By Cathy Leonard, Cathy Leonard Consulting
The business case for diversity and inclusion (D&I) is strong. Yet with all that is known about the benefits, why are we not seeing significant improvement in the diversity of our workplaces and inclusiveness of workplace cultures? Perhaps part of the problem is knowing where to focus.
Efforts to address diversity and inclusion can lose valuable support when they do not produce meaningful impacts. To help direct your D&I efforts, this article presents eight recommendations to move your organization from “we’re trying” to “we’re seeing real results.”
Understand your organization’s business case. Often organizations are excited to immediately implement initiatives in support of diversity and inclusion. Resist the urge to jump in! First, understand your organization’s specific reasons for pursuing diversity and inclusion; this will help focus your efforts and provide the rationale leaders need in order to commit time and resources.
Resource the work. Like any other important area of your organization, diversity and inclusion requires resources to produce results. This could mean having a person dedicated to D&I, or carving out a portion of time from a team member’s portfolio. Ensure it doesn’t fall in the dangerous zone of being parked on the side of someone’s desk.
Develop a strategy. Figure out where you want to go and develop a plan to get there. Include diverse viewpoints during the strategy development process to ensure relevance and to generate broad support. Align your D&I strategy with your business priorities.
Measure. What gets measured gets done. Use SMART goals and assess impact, not just activities. Otherwise, how will you measure progress? Embed a regular review of D&I metrics with management, and create accountability for achieving goals.
Demonstrate visible and genuine leadership support. Everything leaders do and say signals what is truly valuable to their organization. Showcase your values and how the organization is acting on them in both internal and external communications. It is important to be genuine in your messages and to walk the talk; non-verbal messaging and informal communications can be more powerful than those that are scripted.
Link training to workplace expectations. Training is a tactic, not a strategy. Use training to educate and motivate employees on the links among diversity and inclusion, the organization’s goals, and the work they do each day.
Look beyond HR. Diversity and inclusion have applications far beyond the HR department. Embed D&I throughout the organization by empowering all employees to consider diverse perspectives and inclusivity as part of the way they do their work.
Stay the course. Diversity and inclusion is a long game. You will likely have some early wins, but because cultural change is difficult to achieve, lasting transformation can take years. Find champions and allies that support diversity and inclusion and can help drive change.
The energy and passion around diversity and inclusion continue to grow. Take the opportunity and channel that powerful support in ways that have the highest likelihood of creating the value you truly want. Aim for impact, not activities.
Cathy works with organizations to build diverse workforces and inclusive workplace cultures. Through consulting and training, she helps her clients connect diversity and inclusion strategies to improved business performance.
Prior to launching her consulting firm, Cathy spent 15 years working throughout Canada in the oil and gas industry, focused on human resources, diversity, inclusion, and financial management.
Cathy is a Canadian Certified Inclusion Professional (CCIPTM), has a Master of Business Administration, a Bachelor of Commerce, and a certificate in Leadership and Inclusion.