4 Steps for Diversity Team Building

In the last few years, the HR world has seen a shift in perspective when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Countless studies have been conducted to research the impact that diverse and inclusive cultures have on a company’s goals, and the results have been clear: inclusive organizations consistently outperform their less inclusive equals, being twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets, three times as likely to be high performing, and up to eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes. In addition, with skill shortage being one of the main concerns for future growth, diversity and inclusion strategies offer significant benefits to be gained by widening the pool of potential talent company’s can tap into.

4 Steps for Diversity Team Building

4 Steps for Diversity Team Building
4 Steps for Diversity Team Building

However, while D&I strategies keep gaining traction to this day, leading positions, coveted spots and boards across the globe continue to show a lack of diversity. A 2018 study by Deloitte expressed that women and minorities only made up 34 percent of all board seats in Fortune 500 companies, with only 145 of these companies showing over 40 percent diversity in their boards. Yes, it’s true that these numbers show an increase from previous studies (2010 showed only 54 companies reaching that target), but the truth is that this increase has come at a slow rate.

Research shows that while almost all companies recognize the benefits of a more diverse and inclusive workforce, it’s these same companies that acknowledge that they are unprepared to shift from diversity as a program to inclusion as a business strategy. This is not to say that they are not promoting D&I initiatives within their organizations: they are. But the bottom line is they lack the tools, technology and training necessary to build a highly inclusive workforce. In addition, the lack of structure and a concrete roadmap makes it difficult for them to track and enhance the performance of their existing initiatives, which in turn translates not only into an underperforming strategy but also brings with it all the associated potential costs – from brand erosion and loss of market will to costly lawsuits and employee turnover.

In short, boosting your company’s diversity & inclusion strategies isn’t just the right thing to do – it also offers financial benefits for your organization, access to a wider talent pool, and a chance to better reflect (and thus, satisfy) a growingly heterogeneous customer base.

However, getting started may seem daunting at first. So how can you do it?

Here are four steps for building a more diverse workforce:

1. Commitment from the top

If I had to single out the most crucial step along the journey to diversification, it’s that the entire leadership team must be deeply committed to racial equity, and willing to uphold these values with sometimes unpopular decisions. Change starts by talking about it. The transformation requires difficult conversations and embracing being uncomfortable–but the upside is a company culture that’s strong, deep and inclusive, and a business that thrives because its clients are getting the diverse talent they seek. 

2. Make a point to talk about it, regularly

I grew up in a white society that taught us not to see the color of someone’s skin. But silence about race in dominant culture denies employees of color a safe space to share daily experiences where race is an ongoing factor.

When we openly–and privately–participate in conversations around race, it can lead to significant personal and professional growth, as well as business benefits. Ensure these conversations are happening by hosting company-wide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training or by bringing in a trained DEI consultant to facilitate recurring group conversations. Extending an invitation to the greater professional community could attract outside talent who share similar values around the importance of equity.

3. Build relationships with communities of color

You can’t identify new channels without building relationships with underrepresented groups. Be more intentional about your outreach to communities of color by attending networking events, partnering with culturally specific community organizations, or getting coffee with leaders of color. Many cities have organizations and initiatives dedicated to helping companies connect with resources and like-minded businesses that have made diversity and inclusion a priority, such as Partners in Diversity and TechTown Diversity Pledge in Portland.

Involvement with local leaders and organizations like these is a stepping-stone to building fruitful relationships and connections.

4. Institute workplace programs

A study by the Kapor Center examined why tech workers leave high-paying jobs. It found unfairness was the primary driver of turnover, with underrepresented men being the most likely to leave due to unfair treatment. Still, many companies think their job is done once employees are in the door.

But retention is an ongoing challenge that reinforces the need to make complete corporate culture shifts. When I asked one of our employees why he chose to work here and, more importantly, why he stays, he said: “Seeing other employees of color who are excellent at what they do professionally, while being fully themselves, without having to code-switch–I’ve never felt that at any other company.”

Mentoring programs can also be critical to leadership development, helping to identify rising leaders of color while providing them with valuable support and feedback.

These are just a few of the actions we’ve taken so far, but there’s still much to do. Making sure these changes stick will require an ongoing commitment from the top-down, but it’s an investment that’s well worth it for both our business and employees, now and in the long run.

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