It is clear that 2020 has changed much of what we knew about the modern workplace. However, one thing definitely has not changed: diversity and inclusion makes companies better.
“Better” is a broad term but an intentional one because of just how many measures companies with diverse teams improve upon compared to their peers that lack diversity. They are more profitable, their ability to innovate improves and employees are more engaged at work, to name just a few advantages. Finally, and most importantly, diverse firms in predominantly white industries open the doors for more minorities to enter the industry.
At a recent Black Business Matters webinar hosted by the Los Angeles Business Journal
and the Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce, colleagues from around Los Angeles and I were able to talk about how companies can improve their diversity.
One of the focuses of our wide-ranging conversation provided actionable takeaways for leaders on how they can bring more black professionals into the workplace. Although all organizations and industries are different and there is no one-size-fits all solution, acquisition, retention and talent development are certainly fundamental steps businesses can take.
Acquisition: Opening the door and being purposeful about who you lead through it
A diverse workforce starts with a diverse talent pool, and companies that fail to think about the diversity of the candidates they bring through the door for interviews have already lost the first, and arguably easiest, opportunity to foster a diverse workplace.
Data is the best place to start. A Harvard Business Review article from December 2019 analyzed a study done by the PGA to see why the predominantly white, male dominated sport was failing to attract diverse employees. The results of study led the organization to increase accessibility to jobs in golf, proactively boost awareness and build accountability in their hiring. Industries like accounting can learn from their solutions.
When looking for new talent, accessibility begins with companies going out of their way to recruit diverse professionals. Recruiters with an intentional diversity strategy will target specific schools, regions and professional organizations that are home to the diverse professionals that will unlock the benefits a diverse workplace has to offer.
Additionally, a key to accountability is implementing bias training programs for recruiters and interviewers. Everyone has biases, whether they know it or not, and the only way to begin to root them out is to help people be able to identify them in the first place. Not being cognizant of the biases that we all carry will naturally have an impact on who companies hire and weigh down any effort to create a more diverse community.
Retention: Creating an environment of inclusion
More important than hiring diverse professionals is creating an inclusive culture that allows them to stay, and a well-implemented diversity and inclusion plan will prioritize that environment from the website to the C-suite.
People are more likely to stay at companies where they feel like they belong. Using that knowledge, it is imperative for company literature (the website, handbook, social media presence, etc.) to look like the people they want to employ.
Without those building blocks, many will likely leave. The National Association of Black Accountants
notes that only 9 percent of accountants are black, and that number goes down even further when it comes to CPAs and higher level professionals. That small population — in addition to minorities being heavily recruited by companies hoping to boost their diversity — makes it easy for black professionals to leave, and the result is a low retention rate.
By fostering an inclusive environment, companies are more likely to maintain their diversity and create more paths to success for diverse professionals in their field.
Talent Development: Growing and promoting diverse talent
Once a company has made a commitment to hiring a diverse workforce and created an environment that is inclusive of those colleagues, the final step is facilitating their ability to climb the corporate ladder. Diversity, inclusion and belonging needs to be a long-term strategy and is not one that ever ends. Companies that are committed to that will help diverse employees advance their careers.
A method proven to support development and foster more inclusive environments is mentorship programs. Organizations that invest in these programs find mentoring to be a powerful tool that allows mentees to benefit from someone senior taking interest in their career and offers opportunities for minorities to be promoted and climb the ladder.
“Better” is a broad term, but workplaces who commit to being “better” places for their diverse talent through acquisition, retention and talent development will be the ones to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce.
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