6 Ways to Assess Your Organization’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

How can leaders rethink the implementation of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) training and initiatives to maximize returns on their people and culture?

Successful EDI training involves the embedding of equitable practices, procedures, and policies in every facet of an organization, and it is not offered as a stand-alone training or performative.  Organizations that rush to implement EDI training programs without reviewing their motivation, internal practices, policies and programs have difficulty sustaining the changes they wish to see, and return to the previous paradigm for their organizations. For an organization to develop, value, and profit from EDI training, it requires authentic buy-in to the benefits that can be had for all stakeholders; from employees, managers, customers and owners: to move from traditional “Human Resources” organization to a “People and Culture” organization[1].

When recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, leaders should consider reflecting on the institutional, systemic, and personal biases they hold, as it is these biases that form the cultural inertia which undermines real lasting change.

Bias, in all its forms, is an integral part of who we are and is developed, nurtured, and sustained by our upbringing, culture, and society at large. There is no escaping it, and understanding how it impacts marginalized workers is essential in creating a work culture that is inclusive and financially successful. Bias is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “the action of supporting or opposing a particular person or thing in an unfair way because of allowing personal opinions to influence your judgment.”

Biases can be unconscious or conscious beliefs, opinions or actions. For example, implicit biases are unconscious attitudes or stereotypes that affect our decisions and treatment of others. Explicit biases are conscious attitudes and beliefs we have about individuals or groups. In the work environment, biases begin at the recruitment phase and can affect who we interview and hire. It impacts the retention phase of employment by affecting worker evaluations, promotions, and salary advancement. Simply put, bias (whether explicit or implicit) impacts our interactions with others and at times creates situations where others are excluded or unjustly treated, creating a toxic work environment. This can impact professional and personal outcomes, build resentment, and discourage full commitment to the organization. Meaningful improvement in these channels requires leaders to have the courage to actively interrogate and challenge their own personal and institutional biases; to build better, more resilient, more diverse cultures to get the best out of their people.

Cultural competency-based questions are used in schools by educators to determine how to best to support diverse student communities. Organizations can use a similar framework as a pre-emptive guide before hiring or implementing diversity initiatives.

  1. Whose voices are present?

Take the time to consider who is heard, who isn’t, and why they aren’t being heard? What settings silence the participation of employees? What settings enable fulsome participation of employees?

  1. How are they represented?

Does the diversity in your workforce go beyond visible characteristics of race and gender? Are there any invisible diversities/characteristics such as social status/class, gender identity, expression or orientation, and disability (physical, mental, or neurological) and do they intersect? How does this intersection of identities impact the employee and their employment?

  1. Whose voices are absent?

Are there voices that are absent due to a lack of representation or a lack of presence in decision-making settings? Is dissension appreciated or undervalued and silenced? Are neurodivergent thinkers given time to voice their opinions and thoughts?

  1. What and whose knowledge is recognized and valued?

Is knowledge that is not Eurocentric, colonial based or ableist valued? Are the same employees recognized and why? Is the recognition culturally competent?

  1. Do resources acknowledge as many people and perspectives as possible?

Are employee handbooks, procedures, and policies aware of visible and invisible biases in their presentation, the language used, and expectations? Are the documents and resources easily accessible?

  1. What assessments and evaluation tools are mostly used and are they equitable?

What are the metrics involved in employee evaluations? Is the assessor cognizant of any biases they may hold when evaluating an employee? What are the mechanisms to mitigate bias in evaluation, or to provide re-evaluation when complaints arise?

Review and reflect on the responses to the cultural competency based questions by considering the following:

  1. Did the responses challenge your understanding of the organization and how it functions? Why?
  2. What is the organization doing well? What are they not doing well?
  3. What areas require change?
  4. What type of learning will you and your organization engage in to implement these changes and initiatives?

Organizations who have unpacked their workplace culture by reflecting on past and current inequities and who lean into the discomfort can begin to develop initiatives that focus on recruitment and retention strategies, policies, procedures, and expectations to create a progressive work culture. It is the responsibility of leaders to communicate their commitment in making EDI a part of every facet of their organization by sharing the results of their discussions, their vision, next steps and learning opportunities for employees. EDI initiatives are not quick and easy solutions to reduce the impact of discrimination and employee flight, they take time, and require ongoing conversations that provide the tools for employees to navigate the workplace.

