matters already and build a more inclusive workforce.

4. Solicit recommendations from outside groups and implement their sensible recommendations.

Jan Koch

Jan Koch

Jan Koch is an entrepreneur since 2012 and now runs Virtual Summit Mastery, helping thousands of entrepreneurs create and run virtual events.
Chris Muktar

Chris Muktar

Chris Muktar, Founder of WikiJob.co.uk.

Three Actions Companies Can Take to Promote Diversity and Inclusion

As a CEO, diversity and inclusion are persuasive channels of innovation and execution. It makes the company perform better in times of financial uncertainty. Here are some actionable tips for companies in embracing diversity and inclusion.

Awareness – Leaders must start assessing equal treatment for everyone. They have to encourage employees to analyze and review their assumptions.

Raising Salary Fairness – We have to identify the salary issues. It [should be] based on the employee’s responsibilities or job title.

Training – Training helps [employees] understand cultural differences like communication techniques, status, and decision-making.

Declare Your Intentions and Act on Them

Put it into Words
If you want change in your company, it should not only be put into action but also into words. You can do so by distributing an internal correspondence, for example. Or you may put it on your website for everyone on the internet to see. It will be known to everyone.

Practice What You Preach
What are you trying to be inclusive of? Is it equality for men and women? Is it the acceptance of the LGBT community? Whatever it may be, put it into practice. You should not ostracize people. You should make them feel welcomed and accommodated.

Sherry Morgan

Sherry Morgan

Sherry Morgan, Founder of Petsolino.
Abby Hao

Abby Hao

Abby Hao is a former HR and now head of marketing at WellPCB.

5 Tips to Help You Embrace Diversity and Inclusion

1. Embrace diversity as a company mission statement.

2. Seek out diverse candidates.
Keep your eyes open for diverse talent in unlikely places. Regardless of your process, don’t pass up the opportunity to look at great candidates who may not fit into a standard mold.

3. Leverage diverse communities to find talent.
Leverage the online communities of different minority groups you wish to hire. Put out calls for people who want to join your team. Not only will you find talented individuals, but you’ll build relationships with supportive and passionate communities. It’s a win-win!

4. Be intentional with how you bring someone on board.
With a diverse candidate, you’ll likely be bringing them onboard at a time when they’re more likely to feel silenced and marginalized. Let them know that their voice will be heard at your organization.

5. Understand that diversity is more than your employee headcount.
Make sure you check every aspect of your company, from your suppliers/partners to your supply chain to your content (photos, videos, blog posts), and work to make sure you’re offering a variety of perspectives.

Begin Fostering Diversity and Inclusion

Being a business owner and an advocate for diversity and inclusion has inspired me to support different cultures, races, and gender preferences. It is undeniable that a company that chooses to stand by their LGBTQ+ and BIPOC employees enjoy a productive and safe work environment. While we all aim to make differences at our workplace, starting with those that can be done right away is the first step.

• Acknowledge – Honor the differences that belong to certain ethnicity. It is in acknowledging the unique practices, beliefs, and identities of our colleagues that we begin to understand how we can work together.

• Foster a Safe Workplace – Practicing inclusivity could be as simple as practicing common courtesy. Employees feel included when they receive the same level of respect as the other employees. They must be heard, appreciated, and valued to feel secure. Everyone should be able to voice out their concerns without fear or judgment.

Jacob J. Sapochnick

Jacob J. Sapochnick

Jacob J. Sapochnick, Founder at Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick.
Jes Osrow

Jes Osrow

Jes Osrow, Co-Founder & DEIBA Specialist at The Rise Journey. As Co-Founder, she works to operationalize DEIBA (diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility) strategies as part of building foundational and sustainable organizational culture.

Programs to Sustain Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

There has to be education and a bigger awareness of racism. Some programs we’re adding, augmenting, or advising clients on are:

Have process groups:
Allow for safe space discussion groups. They can be led by people at any level, but ideally sponsored by leadership/c-suite. [These groups] are particularly important to current events, being actively anti-racist, and allows the workplace to be a safe space for emotions.

Employee Resource Groups/Affinity Groups:
These allow individuals who have a specific identifier as it relates to ethnicity, gender, sexuality, race, disability, etc. to have a safe and inclusive space to relate. These are key at all times, but especially in times of crisis.

Hiring and Recruitment:
Look at your career and about pages, job descriptions, and interview process with a more DEIBA focus checking for tokenism in photos and language.

Double Down on Pay Parity (across gender, race, and other demographic markers):
Equalizing pay and role levels is a huge part of equality. Ensuring that people are paid the same for the same work, given raises and promotions based on a clear set of guidelines, and that discrimination has no home within [the organization] is key for talent retention as well as an understanding of the process.

Guest Speakers:
Bringing in speakers of underrepresented backgrounds to talk about issues other than their being underrepresented.

Speak Out as a Leader:
Share where you’re concerned and worried. Be more human now than ever. Have consistent conversations. Don’t let BLM or any other movement have its moment, and then it is over.

The biggest difference I differentiate with DEI is that I use the terminology DEIBA (diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility). This is very important because none of those pieces can be successful [on their own]. The concept around DEIBA is that each piece, each letter, is an instrument, but together they create a symphony.

I highly recommend hiring a consultant, just like anything else. Unless you have an expert in-house. Bringing in external expertise is vital to do an audit and make sure things are going right.

7 Suggestions for Creating a More Inclusive Company

1. Encourage your employees to create an ERG or employee resource group.
2. Regularly assess your company’s policies and goals.
3. Track your workforce’s progress and give feedback regularly. This involves good and bad feedback as needed.
4. Acknowledge cultural holidays to create awareness and an appreciative response in the workplace.
5. Promote gender pay equality. Break the glass ceiling and appreciate good talent no matter what your employee’s gender is.
6. Encourage the hiring of employees from all generations.
7. Observe and adapt to the language used in the workplace.

Michael Humphreys

Michael Humphreys

Michael Humphreys, Founder & CEO of Z Grills Australia.
Matthew Barnett

Matthew Barnett

Matthew Barnett is the Founder and CEO of Bonjoro, enabling teams to engage leads and customers like never before with perfectly times personalized video.

Make Sure Employee Uniqueness Is Valued

Make sure that you foster a culture where all voices are heard and respected. You should focus on making sure that all your employees feel that their uniqueness is valued, as it will help create a sense of connectedness between them and the company. Let your employees express themselves based on their unique perspectives. Make sure that you don’t play any favorites, practice basic courtesy, and embrace non-discriminatory practices.

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