While most companies have some diversity initiatives in place, the reality is that for many organizations, diversity has become more of a business requirement rather than an integral part of company culture. However, in the wake of recent social justice protests and shifting public opinion on discrimination in America, many businesses have been forced to rethink their diversity strategies. While committing to hire more diverse employees is a step in the right direction, employers must develop a more proactive and holistic diversity and inclusion plan that provides diverse talent a platform to both amplify their voices and offer a clear path to succeed and advance within the organization.
Here are five ways your company can ensure diversity remains at the forefront throughout the entire employee lifecycle:
1. Rethink and reprioritize diversity
Companies need to adjust their mindset and recognize that diverse organizations are more successful organizations. A broad chorus of voices, opinions and perspectives can lead to innovation and improved performance. Studies have shown that gender diverse teams make better business decisions 73% of the time compared to all-male groups. Diversity has also been associated with better financial performance. Gender diverse companies are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than their competitors — proving that diverse hiring not only benefits employees, but also helps companies meet their full potential.
2. Make inclusion an essential part of culture
Employees want to work in an environment where they feel valued and included, with 83% of Gen Z candidates reporting that workplace diversity and inclusion is important to them when searching for a job. Ultimately, simply building a diverse team of unique individuals is not enough. Truly being an inclusive organization reflects how a company welcomes, values and respects their employees. Even beyond that, companies should strive to create a sense of belonging, which is a deeper level of inclusion that creates a safe space for employees to be who they truly are, in every way.
3. Establish sponsorship and apprenticeship programs
One way to create an inclusive culture and demonstrate to all employees that they belong and that their contributions are valued is to establish meaningful partnerships between junior talent and senior leadership to help more junior associates grow and advance within the organization. Currently, female and ethnically diverse executives make up only seven and nine percent of CEO positions among Fortune 500 companies respectively. To help promote more diverse and inclusive executive leadership teams, companies can create a sponsorship program in which C-Suite level members not only mentor diverse talent but advocate on their behalf with decision-makers who are able to advance their careers.
Having a sponsor who is already part of the C-Suite advocate for a diverse employee can increase their visibility to other senior leadership and provide opportunities for individuals to be considered for roles they may not otherwise be thought of. In addition to sponsorships, apprenticeship programs are also a great way to help attract young, diverse talent and allow them to develop the skills critical to the organization. Apprenticeships can help new employees establish a clear career path within the organization, while learning on the job and working alongside senior executives.
4. Create a plan to advance diverse talent
To complement sponsorship and mentorship programs, employers should also implement other tactics to support the development and advancement of high potential diverse talent within the company. Because C-Suite positions tend to have very low turnover rates, even if a diverse employee has all of the qualifications to take on an executive position, rising through the ranks may still prove difficult. To ensure a robust and diverse talent pipeline, employers should conduct annual deep dive people reviews and create individual development plans (IDPs) so that employees can consult regularly with leadership about their short and long-term career goals, skills development, and job performance in a formal and structured way.
5. Recognize all aspects of diversity
Promoting women or people of color isn’t the only way to achieve diversity in your organization. Diversity is about recruiting and retaining workers across age groups, religion, gender, sexual orientation, multi-cultural background and any personal unique characteristics candidates use to identify themselves. When looking to promote employees, these characteristics, along with the experience and ideas of the candidate who possesses them, should also be considered. Companies must remember that there are many ways to achieve diversity within your organization and should aim to hire talent from all walks of life.
It is clear that organizations are becoming much more aware of their diversity practices in light of recent events. But what business and human capital leaders must keep in mind is that diversity does not start and end at hiring. Diversity and inclusion must be ingrained in each and every company decision and at every level. While it is ultimately up to organizations to create and integrate their own diversity strategies, these five tips should be guiding pillars.
Audra Jenkins is the Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer of Randstad US.