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4 Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices for Large Enterprises

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Ten Thousand Coffees Team
Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
October 1, 2021

After the summer of 2020, when racial justice protests brought the cruelty and injustice Black people face to the forefront of the world’s mind, big companies made big promises. They pledged money to social justice causes. They committed to creating a better workplace culture. They said they would hire more people from diverse backgrounds. Fast forward 15 months, and there is still more work to be done to make underrepresented people feel accepted and championed in the workplace.

To create a company that supports and promotes underrepresented groups, leadership must commit to robust diversity and inclusion initiatives and execute them thoughtfully and diligently. If you’re a HR or organizational leader, start with these four practices to continue your DEI efforts.

1. Don’t stop at hiring diverse talent

Hiring candidates from diverse backgrounds should be part of your hiring process. But diversity in hiring won’t have an impact if you don’t set these employees up for success and make them feel included.

“Diversity is a given, inclusion is a choice, equity is a goal. Belonging is our ultimate end-point.”

says Camille Chang Gilmore, Global Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at Boston Scientific.

It’s important to consider that underrepresented candidates will face unique barriers to succeeding at their jobs compared to other employees.

  • McKinsey’s 2020 Women in the Workplace study highlighted many of the challenges women, especially minority women, face in their jobs, including different performance expectations and less support from colleagues and leadership. According to the report, Black women are less likely to report receiving support from their manager, such as checking in on their workload or asking how they are managing their work / life balance. Even more discouraging is that fewer than one in three Black women say their manager checked in on them after the racial upheaval of the summer of 2020.
  • “Compared with their colleagues of other races and ethnicities, Black women have always had distinct, and by and large worse, experiences at work,” the report says. ”They are promoted more slowly than other groups of employees and are significantly underrepresented in senior leadership roles.”

This is the experience of one minority group in the corporate workplace, and it proves the need for sustainable, actionable efforts to improve workplace culture for all underrepresented people. These are two ways you can provide meaningful support to team members.

Implement a sponsorship program
Sponsorship is a type of mentorship that goes beyond advice-giving and incorporates strategizing, networking, and advocacy. Mentors in sponsorship relationships use their knowledge and authority to make things happen for their mentees. The Harvard Business Review recommends that mentees are paired with sponsors of similar backgrounds, so they can get advice from someone who has faced similar challenges. For example, EY matches mentees and mentors at both the service line and local levels. They have multiple programs, including Career Watch and the Inclusive Leadership Program, that pair high-performing early career professionals from underrepresented groups with senior managers or even board members.

Assess how work is being assigned
When looking at this, you should consider how much work one person is doing and what type of work it is. Across industries, women are more likely to be assigned work that does not demonstrate their talents or get them considered for promotions. An uneven distribution of work gives one group, usually white men, an advantage over other groups. Take for example women in engineering. Surveys from the Harvard Business Review show “female engineers of colour were 35% less likely than white men to report having equal access to desirable assignments; white women were 20% less likely.” This issue also presents itself with women volunteering for work that doesn’t lead to promotions. Research says women do this more often than men which can result in slower career progression.

Fixing this problem starts with conscious acknowledgment. When you ask someone to take notes at a meeting or grab coffee on the way into the office, take note of who accepts these tasks or who you ask to complete them. You should also take a more formal approach to understand workloads and quality assignments by conducting monthly or quarterly audits. Then, work with managers to reassign or redistribute, so that everyone is doing an equal amount of meaningful work.

2. Create an inclusive professional environment and set clear standards for behaviour

The rules of how you should behave in a corporate setting are usually unspoken and rooted in the social norms of white and Western culture. This is a problem because expectations need to be written or stated clearly, so everyone can meet them.

This can serve as a restriction for non-white people to fully express themselves — leading to dissatisfaction, exclusion, and harm. A recent article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review highlights how white supremacy exercises itself in a workplace setting, including:

  • The belief that traditional (white or Western) standards and values are objective and unbiased
  • The emphasis on a sense of urgency and quantity over quality or “the ends justify the means”
  • The dedication to perfectionism
  • The reliance on binary thinking

These norms can pervade an office setting through implicit managerial standards or even in a written code of conduct that demands white and Western standards of dress and hair, using “correct” or “proper” styles of speech and word choice in communication, and attitudes toward timeliness and how people work.

By changing policies rooted in bias and clearly communicating expectations, everyone, regardless of their background, will know how to succeed. Here are some ways to make standards for professionalism more fair:

  • Remove dress codes that target non-white ways of dress or personal grooming.
  • Leave out criteria for professionalism that are open to interpretation and can lead to bias, such as work ethic or personality.
  • Write a code of conduct that states things others might perceive as obvious, such as the importance of arriving on time to meetings, helping your colleagues succeed, and writing appropriate emails or Slack messages.

3. Continue to provide remote or hybrid work options

Remote work is popular with many employees but has particular advantages for members of underrepresented groups. It allows people with mobility challenges to work from home, takes the strain off people with economic limitations who can save on commuting costs and live where they choose, and can be less stressful for members of minority groups who don’t feel comfortable with office politics.

Some workers, especially women of colour, don’t want to return to the office because of micro-aggressions, pressure to conform to white standards of professionalism, and high rates of workplace stress and burnout, according to a recent article in The New York Times. The article sites a study that says “97% of Black respondents in the U.S. said they preferred a fully remote or hybrid workplace. Only 3% of Black workers surveyed said they wanted to return fully in person, compared with 21% of white workers.”

Remote work also benefits people with disabilities because it removes the need to travel to an office and gives them uninterrupted access to resources at home. In an analysis from the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, employers in the post-COVID era may be more willing to hire workers with disabilities because remote working is now an accepted practice and remote interactions are normalized.

“The possibility of home-based work does not excuse employers from creating more welcoming and accessible workplaces,” the analysis says. “But it is nevertheless possible that home-based work may cause employers to take a closer look at what workers with disabilities can do rather than at how they fit into a traditional workplace.”

4. Set clear goals and measure them

You have to create measurable outcomes when you implement diversity initiatives, or they risk becoming empty promises. The Boston Consulting Group relies on five key factors when they evaluate a company’s success at making these initiatives happen: recruitment, retention, advancement, representation, and pay. Within these broader categories, you create specific targets, such as increasing the number of Hispanic women who are promoted over a three-year period or lowering the number of Black men who leave your company after one year.

Deloitte produced a publicly available Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Transparency Report that provides an in-depth analysis of their workforce representation, promotions, and retention and breaks down the data further by the role and race of the employee. With this substantial information, they were able to create the following goals for the next five years:

  • Increase the number of Black and Hispanic/Latinx professionals in our US workforce by 50% by 2025
  • Increase US workforce female representation to 45% by 2025
  • Increase the representation of racially and ethnically diverse US Partners, Principals, and Managing Directors (PPMDs) to 25% by 2025
  • Increase the number of female US PPMDs by 25% by 2025

(source: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Transparency Report)

“It is our call to action—to act on opportunities for growth, assess systemic challenges at hand, and create strategies and solutions to overcome them,” says Kavitha Prabhakar, Deloitte’s Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer.

Diversity and equity initiatives require steadfast commitment

Your company must do the work, supporting diverse candidates, creating a culturally competent work environment, offering flexible work options, and clearly measuring the outcomes of diversity initiatives, to reap the benefits. You will not see a greater number of underrepresented groups thrive at your organization unless you commit to change your company’s culture. A successful push to diversify your organization and create a supportive work environment for minority groups will yield a stronger organization that performs better.

To learn how you can build and automate a successful DEI mentoring program, get in touch with our team to see a demo.

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