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Avoid #DiversityFail: Three elements at the heart of successful Diversity & Inclusion strategies
President, Technologies and Chief Diversity Officer, Randstad, Canada
The pandemic presented a multitude of radical changes in a relatively short period of time. Changes that would have taken months or years to implement happened in a matter of days for many organizations. Of all of the changes set in motion over the past 18 months, I hope we’ll see a continued focus on Diversity & Inclusion, along with meaningful change in how we think about, implement and measure Diversity & Inclusion these efforts.
Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen a renewed interest in D&I. Frankly, it’s about time. For many years, the business case for diversity has focused on the bottom line: diversify the workforce, outperform more homogenous organizations. While numerous studies bear this out, it positions diversity as a problem to solve, or worse yet, a box to check.
Today’s reality demands a different approach and it starts with courage and conviction. And let me warn you: it may require radical rethinking. Start with this, if you still feel a business case is needed for D&I, you’re already a decade behind. D&I should be embedded in business strategy, not in parallel or operating in a sole department. If you don’t have a strategy, time to pony up and implement it, or risk the sustainability of your business.
The organizations succeeding in this space – diversifying their workforce at every level, while building and fostering cultures of respect, inclusion and belonging – share three critical elements.
How is your organization measuring up?
Change starts at the top
Leaders set the tone for an organization. When leadership demonstrates a genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion, employees will share their commitment. The advice to women in leadership is clear: ask for clarity around the commitments in advancing women and the overall D&I strategy, work collectively with key stakeholders in the organization to bring a collective voice to the problem (this is not your fight alone). This won’t be easy work. It will demand frank, difficult conversations and reviews of the processes and procedures that have upheld the status quo while holding others back. However, acknowledging the barriers, relentlessly working at removing them, and embracing your role as a change champion will encourage your team to join you on the journey. Let’s not overlook the fact that white women have been the greatest beneficiaries of diversity programs to date. I see it as my role to ensure the path to diversity, inclusion and leadership expands beyond this group within my own organization, and with our clients.
Be forewarned: Words from leadership must be matched by actions. Failure to follow through will have negative consequences. As women in leadership roles, we know what it’s like when someone tells us what they want us to hear, instead of how they’re really going to commit to change. Today, we must be the change we want to see.
More than wishful thinking: strategy and accountability
Diversity and Inclusion needs to be a strategic, long-term focus and it requires measurement and reporting – just like any other business goal. Plans and progress should be thoroughly and thoughtfully communicated, both internally and externally, with clear KPIs. Some organizations are reporting their results annually, while others are tying financial incentives to diversity and inclusion goals to ensure all employees are engaged and accountable.
Measuring progress brings legitimacy to diversity and inclusion platforms because goals are supported by real world data, enabling organizations to enact meaningful change. This accountability is critical. Unfortunately, many organizations are falling short.
In a recent survey conducted by Randstad Canada with Ipsos, 55% of Canadians reported their organization has D&I goals. Yet the way companies share these goals was split:
- 49% communicate their goals publicly
- 25% share their goals internally only
- 25% do not share their goals*
It’s shocking – and dismaying – that half the companies with diversity and inclusion goals either don’t share them externally, or don’t share them at all. In our current climate, diversity and inclusion should not be shrouded in a layer of secrecy – especially in light of the fact 66% of workers in Canada consider diversity and inclusion important when they’re looking for work. This number rises to 70% for full-time workers and 75% for managers. D&I is a continuous learning journey that must be approached with curiosity, humility and transparency.
Develop and Champion meaningful diversity and inclusion training
The organizations transforming to become more inclusive recognize the value of ongoing, multi-faceted training programs, but many employers are falling behind.
Let’s look at some recent statistics from Canada, where I’m based. Despite Canada’s reputation as a multicultural, inclusive society, many corporate diversity efforts are failing. When asked if their workplaces offer training programs to promote inclusivity, Canadian workers were divided. Less than half (43%) of working Canadians indicated their employer offers training programs. Only 29% deemed the training effective, while 14% said their employer offers training but it’s not effective.
True diversity and inclusion practices encourage learning from others, and from the experiences of individual employees, as well as the communities your business operates within. That means identifying programs and training that will reflect these diverse realities and be open to input from employees. All of this will contribute to creating a culture of understanding and belonging. Imagine the impact on your business and community if your workforce is able to show up as their real selves, empowered to be their best? Now that’s the recipe for innovation – and retention!
There are no quick fixes when it comes to Diversity & Inclusion. Meaningful change requires unwavering commitment and steady, ongoing improvement. Each small step contributes to big picture changes, but it can be hard to know which step to take. The solution? Don’t be afraid to seek help, both within your organization and beyond. I want to tell you again, this won’t be easy work – for you, as a woman in leadership, or for your organization – but it will be among the most important work you will do in the coming years and for the next generation of leaders.
Carolyn Levy is the President of Technologies and Chief Diversity Officer at Randstad Canada. A forward thinker, creative problem solver, and dedicated team player, Carolyn plays an active role in Randstad’s efforts to promote lifelong employability and foster fresh attitudes towards diversity and inclusion across industries.
Carolyn thrives on breaking down barriers in order to forge meaningful career pathways and help people from different backgrounds reach their full potential. As technological and social changes continue to transform the world of work, Carolyn empowers organizations to create more sustainable, diverse, and inclusive work environments.
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