Many corporate leaders still have blind spots when it comes to the obstacles confronting an employee from an underrepresented group. They fail to realize that just having a diversity and inclusion program may not be the end all, be all solution to discrimination.
ZoomInfo conducted an analysis of 60 million professionals in its database and found that approximately 2,250 roles with the word “diversity” or “inclusivity” in the title existed in 2019, compared to only 876 in 2014.
And while that is great, it also shows that diversity and inclusion are important to an increasing number of businesses. Simply implementing a program doesn’t mean it has a powerful impact on the employees who work there.
Instead, it takes a lot of hard work and continual conversation.
What is a Diversity & Inclusion Program, and What are the Benefits?
Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are terms used to describe programs and policies that aim to promote and enact representation and participation of diverse groups of people. “Diversity” itself can refer to a wide range of things, such as gender, race, ethnicity, ability/disability, religious beliefs, culture, age, sexual orientation, etc.
Trailblazer Josh Compton talks about why it’s important to have D&I programs and forums in the workplace.
“Some of the best companies in the world more than likely will be the most diverse companies, because we can say it time and time again, different values bring different views. And that’s the goal is to bring everyone together and that’s why it’s so important,” says Josh.
And while the initiative isn’t perfect, research has shown that with D&I programs, companies typically see:
- Improved financial results
- Better organizational and team performance
- Advanced innovation
- Increased employee retention rates
Trailblazer Cam Johnson speaks to the importance of D&I within a company.
“If you look at the Googles of the world and the Salesforces, they have massive inclusion and diversity programs. People want to go work for those companies because of things like that. Obviously in the world we live in today, being happy at work for a majority of the population is more important than the money that they can make,” says Cam.
How to Go Above and Beyond Typical Corporate D&I
The Boston Consulting Group recently conducted a survey that found that of the 97% of people whose companies have D&I programs in place, only 25% felt they have personally benefited from the program.
This goes to show that simply having a D&I program isn’t necessarily enough. Somehow, we have to find a way to fill the gap between implementation and actual meaningful impact on employees.
While the learning is never done, here are a few things to consider when implementing or improving your D&I initiatives:
1. Develop Antidiscrimination Policies
Company policies are more than simply compliance because they show employees that a company takes acts of discrimination seriously, and will actively try to prevent it in the workplace.
As with any other policy, antidiscrimination policies should be as specific as possible so that employees have a clear understanding of what would happen if or when they report an incident.
2. Host Formal Trainings
Unfortunately, one-and-done trainings typically don’t work very well because the conversations stop once the training is over.
However, when supplemented with ongoing discussions, formal trainings are great for educating employees. You can then appoint facilitators or moderators to host smaller break out sessions for employees to engage in a dialogue.
3. Use KPIs to Hold Leadership Accountable
Just like other business initiatives, your D&I program should have a purpose, and should therefore have metrics applied to it. After you’ve established goals for your D&I program, you can use those measurements to refine your approach and maybe rethink initiatives that aren’t necessarily having much of an impact.
KPIs will look different at every company but some examples are hiring goals or employee engagement rates (i.e how many employees attended a D&I event).
4. Establish Effective Mentorship Programs
Mentorship has been proven time and time again to be effective — especially for underrepresented employees who don’t necessarily have role models who look like them.
Trailblazer of Zoom In Color Cam Johnson speaks to the importance of mentorship.
“When we talk about inclusion and having people in your corner, that’s what the role I want to fulfill and why every time I see a new SDR … and they’re a person of color, I reach out to them right away. And I let them know that I’m here to be their mentor and answer any questions or frustrations or anything that comes up, “I understand you because I’ve been there before,” says Cam.
Seeing people who look like you in leadership is powerful because it signals that there is a viable, achievable career path for you to take. And when it comes to typically underrepresented people (especially in the tech industry), that’s not always the case.
Final Thoughts on Building a D&I Program
The main takeaway here is that just having a D&I program in place doesn’t exactly mean that your company is diverse and inclusive. If you’re simply patting yourself on the back for having a D&I program, it may be time to start digging a little deeper.
The solution to not falling complacent is to continue the learning process through a combination of dialogues, training, distribution of educational resources, panel discussions, etc.
“That’s how you build one cohesive company where everyone is included, even if they don’t identify with you, because you’ve let them know how you feel in a safe space and they understand where you’re coming from, even if it never happened to them before.” – Cam Johnson, Zoom In Color Trailblazer.