Fostering diversity within a large organization is easier said than done. Even if you’re lucky enough to achieve a diverse team, you still have your work cut out for you because transforming diversity of thought into inclusive programs and policies is even harder. Fortunately there are a few things you can do now to ignite passion for inclusion among your teams.
Empower Your People
Change agents aren’t born, they’re made. Awareness of the issues facing people outside yourself and your inner circle is an acquired skill. Company leaders have the responsibility to provide their employees with the guidance and resources to transform diversity of thought into action.
As an example, at SapientRazorfish, recruiters and hiring managers undergo Unconscious Bias training in which participants are asked to confront their inherent biases and commit to tangible actions they can take to overcome them. Efforts like this have made a real impact for us. Last year, we achieved gender equality in hiring across North America – 51 percent of all new hires across the organization were women. If your company’s goal is to create change, the first step is to inspire and help your people to be real agents of cultural transformation.
Make Some Room
Great work is born from diversity of experience, and it’s up to you to make sure there’s room at the table for people from all walks of life. A couple years back, we launched our Career Returns Program, through which we hired six people who had been out of the workforce for an extended period. Their life experiences and fresh perspectives helped our work flourish in a way hiring six people with traditional career trajectories might not.
It’s not always about hiring either. It’s just as important to find those within your organization who are already outspoken advocates in their communities or have firsthand experience making their voices heard. Invite them to the conversation and be open to their input so you can create meaningful programming together.
If someone calls you out for a statement or action that shows insensitivity or lack of inclusion, don’t get defensive. That person is speaking from personal experience, and most likely an experience you haven’t had because, well, you’re not them. Take a moment to process before responding.
Change can only occur when we’re willing to acknowledge our biases and prevent them from continuing to infiltrate our work, our teams and our minds. Have the strength to avoid the urge to interject and truly listen – chances are you might learn something.
Avoid Diversity for Diversity’s Sake
Research has shown time and again that diversity is good for business, but there must be thought and meaning behind inclusive initiatives. Now more than ever consumers are hungry for real social consciousness and values from the brands they consume – and they can spot a phony a mile away.
Case in point: to show a rich, white supermodel quelling the clash of police and protesters by presenting them with a can of soda not only downplays the experiences of real protesters, but seeks to capitalize on the reasons minorities have for wanting to make their voices heard.
Consider the motives behind wanting to foster diversity in your organization and let them inspire the actions you’ll take toward inclusivity. Of course, don’t forget to confer with the people who are part of the groups you’re targeting (and always defer back to step 3).
Creating meaningful change can’t happen overnight. It might take time before you see tangible progress in your organization and these are only four steps in a long road toward creating an inclusive workplace for all. That said, with the right people, the right message and the right intention behind it, you can start making the small changes that create a movement.
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