Taking the time to reflect on the people they employ, the organizational culture that includes the policies and procedures implemented, and investing in strategic needs-based training is essential. Embedding time and flexibility to have ongoing, meaningful conversations with follow-up so that changes can be made to move forward must be a priority. Continuing to review, reflect and strategize allows for integration of strong EDI-based initiatives that are flexible and supportive of current and future employees is the new way of doing business.

When implemented with care and empathy, EDI initiatives and training can support previously marginalized and historically excluded employees to feel a greater sense of belonging and inclusion,[2] while also allowing others to step up and help create a positive work environment.

 

About the Author

Kalpana Makan

Kalpana Makan. Over a 30-year career in the education sector, Kalpana has worked to facilitate the success of students and teachers from all backgrounds. Embedding the principles of an anti-oppressive framework in her career as a Teacher and Elementary Vice Principal with specialization in inclusive education, language development, and mental health and well-being, has provided her with the skills to navigate various situation with compassion and empathy. Kalpana’s roles as an Executive Staff Officer at the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) in Equity and Women’s Services, and most recently in Professional Learning and Curriculum Services, has helped her develop an expertise in the benefits of EDI and its integration in diverse organizational cultures. For more than 15 years, Kalpana has led ETFO membership programs both locally and provincially; provided organizational environmental scans on programs, policies and demographics; and facilitated presentations at universities, school boards and not for profit organizations on supporting and promoting diverse leadership roles and inclusive and equitable practices. She has trekked to more then 16 countries and has volunteered as an educator and mentor in many of them. She currently lives in the Toronto with her family.

 

Recommended Readings

Asare, J. G. (2022, October 7). Have We Been Wrongfully Vilifying DEI Training? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/janicegassam/2022/10/07/have-we-been-wrongfully-vilifying-dei-training/

Broomhall, T. (2020, September 8). Are your colleagues really, ok? How to ask and offer support. Checkpoint. https://checkpoint.cvcheck.com/are-your-colleagues-really-ok-how-to-ask-and-offer-support/

Carter-Rogers, K., Smith, S., & Tabvuma, V. (2022, November 27). Diversity in the workplace isn’t enough: Businesses need to work toward inclusion. The Conversation. http://theconversation.com/diversity-in-the-workplace-isnt-enough-businesses-need-to-work-toward-inclusion-194136

Dobbin, F., & Kalev, A. (2016, July 1). Why Diversity Programs Fail. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2016/07/why-diversity-programs-fail

Government of Canada, S. C. (2022, October 26). The Daily—Immigrants make up the largest share of the population in over 150 years and continue to shape who we are as Canadians. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/221026/dq221026a-eng.htm

Karimi, A. (2022, December 22). How equity, diversity and inclusion policies are becoming a tool for capitalism. The Conversation. http://theconversation.com/how-equity-diversity-and-inclusion-policies-are-becoming-a-tool-for-capitalism-196534

Langton, J. (2022, October 26). Immigration boosts workforce, combats aging. Investment Executive. https://www.investmentexecutive.com/news/research-and-markets/immigration-boosts-workforce-combats-aging/

Lobell, J. (2021, December 7). Liberating Human Resources: Finding a Path to a New HR Paradigm. Non Profit News | Nonprofit Quarterly. https://nonprofitquarterly.org/liberating-human-resources-finding-a-path-to-a-new-hr-paradigm/

Peiker, S. (2023, February 8). Council Post: Why And How To Evolve From Human Resources To People And Culture. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2023/02/08/why-and-how-to-evolve-from-human-resources-to-people-and-culture/?sh=fa4e9c54c454

Secretariat, T. B. of C. (2020, September 14). Many Voices One Mind: A Pathway to Reconciliation [Education and awareness]. https://www.canada.ca/en/government/publicservice/wellness-inclusion-diversity-public-service/diversity-inclusion-public-service/knowledge-circle/many-voices.html

