As diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) have become buzzwords in the corporate world, many organizations have adopted culturally sensitive calendars and mandatory DEIA training for employees. Although these practices are a great step in the right direction, there are many not-so-obvious ways that employers can take their DEIA commitments to new levels.
GHJ’s BIPOC Cohort — an employee resource group (ERG) dedicated to educating and driving conversations around diversity, specifically for people of color — recently hosted a fireside chat with GHJ Managing Director Derrick Coleman and Kanarys Head of Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Belonging Dawn Christian discussing non-traditional ways that companies can improve DEIA in the workplace.
To fully understand how to implement DEIA in an organization, it is important to dissect each word of the acronym:
- Diversity truly means differences. When applied in context to identity and identity markers, diversity refers to the different lived experiences behind those identity markers.
- Equity is the rigorous assessment of fairness. Equity is the work that is put into a situation or the dynamic to get on the road to equality. This work is ongoing and changes in response to current needs.
- Inclusion is an invitation. Inclusion refers to who is being included and who is not being included. The work of inclusion is to identify who or what is missing from the conversation and fill in those gaps.
- Accessibility is designing systems to optimize access. This involves reducing and overcoming barriers and ensuring systems are designed so everyone can fully participate.
Diversity in the workplace means the acceptance and inclusion of employees of all experiences and backgrounds. A diverse workplace acknowledges the individual strengths of each employee and the potential they bring.
IMPLEMENTING A GAME-CHANGING DEIA STRATEGY
When I joined GHJ in 2020, the thing that stood out to me the most was the Firm’s commitment to DEIA. I was excited to learn about the many ERGs available to staff and the 60/40 ratio of women to men at the Firm, and I am not alone in this thinking. According to Glassdoor, 66 percent of candidates seek companies that have a diverse workforce.
Embracing and advocating for workplace DEIA not only attracts and retains top talent, it also drives profits and performance. Studies show that corporations identified as more diverse and inclusive are 35 percent more likely to outperform their competitors, 87 percent better at making decisions and produce 41 percent higher revenue.
According to Dawn and Derrick, companies should consider a few steps to successfully implement DEIA initiatives.
RESTRUCTURE HOW DATA IS CAPTURED AND ORGANIZED
Data is essential to the creation and ongoing success of any DEIA strategy. In order to meet the needs of your diverse workforce, it is important to identify those needs. However, it is not always clear which voices are underrepresented.
Aim to gather a deeper understanding of your employees by asking questions about their identity that they are not normally asked about through voluntary self-identification.
The purpose of this is to create an understanding of all employees and their experiences. This information can then be used to look at an organization’s current policies and procedures and ensure that they are inclusive of all experiences and situations.
ENFORCE DEIA BEYOND WORDS
Inclusive workplace policies create a foundation of establishing an inclusive workplace and a culture of belonging. They serve as the framework for regulating employment conditions to consider all employees, including those from marginalized communities. It is very important to review and update company policies on an annual basis to ensure that they are inclusive of all employees.
A company may implement short-term programs to respond to current needs, but these programs and policies should be formally noted in the employee handbook.
Examples of potential policy changes include:
- Expand the hiring process to include candidates from various community outreach programs, job fairs and demographic locations. This ensures that a variety of diverse talent is reached.
- Require training and onboarding materials to be printed in multiple languages. Misinterpretation can lead to lower productivity, lost revenue and, more seriously, injury or loss of life.
- Women make only $0.82 for every dollar men make in 2022. Make sure that employees are paid based on their skills and job title eliminate the influence of unconscious bias due to gender, race or sexual orientation.
- Allow employees from different cultures to observe their holidays. This may require the opportunity to take leave on days that are not covered by the company’s holiday calendar.
- Offer flexible work options for new parents. Accommodating the needs of new mothers is a major step that employers can take to retain and promote female employees.
FILL THE GAPS
When working to create and administer DEIA initiatives, leadership must work to address the interests of all stakeholders. Understanding and preparing to address resistance to new initiatives will improve the chance of a successful transition. It is important to understand that people are products of their own upbringing and past experiences at home and at work. Whether it is conscious or unconscious, generational differences can influence a person’s perspective on DEIA.
If and when resistance arises, it is important to speak to understand and not to judge. Some stakeholders may need additional guidance to help them overcome any unjustified fears or concerns. In this case, they may only be resistant until they are shown how new initiatives will contribute to the organization’s core mission.
I have always favored companies that prioritize DEIA simply because I felt heard. But the discussion between Dawn and Derrick really opened my eyes to how crucial DEIA really is for a company and its employees. When employees feel heard, they are more likely to share their ideas and participate in discussions.
Emphasizing DEIA in the workplace encourages employees from different backgrounds and experiences to share their unique skills and knowledge. By having various viewpoints and perspectives, organizations can succeed in a competitive market.