Four Enterprise-Friendly Diversity and Inclusion Program Ideas
When racial justice protests swept the World during the summer of 2020, workplaces and their leaders grappled with how to support their employees during weeks of unrest. Companies tried initiatives like creating safe spaces, encouraging colleagues to take PTO to process and grieve, and hosting company-wide meetings to talk about the turmoil.
This historic time highlighted for many Black and underrepresented employees how ill-equipped corporations were to meet their needs. It spotlighted the need for the substantial transformation necessary to make workplaces welcoming and supportive spaces for people from underrepresented backgrounds. This is why companies are transforming their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
A key way to create a more inclusive workplace is through ongoing diversity and inclusion programming. Putting these programs into practice can be particularly tough for large enterprises, because of the work required to scale up initiatives to serve their thousands of employees. To get you started, here are four areas for HR professionals to consider when transforming their organization into a more inclusive and equitable workplace.
Create Opportunities for Continuous Feedback
Continuous feedback loops are ways to consistently check how employees feel about workplace culture and monitor ongoing efforts to improve diversity. One of the most common methods for implementing this is monthly or quarterly employee engagement surveys conducted by an organization’s HR department. There are other ways to take pulse checks besides a survey, such as a virtual “suggestion box” where employees can anonymously submit feedback at any time.
Providing anonymous feedback channels is important. Put succinctly in one HR blog, anonymous feedback provides the truth and protects the vulnerable. It’s likely that underrepresented groups do not make up the majority of your workforce, and sharing instances of racism or sexism can be difficult when the majority of people have not experienced them. Anonymity allows for honesty even when it’s uncomfortable for the person reporting it.
Outside of formal feedback channels, HR reps should also embrace an open-door policy for employees. It’s vital that members of marginalized groups have opportunities to share their experiences outside the regular “chain of command” in their team.
Of course, a suggestion box won’t improve your company culture if the suggestions aren’t followed. Creating a meaningful feedback loop will provide companies more authentic and honest engagement, since employees will know that their concerns are being taken seriously and their job won’t be at risk if they share complaints about their experiences. This will also create a culture that values employee input and makes an effort to enact change, which will drive engagement.
Create Culturally-Inclusive Time Off Policies
Creating a truly welcoming and multicultural workplace starts with awareness. Companies should keep a public calendar that reflects the holidays celebrated by everyone in the organization. You can easily share these dates using a shared calendar on Gmail or Outlook. If you’re not sure which to include, research and include the major religions in the countries that your employees are located in.
Honoring an employee’s culture goes beyond wishing them a happy holiday. A workplace that champions diversity should be structured in a way that allows for work coverage and flexible time off to accommodate cultural traditions. As well as offering paid time off for national holidays, companies can allot employees a certain number of floating holidays, so workers can choose to observe the celebrations that are most meaningful to them.
Leaders should also be sensitive to the limitations of different religious observances. Some traditions, like the Muslim holiday Ramadan, call for fasting, which could leave employees tired or hungry. Respecting the elements of religious and cultural holidays is a key part of being a culturally competent and thoughtful leader.
Create Task Forces to Address Areas of Change
Enlist your employees, alongside company leadership, to help shape a more equitable workplace. Collaborative task forces give employees power and decentralize leadership, so that more voices can be heard.
A great example of this is Salesforce’s Racial Equality and Justice task force. In response to racial justice protests, the company gathered employees, leadership, and external advisors to address creating racial equality in the workplace, addressing four areas of their business - people, philanthropy, purchasing, and policy. The task force leans on BOLDforce, its employee resource group for Black employees, for guidance.
In the year following the task force’s creation, Salesforce has built a company-wide training program to address microaggressions, expanded their underrepresented minorities development program, and launched an equality resource guide.
Implement a Formal Mentoring Program
Members of majority groups often get informal mentoring from leaders (the classic scenario is an older white boss taking his protégé out for a round of golf). Mentorship is meant to leverage the knowledge and experience of a senior employee on behalf of their mentee and can be a critical step in advancing a junior employee’s career. Members of underrepresented groups often don’t have access to these informal opportunities, which is why creating a formalized mentorship program is a key to fostering inclusion in your workplace.
Executives are more likely to choose mentees who look like them. A 2019 survey showed that 71 percent of sponsors say their mentee is the same race or gender as them. Research also shows that women of color (WoC) are least likely to develop these important mentor-mentee relationships. And without a mentor, WoC are missing out on opportunities to meet influential colleagues, get personalized advice, and take their careers to the next level.
For enterprise-sized companies, there are virtual solutions that automate and facilitate the mentoring process for thousands of employees. These platforms can match early-career professionals with experienced employees based on skillsets or interests. Some also provide a curriculum that details what to discuss week over week, along with tips on how to be a good mentor and mentee. Our product, Ten Thousand Coffees, does just that.
Make Diversity and Inclusion Programming a Part of Everyday Work Life
Too often, organizations limit their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to formal seminars or company-wide meetings. To create meaningful change, it’s critical for HR, DEI and business leaders to embed support for underrepresented employees in all facets of the company. If your DEI initiatives actively include strategies to listen to your employees, to respect their cultures, to address concerns head on, and to provide active support, they will start to positively transform your company culture for underrepresented groups in a meaningful way.
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