Stewart, J. (2022, March 15). 4 Steps to Achieve Sustainable DEI Transformation | Queen’s University IRC. https://irc.queensu.ca/4-steps-to-achieve-sustainable-dei-transformation/

 

Footnotes

[1] Peiker, Sarah (2023, 02, 08); Why And How To Evolve From Human Resources To People And Culture, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2023/02/08/why-and-how-to-evolve-from-human-resources-to-people-and-culture/?sh=5d58a3dd4c45

[2] Gassam Asare, Janice (2022, October 07), Have we been wrongly vilifying EDI training? https://www.forbes.com/sites/janicegassam/2022/10/07/have-we-been-wrongfully-vilifying-EDI-training/?sh=139c0f973b35

4 Steps to Achieve Sustainable DEI Transformation

In recent years, organizations have turned their human resource energies to enhancing workforce diversity, fostering inclusive workplace cultures and addressing systemic barriers to employment equity. These efforts are simply the right thing to do, and they also reflect leaders’ growing appreciation that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts enhance organizational success. From being able to attract and retain talent, to being more able to innovate and problem-solve, the benefits are plentiful.

Despite these benefits, organizational efforts are not always effective in achieving long-term sustained impact. This work is highly complex and nuanced and, as such, requires careful planning and organizational-wide understanding and commitment. While success requires leadership champions and workplace-wide roll-out, long-term transformative change in this area requires powerful conversations and buy-in across all levels and corners of the organization.

What this means is that at its core, enhancing DEI is about transforming organizational norms, structures and culture. And as with all significant organizational change, without careful attention to how DEI strategies are approached and implemented, the culture change will not be sustained.

Emerging research is identifying some of the success factors that support successful workplace DEI implementation strategies. A 2020 report from McKinsey[1] reveals that those organizations whose DEI efforts have achieved measurable and sustained change share common elements. Specifically, these organizations:

  • Approach DEI efforts in an organizational-led manner with strong leadership commitment
  • Articulate clearly how DEI initiatives support organizational goals
  • Possess a strong culture of accountability
  • Deploy bold initiatives related to inclusion

How do you turn these aspirational elements into concrete actions your organization can take now to enhance its DEI initiatives? This article proposes four practical and foundational steps to begin your workplace DEI planning. Together with the aspirational elements listed above, they propose a path forward that will maximize the likelihood of transformational and impactful DEI changes in your workplace.

Step 1. Know where you’re starting from

The first and most important step in an organizational DEI plan is to clearly understand your current workplace culture. No two DEI strategies are the same. As such, it is impossible to approach this work in a formulaic manner. Your DEI strategy needs to be crafted to address your unique organizational challenges. Knowing your “starting place” requires assessing your current workplace culture through organizational data, surveys and focus groups to identify gaps and areas requiring attention.

To frame your workplace assessment, you may want to consider following three distinct areas of inquiry:

  • Diversity: How diverse is your current workforce? Do you notice varied perspectives, strengths, identities and backgrounds across departments? Are certain identities over-represented at particular levels of the organization?
  • Equity: What systemic barriers – policies, norms, practices – are impeding equity of opportunity for particular segments of your workforce? How might they be addressed?
  • Inclusion: What does it feel like to work in your organization? How inclusive is the workplace culture and do all employees feel they belong?

Once you have explored these questions and identified emerging themes, you will be in a place to have meaningful conversations about setting your goals for change and determining how to achieve those goals.

Step 2. Establish accountability structures

Doing this work is complex and takes time. To ensure success, it is essential to demonstrate an organization-wide commitment, starting from the top down. Your leaders need to show that they understand the importance of DEI and are working for change in this area.

Having a clear structure of governance is a proven way to ensure accountability. Consider the following questions when creating a governance structure for your organization’s DEI initiatives:

  • What structure will be most effective to ensure all voices are contributing?
  • Who will ultimately be responsible for the work?
  • How often will you meet?
  • How will you ensure representative and diverse voices are included?

