How To Put Diversity, Equity And Belonging Commitments Into Practice In The Workplace
Lynee Luque Forbes Councils Member
Instilling diversity, equity and belonging (DEB) in the workplace requires more than compliance and checking boxes — there isn’t a silver bullet strategy that works for every organization. But there is a clear return on the investments you make. Designing a culture where employees feel like they belong ultimately makes your organization more attractive to the best talent, helps meet business goals and creates positive employee experiences.
According to the “2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey,” millennial and Gen Z job seekers want to work for companies that proactively foster DEB in their workplaces. And from a business perspective, creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce is a no brainer: Research from Boston Consulting Group shows that companies with more diverse management experience 19% higher innovation revenue compared to companies with below-average leadership diversity.
Here are several actionable steps both large and small organizations can take to start putting DEB commitments and change into practice:
Make your physical workplace as inclusive as possible.
Enhancing the workplace itself is one of the most visible ways to build inclusivity into your culture. This can include changes to make sure your space is ADA-compliant, restrooms for all genders, pleasant and comfortable nursing rooms that are only used for their intended purpose, and spaces designed to encourage a sense of belonging.
Consider adding a meditation room, for example, where members of your team can step away from the rest of the group to focus on themselves for a moment. Create “microclimates,” working spaces designed to suit different working styles and preferences, from open and collaborative spaces to spaces meant for quiet, solitary thinking. Creating spaces that reflect different working styles helps individuals on your teams feel included and understood.
Facilitate community and belonging with employee resource groups.
Encourage the creation of self-formed employee resource groups. These groups are an important way of cultivating a sense of belonging among employees, providing communities based on shared experiences and perspectives. ERGs also create opportunities for employees who may not normally interact or work together to build relationships, deepening their engagement at work. For instance, ERGs at our company include Black@Envoy, Latinx@Envoy, Queer@Envoy, Women@Envoy and Asian@Envoy.
Designate funding and physical space for each group to host meetings and events, and openly encourage other groups to form. ERGs contribute to the organization’s larger culture in so many ways, but one in particular is may be that it helps your team actively celebrate heritage months and important moments in time for each group, bringing awareness and sparking valuable conversation.
Benchmark your company culture and employee experience.
Employee experience surveys are a key method of understanding how consistent or inconsistent employee experiences are across different groups. By studying anonymous data split across gender, race, age, sexual orientation, gender expression and country of origin, you can identify problem areas that need attention.
Conduct engagement surveys at least twice a year and use the data as a holistic view of how engaged your employees are. This data will spotlight issues you need to address and help leaders understand where they need to develop specific behaviors and practices to map back to your company values. It also provides a standardized way for teams to pass along feedback and make their voices heard, regardless of their team structure or supervisors.
We've taken feedback from surveys and turned it into concrete programs — our values-based recognition program, for example, was born after hearing that employees wanted a structured way to highlight their teammates’ contributions, and our coaching partnership stemmed from feedback that employees wanted help communicating about issues at work.
Reexamine recruitment practices.
To build a more diverse pipeline, start by taking a look at your job descriptions. Remove any gendered language (there are several online tools to help with this), reassess limiting factors like college degrees and unpaid internship experience, and include language that encourages all candidates to apply. Use gender-bias software on all of your job descriptions.
Next, check unconscious bias when reviewing applicants by establishing the most important qualifications for a role in advance of looking at resumes, and by reading resumes without candidates’ names. Seeing names on a resume can play an unintentional role in shaping our perceptions of how qualified a candidate is.
When scheduling interviews, be intentional about your panel of interviewers. Select a group of employees with a range of backgrounds and experiences, and make an effort for candidates to speak with interviewers who are representative of their backgrounds.
Lastly, avoid a natural tendency toward people who are similar to you by taking note of similarities with candidates during interviews, and by saving conversational questions for after an interview has finished. Questions like, “What did you do this weekend?” can illuminate shared interests or commonalities, but do not reflect a candidate’s ability to perform a job, and can create positive feelings toward a candidate simply because they’re similar to you.
It’s never too early or too late to get started with DEB efforts in your workplace; everyone is at a different stage on their journey to become more inclusive. In many cases, the most important thing you can do is begin with actionable improvements and build from there. You do not need to have an entire plan mapped out right away; rather, take stock of where your company is currently, and then focus on specific next steps with an understanding that those actions will add up over time and lead to larger, transformative improvements.
Most importantly, remain honest about where your organization is in this journey, and communicate openly with employees. Iterate and evolve your strategies, just as you do with other parts of your business. Putting DEB efforts into practice is an ongoing process that carries benefits for everyone in your organization. Maintain a learning mindset, and bring your team along with you on the journey.
Lynee Luque is the VP and Head of People at Envoy, focused on defining and operationalizing culture that will support growth.