Essay about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
By nature, strategic Human Resources is future-focused. However, an effective strategy is co-created with the present, found by unlocking what we can do today to create an engaged and empowered workforce for tomorrow. One of the most powerful things Human Resources can do to change organizations today is to maximize the full potential and value-add of every individual and team through the implementation of effective diversity, equity and inclusion policies (DEI). As an Employment specialist working with top-tier multinationals across the USA to place diverse and differently-abled employees in employment, I have seen first-hand the win-win impacts of this work. This essay will not only outline how DEI can drive change but will propose some pragmatic solutions from the field that organizations can already implement to get started today.
Diversity, inclusion, and equity are hot topics that are banging on the door of organizations, demanding to be welcomed into organizations through Human Resources (HR). While diversity and inclusion have started to be ingrained into HR initiatives, cultivating equity is now another addition to the framework. Equity addresses the fact that diverse populations experience disproportionate opportunities in the workforce and specifically focuses on overcoming imbalances in the workforce by offering additional opportunities to those who have previously had less access. To be successful, diversity, inclusion, and equity must each be lived as core values adopted by organizations.
Showing and exhibiting the importance of culture-add, rather than culture-fit, is central to this. Pragmatically, this means taking a genuine look at diverse populations of employees, using a strengths-based approach to assess their needs and the value they bring, and breaking down stereotypes and biases to see them thrive in the workplace. By uncovering and refining the core culture of a company from the top executives all the way to the frontline workers, we can find a solution that benefits both companies and their teams.
Human Resource initiatives focusing on diversity benefit companies through increasing productivity, increased profits, reduced employee turnover, and increased engagement from employees. But what makes an organization diverse? To incorporate DEI initiatives, human resource departments must know what qualities add to diversity to achieve these results. Human Resources can add diversity, promote equity, and become inclusive by looking to hire candidates who are different in regards to: socioeconomic status, gender, race, age, disability status, educational experience, religion, LGBTQ status, veteran status, parent/child caregiver, etc. By hiring candidates that can be labeled as a cultural add, rather than a cultural fit, pre-existing biases are challenged and acceptance and inclusiveness is embedded into the core of the organization's framework.
Not only is it highly attractive (and demanded) from an employer brand perspective, cases show that when diversity, equity, and inclusion thrive in organizations, companies reap the benefits in workplace culture and productivity. For example, in 2016, a global giant Ernest and Young implemented a pilot program to target diversity and hire adults with Asperger’s syndrome. While the hires did not possess strong social skills, they excelled in detail-oriented, process-driven work that was highly efficient and innovative; this directly correlated to these candidates possessing a processing/social disability. Human Resources that utilize the strengths found in diverse candidates have repeatedly demonstrated how diverse candidates are assets to organizations and the importance of inclusion and equity and further advance the future of the workplace.
However, while many businesses promote DEI initiatives, many organizations are still failing to adequately address shortcomings in diversity, equity, and inclusion in impactful ways. A survey conducted by Harvard Business Review reported that 78% of participants stated they were employed at organizations that lacked diversity. Another study reported in Deloitte, indicated that 41% of upper-level management reported that DEI initiatives are not a priority, citing the underlying reason being that they are “too busy.” When diversity, equity, and inclusion are not established as a core value voiced by leadership and are not concretely present in the workforce, the company misses out on tangible benefits. The inactions of leadership regarding DEI are impactful; without change, it is expected that the world population will not see equal employment in leadership for many generations. It also fails to maximize the incredible people resources one already has.
It is Human Resources that directly partners with the business to impact the workforce and subsequently society and future generations, therefore actions must be taken. The question lies, which actions can already be taken today to shape the future faster? To see a significant change in the future, human resources in organizations can adopt these seven game-changing procedures today:
Use inclusive language in job postings and in the job description to appeal to all candidates. Ensure HR is proactive in the following: avoid gender-coded words to prevent gender biases, cut corporate jargon as the phrases are barriers to young professionals are career changers applying to new positions, and remove unnecessary must-haves, since women are less likely to apply unless they meet 100% of the listed requirements.
Incorporate plain language in your organization to be inclusive. Communicating in plain language appeals to individuals who possess cognitive disabilities and those who are communicating outside of their first language. Within the organization, plain language reduces training time and improves efficiency and understanding of processes and regulations in the workplace.
Implement a diverse hiring team. Similarity bias is the preference we feel when we interact with someone similar to ourselves and can inhibit hiring candidates that differ from the hiring team. Combat similarity bias in hiring recruiters by hiring or including diverse individuals on hiring teams.
Audit your company’s diversity statistics and set a measurable goal to achieve. Europe has seen success in mandating gender percentages in leadership and is a forward-thinking solution to adding diversity. Companies should also research and report where are an organization's job postings are advertised at what the target audience is located to compute the applicants if you are reaching your goals
Create intentional partnerships with job placement agencies that have access to a more diverse pool of candidates. By reaching out to job placement agencies that specifically cater to an individual population, companies can reach applicants outside of an organization’s traditional scope and both agencies can be paired to
In conclusion, to future-proof themselves, maximizing current and incoming talent, and stand out as employers, organizations need to be proactively aware and take ownership of whom they are recruiting, hiring, and promoting. It takes active, pervasive effort and strong initiative from CEOs at the top to set examples and intentional effort from HR to promote DEI. However, the benefits of increased productivity, performance, engagement, and, quite frankly, respect for the senior leadership teams, are more than worth the effort.