Step 3. Develop a DEI vision statement

A strong DEI vision statement is an articulation of your organization’s ultimate reasons for engaging in this work and what you want to achieve. Creating a statement serves a number of purposes, including:

  • Demonstrating the organization’s commitment to fostering an inclusive workplace culture
  • Establishing a common vocabulary across the organization to facilitate employee engagement and understanding
  • Helping employees understand how their own job duties connect to the organization’s overall DEI efforts
  • Enhancing the organization’s employment value proposition

Your vision statement sets the tone and direction for the initiative and should resonate with and engage all employee groups, guiding the work that they do every day to enhance DEI. Creating a strong vision statement is not an easy task; check out Ongig’s article Top 10 Diversity Statements for some helpful tips and examples of statements that stand out.[2]

Step 4. Develop a project plan and measure success

Once you have undertaken the first three steps, you will be well-positioned to develop a project plan and roadmap to help you reach your goals. Best practices in this area include:

  • Creating a project plan with clear and realistic timelines and measurable goals
  • Involving employees at all levels of the planning
  • Identifying ways to engage with staff and to increase understanding and appreciation
  • Designing staff and leadership training on related DEI topics

McKinsey’s identification of the importance of having a strong culture of accountability is relevant here. Your project plan should be ambitious in its attempts to address the gaps you’ve identified in your organization. Similarly, a culture of accountability is one that takes the time to measure and report on progress. This, too, should be built into your plan.

Conclusion

Like all large and complex endeavours, the benefits accrue when you set a vision for where you want to be and then put in place the structures needed to support your work to get there. In the case of enhancing DEI in the workplace, these structures include a team of diverse individuals and a clear and actionable plan to achieve measurable change.

Remember that this paradigm-shifting work takes time and commitment. Investing in these first steps will ensure you have a strong foundation upon which to build more specific strategies.

To summarize, you need to:

  1. Know where you are starting from
  2. Commit to the work by setting up an accountability structure
  3. Develop a DEI vision statement
  4. Develop a project plan that includes clear goals that address the identified gaps and measure your success

If you follow this overall planning framework, your organization will be on the right path to achieve its DEI vision and see sustainable, transformative change.

 

About the Author

Janet Stewart

 

 

 

 

Janet Stewart is a human resource and organizational development consultant whose primary focus is on maximizing workforce engagement.  Her work is informed by her 20-plus years working in public sector leadership roles. In addition to her Master’s in Adult Education, Janet has a Certificate in Conflict Resolution from the Justice Institute of BC, a graduate Certificate in Organizational Coaching from UBC, and an Organizational Development Foundations Certificate from Queen’s IRC.  She is a Qualified Mediator with ADR Institute, is a Certified Coach with the International Coaching Federation and is PROSCI® change-management certified. Her book Hiring Well: Building Strong Selection Practices in K-12 was published in April 2021.

 

Footnotes

[1] Dixon-Fyle, S., Dolan, K., Hunt, V., & Prince, S. (2020, May 19). Diversity wins: How inclusion matters. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters

[2] Barbour , H. (2020, September 17). Top 10 diversity mission statements. Ongig Blog. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://blog.ongig.com/diversity-and-inclusion/diversity-mission-statement/

Developing an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Program

The issue of racism and ongoing oppression of minority groups is well documented. Leadership must recognize their unconscious and implicit biases to begin to help organizations become inclusive.

Leaders who are engaged will recognize inequities and will also recognize bias as well as disrespect and incivility. By addressing these issues through education and formal programs, leaders will help foster the development of others in overcoming historic barriers to both employment and customer service.

There are also limited dedicated resources or programs that assist with equity, diversity and inclusion programs. Often programs are completed off the corner of one’s desk to obtain the check mark. Strategies are required for dedicated resources, education, as well as an acknowledgement that we must foster an environment of equity and inclusivity and become committed to listening, learning and understanding to ensure every person can work and receive care safely, openly and honestly.

Download PDF: Developing an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Program

Trust Yourself First: Addressing DEI Using Emotional Intelligence

Think of the last time you questioned how much you trust yourself – to make a tough decision on your own, to initiate a tough conversation with someone not knowing if you can handle how it goes, to admit to others you were wrong, to learn something new, or to simply be honest with yourself? Exploring your self-trust is what I call “inner work”, and it is foundational to your contribution to addressing one of the most critical forces of our time – creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) workplace.

