28 Oct Diversity is a Process, Not a Word
The request for diversity in the workplace is everywhere, but what does it actually mean? Does it mean that you work with people of a different sex, religion, or skin color? Or is it more than that? Many believe that diversity starts with the hiring process, which is why SO many companies have SO many meetings about it. The full weight of adding diversity to the workplace is put on the hiring managers, but let me tell you something – that is actually the last part of creating a diverse workforce. For a company to truly embrace diversity, it has to embrace it in all aspects, from how management leads to how employees follow, from formal meetings to water cooler conversations. It’s about creating a culture where people feel valued, heard and respected.
Over the past few years, diversity has become even more of a hot topic, and companies are racing to show just how diverse they can be. They think they can fix years of allowing a toxic work environment in an instant. Some of these toxic work environments are at the forefront of what is now known as the Great Resignation. Because people constantly feel unappreciated and unseen at their jobs, they are more likely to leave. This makes it harder for businesses to staff their positions, as potential employees can now be choosier about who they work for. As mentioned in a previous blog about the Great Resignation, people are finding they are also not locked into just one location when it comes to job hunting anymore. With remote work on the rise, the whole world is quite literally their oyster.
So what does it take for companies today to truly embrace the importance of diversity in the workforce? Let’s examine that a little more, shall we?
1) Encourage Advocacy
It’s easy to find plenty of literature surrounding the mentor/mentee relationship. And it should be! The connection between a mentor/mentee is undeniably essential. But too often, the burden of this relationship falls on the mentee. They are the ones who have to seek out a mentor, ask tough questions, and lay the groundwork for the relationship. The problem with this model is that many people will go their whole careers without having anyone to look up to – to guide them and be a sounding board. It’s even harder if that person is a minority. Being an advocate, however, is different. Being an advocate reverses this responsibility.
Advocates actively look out for other employees, whether they are new to the company or new to the workforce entirely. They are there to help guide them, answer questions without judgment, and help anticipate any problems they may have. Cesar Herrera recently wrote an article for Forbes where he talks about the importance of having a great advocate in business. He stated that among today’s Fortune 500 CEOs, more than 85% are still white and male, and only 16.8% of more than 33,000 directors at large capital companies were racially or ethnically diverse. With numbers like that, it’s easy to understand why minority employees feel isolated and alone in the workplace. By encouraging your employees to be advocates for one another, you’ll create a warmer and more welcoming environment that promotes communication, problem-solving, and community building. Diversity will naturally follow.
2) Mitigate the Effects of the “Impostor Experience”
The “impostor experience,” as Harvard social science professor Amy Cuddy calls it, is a feeling of unworthiness or portraying fraudulence. It’s neither a disorder nor a syndrome, but it IS real and very problematic. Approximately 85% of employed individuals have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their career – even after having three or more years of work experience. Roughly 80% of men and a whopping 90% of women suffer from impostor experiences. Even more interesting is that only 25% are aware that it exists. Although this phenomenon manifests in all aspects of professional life, let’s start with one of the easiest ways we can ease the Impostor Experience from the start – job announcements.
Today’s job posts are a laundry list of requirements and qualifications; however, are they all vital for the job? If we’re being honest, most of the qualifications are just a wish list. We would love it if the candidate could check all those boxes, but is that realistic? Did you know that women are 16% less likely to apply to a job after viewing it and over all, apply to 20% fewer jobs than men. So why is that? It’s because women will pass by a job if they don’t meet 100% of the requirements. Conversely, men will apply for the job once they meet about 60%. Think of all those amazing candidates companies miss out on because they never get to meet them. Shouldn’t we address our wish lists as such and highlight what’s actually required to get the job done?
3) Diversity Begets Diversity
Your diverse employees are just that: employees. They aren’t trophies to display to the public or spokespeople for their entire demographic. This point is driven home in the New York Times article, ‘When Working for Racial Justice Means Taking Black History Month Off’ which highlights Rhonda Broussard and why she gives her staff every February off.. She runs a diversity, equality, and inclusion organization called Beloved Community in New Orleans. Her work often includes running workshops, writing corporate communications, and working with companies to rethink their hiring strategies. Yet without fail, when February rolled around her company would get slammed with requests. She finally decided enough was enough and started giving her staff the entire month of Feburary off. Diversity should not just be one month of the year.
Working on diversity in the workplace is an all-the-time, ongoing cognitive behavior. Do this, and you will take major strides towards establishing a workplace where minority employees feel empowered to share their opinions, secure in the knowledge that their perspectives are valued and respected. New candidates will see employees from various backgrounds making meaningful contributions to the team. They will then be excited about coming on board, knowing their voice will also be heard. Word will spread, and you’ll begin to see more diverse applications because diversity always grows more diversity.
4) Respect Your Employee’s Background
Times are changing, and gone are the days when employees are expected to make their jobs their number one priority. More focus has been put on the work-life balance, and rightfully so. Having a workforce populated by employees from diverse backgrounds often means accommodating widely differing time commitments. Plus, you need to remember your employees do have a life outside of work.
At first glance, you may not think that promoting a healthy work-life balance for your employees is your responsibility. However, if you take a step back and look at the big picture, you’ll see it’s actually in your best interest. Studies have shown that companies that promote balance see an 89% increase in retention, fewer employee sick days, and a 90% increase in morale. What does that mean for your company? Less money is spent on the constant need for new hires, less money is spent on sick days, and dramatically increased productivity.
Instead of making assumptions, take a good hard look at your company culture and decide if the expectations are realistic for all employees. This will help prevent an unsustainable work-life balance that only benefits those who meet a very specific mold. Brainstorm some changes you can make to allow your employees to have successful personal AND professional lives. After all, only a very narrow type of candidate can make work their top (read: only) responsibility. If that’s the demand you’re making, then be prepared for a very homogeneous workforce void of creativity, out-of-the-box thinking, and innovation.
5) Harassment is Wrong. Always.
Even in 2022 it needs to be said: harassment, bullying, and any other similar behavior is wrong and should never be tolerated. Period. With more employees now telecommuting than ever due to Covid 19, harassment has sadly become harder to catch. According to an article published in Business Insider, this transition has resulted in an uptick of online and offline harassment cases. With decreased foot traffic in what were once populated office buildings, workers are at a higher risk of being harassed without the witnesses present that they would previously have found in a traditional work setting. What’s even more disturbing is that of the 26% of people who have experienced harassment, very few are likely to report it, especially if they are a minority.
Any organization that professes to be committed to diversity will have a well-established workplace harassment policy in place. But it’s important to avoid complacency. Reevaluate your policy regularly. Figure out what is working, what isn’t, and make the changes necessary to ensure that your harassment policy reflects the current workplace environment. More importantly, if an employee reports harassment, it’s your responsibility to take it seriously the first time — REALLY. Investigate, research, and deal with it right away. Back up your words (#metoo #timesup) with deeds in an active and meaningful way.
It’s clear the path to developing a diverse and inclusive workplace has many moving parts, and it doesn’t just fall on recruiting. It won’t happen instantly. It takes time so you must be patient but if you never start, you’ll never get anywhere.
What tips do you have for organizations looking to foster diversity in the workplace? Do you have a great method to encourage your employees’ involvement? Let’s hear it! After all, this is a team effort, and I’m all ears.