AC JosepH Media
It has become widely accepted that diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) initiatives support better business performance. Studies show how organizations that focus on improving their DEIB experience increased employee engagement and retention, higher levels of innovation and creativity, and a wider market understanding — to name just a few of the benefits.
Yet, while organizations have come to value DEIB, many still struggle to find effective ways to effectively implement programs that promote it. One recent study reveals that only 50% of companies have developed a mission statement that establishes their DEIB goals. The study further found that less than half of organizations have a strategic diversity plan in place.
“It’s important that DEIB efforts be comprehensive and ongoing,” says Lauren Winans, CEO and Principal HR Consultant at Next Level Benefits. “To be effective, they need to address systemic barriers and promote a culture of inclusivity throughout the organization.”
Next Level Benefits serves clients in a variety of industries by providing on-demand access to HR expertise for both short-term and long-term initiatives. Winans, who founded the company in 2019, leads a team of former HR professionals, each of which holds at least 20 years of experience in Fortune 500 companies, global organizations, and well-known brands.
“DEIB can manifest in various ways in the workplace,” says Winans. “What works best for one may not be the solution for another. What’s important is that efforts reflect an organization’s commitment to creating an inclusive and equitable environment for its employees.”
The following are examples of ways in which DEIB efforts are showing up in a variety of workplaces:
Ensuring Diverse Hiring Practices
Companies that want to prioritize DEIB will need to actively seek to diversify their workforce through inclusive hiring practices. This can include a variety of initiatives, ranging from developing strategic internships that build a more diverse talent pipeline to training hiring managers in ways to identify and mitigate hiring biases.
Expanding recruitment efforts to reach diverse talent pools is one step that companies can take to boost DEIB. Salesforce, a multi-billion dollar software-as-a-solution company based in California, implemented the “Rooney Rule” as part of its DEIB efforts. The initiative, which was created by the National Football League to improve diversity in head coaching, committed Salesforce to interviewing at least one qualified underrepresented candidate for every leadership position.
“Reviewing job descriptions for language that discourages diversity and inclusion is an important step toward more effective DEIB,” Winans shares. “This can include identifying and adjusting terms that are exclusionary, avoiding stereotyping, and using plain language rather than technical jargon when detailing job requirements. Job descriptions can also highlight an organization’s commitment to DEIB by informing candidates that they should be open to working in a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment where everyone can feel they belong.”
Providing DEIB Training and Development
“To ensure that efforts gain traction across the entire organization, companies should provide training that explains why DEIB is important and what the organization is doing to promote it,” Winans explains. “Effective DEIB-focused training and development programs create awareness, foster inclusive behaviors, and address biases.”
Winans points to Unilever as an example of a company that has taken effective steps in this area. Its “Unstereotype” initiative was designed to train marketers and agencies on combating stereotypes in advertising.
Engaging Leadership in DEIB
“To be effective, DEIB must start at the top,” Winans says. “Organizations that exhibit strong leadership commitment set the tone for inclusive cultures.”
CEOs and other key leaders play a critical role in ensuring that DEIB is not only a value, but also an element of the overall business strategy that receives attention and resources. Taking steps in that direction includes involving corporate boards in DEIB discussions, setting organization-wide goals for DEIB progress, and participating visibly in events that promote the DEIB agenda.
Organizations can quickly find themselves operating at a competitive disadvantage if they fail to take concrete steps to integrate DEIB into overall, long-term strategic plans. By fostering a work environment that welcomes and celebrates diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging, organizations lay a foundation for deeper engagement, impactful innovation, and more insightful and informed operations.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Winans highlights involvement in the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion initiative as one way that CEOs are modeling a commitment to DEIB. The CEO Action pledge, which has been signed by over 2,400 CEOs, commits business leaders to steps that include cultivating an open dialogue on DEIB issues.
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