As organizations continue to make and refine plans for a hybrid workplace, they are also focusing on the leaders’ top five priorities for 2021. According to the July 28, 2021 issue of HRD Magazine, diversity, equity and inclusion is number two.[1]

Let’s explore how trusting yourself will help you to listen, learn (and unlearn), and be extremely open to your role in making a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.

Addressing workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is one of the most prominent focuses of organizations today. It is a business imperative.  With all the reports and headlines capturing our attention (as it should), many leaders I work with find themselves overwhelmed with closing the many gaps, for example:

  • “A 2020 Ipsos poll found 60 percent of those surveyed see systemic racism as a serious problem and a majority believe more needs to be done to ensure equality for all Canadians”[2]
  • “But what surprises some people is how far behind Canada is compared with other OECD countries in narrowing the pay gap between men and women. Of the 36 OECD countries, Canada ranks 29th.”[3]

There are some good examples of well-designed policies and practices for corporate DEI efforts to be successful.   As you grow in your ability to trust yourself to learn and unlearn, here are a few ways to get started to trust yourself more.  The emotional intelligences to lean into are:

  • Empathy
  • Interpersonal relationship-building
  • Stress tolerance
  • Self-awareness

Empathy

Empathy is recognizing, understanding, and appreciating how other people feel.  Empathy involves you being able to articulate your understanding of another’s perspective and behaving in a way that respects other people’s feelings (MHS).  A recent example is Penny Oleksiak’s reflection on how her relay team leveraged empathy over time to achieve:

“I’ve grown a lot as a person in the last five years,” said Oleksiak. “I think we’re all so supportive of each other when someone else is going through a tough time. … Having a team that’s that professional, that empathetic, that amazing, you don’t see that anywhere else in the world.” (Tokyo Olympics, August 2021) – Canada’s most decorated Olympian[4]

To trust yourself to be empathetic, really be present to listen to someone’s reply about what would make a team meeting more inclusive so all can contribute in a way that works for them. Trust that you can learn to set up a team meeting based on what they said – and to also unlearn or stop doing something that didn’t help.  An example question – “When do you feel most included in a meeting?”.   Your intention doesn’t matter as much as people feeling that you understand and recognize their view – only they can tell you if they feel included.

Interpersonal Relationship-Building

Interpersonal relationships as an emotional intelligence refers to your skill of developing and maintain mutually satisfying relationships that are characterized by trust and compassion (MHS).

Use a coach approach to build relationships with your team members. For example, research has shown that what is known as “political correctness” in the workplace inhibits cross-cultural interactions, when leaders struggling under pressure of rule and regulations limit contact with diverse staff for fear of causing any unintended offense.  A coaching approach, on the other hand, promotes mutual respect and inclusion in a way that raises your interpersonal awareness.[5]

To trust yourself to build interpersonal relationships, engage your team in a discussion about how they define success in the workplace – ask what beliefs and criteria are important.  Trust yourself to build trusting relationships with all people, regardless of your feelings toward them. For example, identify people on your team with whom you have not developed a strong relationship; list areas of these relationships you’d like to improve, and talk with them.

Stress Tolerance

Stress tolerance is an emotional intelligence that involves you coping with stressful or difficult situations and believing that you can manage or influence situations in a positive manner.

High trust relationships lower individual stress. For example, I have noticed that some leaders question their ability to lead the change in shifting their workplace culture to more diverse, equitable and inclusive – because they know it comes with potential conflict and challenging conversations.  This can be so stressful!

Trust yourself to hear difficult things that others may raise, and reframe your role as the one to listen. Listen, listen, listen.  People do want to be heard – that could provide priceless release for people and strengthen level of trust in relationships. The path to DEI workplaces is a journey. Build a strong level of stress tolerance so you can create space for such conversations.

Self-awareness

Self-awareness is “the ability to see ourselves clearly to understand who we are, how others see us, and how we fit into the world around us.”[6]

Trust yourself to learn and use the essential coaching skills to listen with empathy and ask open-ended questions and show your genuine curiosity without judgement. For example, ask your team what you can do to build a more diverse team that you currently have now, or what you can do to ensure the new DEI policies are followed and leveraged. Be open and don’t be afraid to hear that you may need to change your own actions.

