A comprehensive Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) strategy should be part of the blueprint for any leading organization, but successfully implementing it can be a challenge even for leaders with the best of intentions. An effective strategy will address the inherent disparity or unfairness in the typical hiring process and lead to better representation for traditionally underrepresented groups. But if your diversity & inclusion strategy is not working, it’s important to understand the underlying causes. Let’s look at some of the main reasons why:
Under a quarter of small business owners have said they dedicate more than 30 percent of roles to hiring diverse and minority candidates. However, if a diversity and inclusion strategy begins and ends with the recruitment process, the plan is in trouble.
While addressing any barriers to entry might be the first level of engagement, a strategy must be fleshed out. If its remit is guarded solely by HR executives at the recruitment stage, the organization is not demonstrating sincerity in addressing the wider cultural change and ongoing awareness needed to sustain a diverse workforce.
Lack of Ownership at the Executive Level
To be successful, the strategy must touch every level of employee in the company. On a day-to-day basis, this might look like mid-level leaders acting as stewards internally, owning the responsibility to champion the strategy in their individual teams. However, without a clearly defined endorsement by the leadership team, these efforts can ultimately fall flat.
By reinforcing the position of the strategy in context, the leadership team can also demonstrate their long-term goals. Communicate clearly and explain how the strategy will be a component in future decision-making and describe exactly how the buck stops with C-suite for a robust implementation.
Lack of Follow-Up to Training or Awareness-Building Campaigns
Many companies introduced training and awareness-building D&I programs to employees during or in response to the pandemic. While such programs were a step in the right direction, they must be approached as just one tool in the D&I toolkit — one that requires integration within a bigger strategy. A more effective harbinger of change can be the implementation of a structured mentorship program.
Regularly scheduled training and education sessions about D&I are a great way to keep the strategy at the forefront of conversations at your business. A structured mentorship program helps to personalize the topic while building important connections and relationships internally, in addition to providing a safe space to ask questions.
Lack of Long-Term Commitment
It’s been found that nearly 17 percent of small business owners don’t feel their workplaces are as diverse as they should be, and 64 percent are continuing the conversation about diversity and inclusion. This points to a real appetite among business owners to address diversity issues.
In order to keep this momentum, it’s necessary to create a strategy that integrates future planning while leaving enough room for growth and the refinement of the process. This is often where the strategy of some organizations will fail: They commit to D&I initiatives for a reason or a season but not for a lifetime.
The issues raised by D&I topics aren’t going anywhere. Creating a strategy that’s a long-term commitment to creating change in the organization requires forward planning, integration, and perhaps the advice of external consultants about how best to measure success over time.
Embracing D&I is no small undertaking. Depending on the starting point of the organization, the strategy may need to be part of a wider update to company culture. This will depend on the demographic of the organization itself. The less existing diversity, the bigger the challenges to be surmounted.
Interestingly, small businesses tend to excel when it comes to making D&I initiatives a priority. By embedding diversity and inclusion into company values — essentially inserting it into your corporate DNA — you are sending a message of dedication to change and awareness of the need for ongoing continuous assessment and improvement.
A Commitment to Change
Undertaking a serious, long-term, values-driven D&I strategy means committing to a plan that takes feedback and continuously strives to refine and improve the application of established principles. In doing so, the organization recognizes their responsibility to foster a guiding mindset of diversity and inclusivity.
These values create a living, evolving strategy to be cultivated and cared for. This D&I strategy works because it’s built to encompass a fundamental, impactful part of an organization’s ecosystem.
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