Where to go next?

In our Building Trust program, participants complete an online self-assessment of how they currently use emotional intelligence, and their results are woven into the program self-reflections and discussions. A past participant said:

“This program has changed how I think about my role in improving my relationships; there is a lot I can do to become more trustworthy to others. That EI self-assessment was an eye-opener for me.”  

Of all the definitions of trust that we explore in the program, the one most participants gravitate to is this: To talk about trust, Brene Brown uses the acronym BRAVING which stands for: boundaries, reliability, accountability, the vault, integrity, non-judgment, and generosity. Trust is choosing to make something important to you vulnerable to the actions of someone else.[7]

Building trust with others begins with building trust in yourself to do the inner work that you are so capable of doing!  Trusting yourself will help you to listen, learn (and unlearn), and be extremely open to your role in making a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.

Addressing workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is one of the most prominent focuses of organizations today. It is our collective responsibility. The next time you question if you trust yourself, consider your focus on using empathy, growing your interpersonal relationships, strengthening your stress tolerance, and raising your self-awareness.

 

About the Author

Linda Allen-Hardisty

Linda Allen-Hardisty is an organizational development professional (Queens IRC OD Certificate), an executive coach (ICF PCC professional designation), a team coach (EMCC Global Accreditation), and a Forbes Coaches Council contributing member. She’s built a reputation as a vibrant, contemporary voice in the business world by blending her grounding in OD with a practical approach to addressing organizational challenges and opportunities. Over her 20-year OD career, she has helped many leaders – from corporate executives to entrepreneurs – improve their personal and professional success. She is a sought-after facilitator and advisor for executive development, strategy and change, team effectiveness, and emotional intelligence. With a Masters of Education from the University of Regina, Linda’s uniqueness is that, prior to private practice, she fulfilled corporate leadership roles including the Director of Organizational Development in a company listed on the Hewitt Top 50 Employers in Canada and became the first Manager of Strategy and Performance for a municipal government undertaking cultural transformation.

Linda is the lead facilitator for the Queen’s IRC Building Trust program.

 

References

Brady, R. (2021, August 1). Penny Oleksiak becomes Canada’s most decorated Olympian as swim team Finishes Tokyo Olympics with sixth medal. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/olympics/article-canadas-swim-team-finishes-tokyo-olympics-with-sixth-medal-penny/.

Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work, tough conversations, whole hearts. Vermilion.

Eurich, T. (2017). Insight: Why we’re not as self-aware as we think, and how seeing ourselves clearly helps us succeed at work and in life. Crown Business.

Small, T. (2021, August 1). Canadian companies emerge from COVID-19 pandemic with new diversity and Inclusion plans. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-canadian-companies-emerge-from-covid-19-pandemic-with-new-diversity/#comments.

Syed, N. (2021, July 28). Top leadership priorities for 2021 Revealed. HRD Canada. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.hcamag.com/ca/news/general/top-leadership-priorities-for-2021-revealed/292735.

Tanneau, C and McLoughlin, L. (2021, 06 21). Effective Global Leaders Need to Be Culturally Competent | The International Coaching Federation. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://hbr.org/sponsored/2021/06/effective-global-leaders-need-to-be-culturally-competent.

Zink, L. & Squires-Thompson, K. (2021, August 1). Opinion: Companies, get your pay equity act together. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-companies-get-your-pay-equity-act-together/.

 

Footnotes

[1] Syed, N. (2021, July 28). Top leadership priorities for 2021 Revealed. HRD Canada. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.hcamag.com/ca/news/general/top-leadership-priorities-for-2021-revealed/292735.

[2] Small, T. (2021, August 1). Canadian companies emerge from COVID-19 pandemic with new diversity and Inclusion plans. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-canadian-companies-emerge-from-covid-19-pandemic-with-new-diversity/#comments.

[3] Zink, L. & Squires-Thompson, K. (2021, August 1). Opinion: Companies, get your pay equity act together. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-companies-get-your-pay-equity-act-together/.

[4] Brady, R. (2021, August 1). Penny Oleksiak becomes Canada’s most decorated Olympian as swim team Finishes Tokyo Olympics with sixth medal. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/olympics/article-canadas-swim-team-finishes-tokyo-olympics-with-sixth-medal-penny/.

[5] Tanneau, C and McLoughlin, L. (2021, 06 21). Effective Global Leaders Need to Be Culturally Competent | The International Coaching Federation. Retrieved August 11, 2021, from https://hbr.org/sponsored/2021/06/effective-global-leaders-need-to-be-culturally-competent.

[6] Eurich, T. (2017). Insight: Why we’re not as self-aware as we think, and how seeing ourselves clearly helps us succeed at work and in life. Crown Business.

[7] Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work, tough conversations, whole hearts. Vermilion.

Diversity Hiring to Enhance Inclusive Workplace Culture

With recent social movements and the emergence of complex and highly profiled workplace conflicts, there has been increased awareness of organizations’ responsibility to foster safe, diverse and inclusive workplaces. Organizations large and small have taken action to strategically learn about and implement inclusive policies and practices in order to both enhance employee engagement and foster positive organizational culture.

Prioritizing diversity and inclusion efforts has immeasurable value. Workforces that have diversity of thought, perspectives and ideas are better able to solve problems creatively and collaboratively, and diverse and inclusive organization are more likely to achieve their goals.[1] Another benefit relates to an organization’s ability to attract and retain strong talent. Research conducted by Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion reveals that workers born after 1980 – those who are increasingly the majority of the workforce – are highly motivated to join and remain with organizations that prioritize diversity and inclusion.[2] When you have a diverse and inclusive culture, you have an edge in attracting candidates to work for you.

What is Diversity and Inclusion?

Diversity and inclusion are terms that frequently appear in organizational development literature. Within this context, diversity refers to employee characteristics that are protected under human rights legislation, including race, age, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disabilities and other characteristics. Diversity also includes qualities beyond those protected by human rights such as education, values, knowledge and socio-economic status. Some of these characteristics are visible while others are not. Each of these characteristics influence individual views and perspectives of the world, and the combination of these perspectives impacts the way employees interact with each other in the workplace.

Where diversity is about the makeup of your workforce, inclusion is about culture and belonging. Inclusion, as it applies to the workplace is, in essence, the way an organization’s culture “shows up.” It includes the tangible and intangible workplace culture, environmental factors and rituals that impact how comfortable employees are in being their genuine and authentic selves at work. For example, are multiple voices and perspectives invited to the table to take part in discussions and decision-making processes? Can many differing viewpoints and opinions safely arrive in conversations and be appreciated by others?

Where Do We Start?

Knowing the importance of enhancing diversity and inclusion in our organizations, we must be serious about considering how we can be most impactful. An obvious place to start is to consider how we hire. This critical step in an employment relationship – the entryway to the future generation of workers – is an important part of the solution. By carefully examining our selection practices and using targeted diversity hiring strategies, we can reduce employment barriers facing underrepresented groups and in turn, provide increased opportunities for inclusive workplaces to blossom. Let’s take a closer look at how to actively engage in this process.

Acknowledge and Recognize Bias

The first and most critical step in diversity hiring is to acknowledge that bias – both conscious and unconscious – plays a very real role in the selection process. Research has identified that bias is an inescapable part of being human.[3] These mental shortcuts help the brain conserve energy in decision-making. However, when this instinctual tactic is left unchecked in a selection process, the unintended outcome is that we are more likely to hire because of “gut instincts” and “first impressions,” neither of which are predictive of job performance. Rather, these decisions often result in bringing on new employees who are similar to those already employed in the organization, thereby increasing homogenous workplaces that lack in divergent perspective and creative problem-solving potential.

Knowing and recognizing when bias appears will greatly assist diversity hiring. If you become aware of bias, you are more able to understand its impact on decision-making. For example, similarity bias emerges regularly in the hiring process. This natural human condition results in being attracted to people that are more similar to us rather than those who appear different. This can manifest in noticing that an applicant’s background is similar to ours – such as having attended the same school or coming from the same community – and then attributing unwarranted weight to this similarity, even when it has no relation to the job they are being hired for. If we notice this bias as it enters our decision-making processes, we are more able to interrupt it and actively counteract its impact. The same is true of other hiring biases. Being aware of how you may have been triggered by a particular element of a person’s demeanor allows you to consider how it has influenced your perceptions and actions. Only then can you consciously activate strategies to counteract and make better decisions.

8 Strategies for Hiring Diverse Candidates

As important as it is to consciously counteract the impact of individual bias in the hiring process, it is equally important to examine organizational and structural barriers that impede efforts to hire for diversity. The following lists some targeted strategies to reduce barriers and enhance your chance of hiring more diverse candidates.

  1. Make your diversity goals explicitly clear by identifying where you need to strengthen your organization’s diversity. Know your organization’s demographics and ensure diversity hiring goals are incorporated into strategic plans.
  2. Ensure everyone involved in selection is trained on the impact that internal bias plays in the hiring process. An exceptional starting place is the free implicit association test developed collaboratively by Harvard, Virginia and Washington Universities.[4]
  3. Ensure your job postings don’t include bias-laden language. Instead, use gender-neutral and culture-neutral language. Online tools to support this task are abundant.
  4. Carefully consider where and how you will recruit and engage with applicants. Several issues such as leveraging appropriate recruitment channels, enhancing your employment value proposition, and profiling your organization’s commitment to diversity should be articulated.
  5. When shortlisting, consider anonymizing candidates’ personal information such as names and gender to reduce the possibility that this information triggers bias in decision- making.
  6. Build a structured interview process focussing on evaluating only job-related criteria and ensure candidates feel comfortable through the process.
  7. Avoid interviewing one-on-one. Instead, establish interview committees of at least three; and wherever possible, have diverse representation on the committee itself.
  8. When making decisions as to who to move forward to the final interview stage, consider the Harvard Business Review study that determined that having more than one minority candidate in a final interview has a profound impact on the chances that a minority candidate will be selected.[5]

Our hiring processes are the entry-way to diversity and are a foundational step to enable inclusive workplace cultures to take hold. Complemented by a larger organizational commitment to inclusion, these targeted hiring strategies can help foster the growth of a diverse and inclusive workplace where employees can develop a strong sense of belonging. This work is not easy and takes time. Sustained effort, honest conversations and organizational commitment are required. The outcomes are worth it.

About the Author

Janet Stewart

Janet Stewart is a human resource and organizational development consultant whose primary focus is on maximizing workforce engagement.  Her work is informed by her 20-plus years working in public sector leadership roles. In addition to her Master’s in Adult Education, Janet has a Certificate in Conflict Resolution from the Justice Institute of BC, a graduate Certificate in Organizational Coaching from UBC, and an Organizational Development Fundamentals Certificate from Queen’s IRC. She is member of the International Coaching Federation and is PROSCI® change-management certified. Her book Hiring Well: Building Strong Selection Practices in K-12 was published in April 2021.

 

Footnotes

[1] Delivering through Diversity. (2018, January). McKinsey&Company. Retrieved May 12, 2021 from: https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/business%20functions/organization/our%20insights/delivering%20through%20diversity/delivering-through-diversity_full-report.ashx

[2] Smith, C., Turner, S. (2015). The Radical Transformation of Diversity and Inclusion; The Millennial Influence. Deloitte University; the Leadership Center for inclusion. Retrieved May 12, 2021 from:  https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/about-deloitte/us-inclus-millennial-influence-120215.pdf

[3] Henneman, T. (2014, February 09). You, Biased? No, It’s Your Brain. Retrieved May 12, 2021 from: https://www.workforce.com/news/you-biased-no-its-your-brain

[4] This test can be found at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/

[5] Johnson, S. K., Hekman, D. R., Chan, E. T. (2016, April 26). If There’s Only One Woman in Your Candidate Pool, There’s Statistically No Chance She’ll Be Hired. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved May 12, 2021, from: https://hbr.org/2016/04/if-theres-only-one-woman-in-your-candidate-pool-theres-statistically-no-chance-shell-be-hired

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