A diverse workplace not only recognizes and fights against the pervasive systemic racism underlying discrepancies in everything from hiring decisions to wage gaps; it also has been proven to help organizations succeed. According to a 2017 Boston Consulting Group study, diverse management teams lead to a 19% higher innovation revenue than average. The Harvard Business Review reported in 2019 that nearly 95% of directors agree that diversity brings unique perspectives to the boardroom.
For our partners in the community engagement sector to better meet the needs of their communities, a diverse organization made up of volunteers, donors, and board members that reflect the diversity of the region with which they work is a must. Yet all of these indicators continue to underperform in critical equity factors. For example, according to information shared by BoardSource, 90% of nonprofit CEOs and 84% of nonprofit board members are white. If organizations want to fight inequity, this must be an internal process as well.
While many organizations have sought to actively increase their diversity and inclusion, they may be unsure of immediate steps they can take to ensure they are successful, such as how to update policies to incorporate dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Here, we share seven key steps to creating a more diverse organization and workplace.
1. Assess your organization’s current structures and policies
Before you can create a diversity and inclusion plan, you will first need to determine whether your organization has any policies and practices already in place, and if so, how these are being implemented. From there, you can assess your current resource allocations, as well as examine buy-in from the board, staff, volunteers, and other stakeholders.
In addition, examine the big picture: look at the composition, structure, culture and dynamics of your organization, as well as the current communication, mission and strategic direction. If necessary, update these to reflect recognition of the importance of your diversity and inclusion efforts, and start laying the foundation to have it better represent your constituents.
2. If you don’t already have one, designate a specific leader for diversity and inclusion efforts
In their 2019 survey, Weber Shandwick found only 34% of respondents had diversity and inclusion leadership positions in their company, while only 28% reported positions dedicated solely to diversity and inclusion. This signposts that diversity is considered tangential to other jobs, rather than a critical area of focus in its own right. Make sure that your organization doesn’t fall into this trap. If possible, create a full-time paid leadership position for diversity and inclusion efforts, and make sure that this leadership position reports directly to the CEO or executive director. For smaller organizations, DEI should be core elements of the leadership composition, and a designated responsibility for one of the executives to take ownership of. Management and top-level promotion of diversity and inclusion will trickle down, improving equity throughout the organization.
3. Communicate and educate stakeholders on importance of diversity and inclusion
For any diversity and inclusion plan to work, it will need to involve buy-in from all stakeholders. You will have to communicate your plan clearly and effectively — which means making sure that you have clear definitions and plans. Make sure your organization knows, agrees with and understands your definitions of diversity and inclusion, as well as your expected goals. Determine who this message needs to be tailored to, and use these elements to develop your diversity and inclusion policy. As always, reinforcing and creating opportunities for ongoing learning and improvement are of the utmost importance.
4. Update hiring policies to instill diversity from the top down
Hiring is one area where implicit biases can play an insidious role in slowing diversity in your company. As mentioned in the previous step, reinforce the education of DEI with the entire team, including the existing hiring team. Technology is not necessarily protective against bias; algorithms are only as unbiased as the humans who create them, so it is important to test for biased technology. Implicit bias training and reminders to HR staff of the importance of diversity and inclusion can go a long way in improving diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Beyond the actual hiring steps, make sure available roles are flexible, with options for part time and remote work. During the hiring process, emphasize concrete steps for recruitment, job training, and leadership opportunities. Once hired, onboarding should offer opportunities for long term growth.
5. Factor diversity and inclusion into day-to-day policies
There are various ways that you can involve diversity and inclusion into day-to-day policies. The keys are to relate diversity and inclusion to the organization’s success, to tackle the culture of the organization, and to maintain a focus on growth. Mentoring programs that pair underrepresented individuals can show sensitivity to the ways in which the organization may negatively impact underrepresented groups, while also promoting community and partnership.
You can also consider changing your HR and complaints system. The Harvard Business Review shared innovative alternatives from sociologists Frank Dobbin from Harvard University and Alexandra Kalev from Tel Aviv University. Dobbin and Kalev suggest “changing leadership mindsets from seeing complaints as threats to valuing them as insights that can spark positive organizational change.” Make clear that this is how reports are viewed to encourage crucial feedback that will help identify areas for improvement.
6. Avoid tokenism
Merriam-Webster defines tokenism as “the practice of doing something (such as hiring a person who belongs to a minority group) only to prevent criticism and give the appearance that people are being treated fairly.” Whether or not you believe that you are engaging in tokenism, hiring one or few members of underrepresented groups can lead to employees associating their presence with tokenism. Feeling like a token can be draining on employees, especially if they’re the only (for example) female, African-American, or millennial in their department. Do not pigeonhole employees from underrepresented groups into roles or conversations related to diversity and inclusion. Recognize and applaud everyone’s strengths, and if possible, connect individuals from underrepresented groups through mentoring as described in point five.
7. Monitor and measure often
Creating and implementing a plan are crucial first steps, but they are not the end of the process! Prioritizing diversity and inclusion is a cycle. You are investing in a new way of thinking and a new culture, a process that does not end when you meet your first goals. Set a timeline to check in on hiring procedures, training protocols, promotions, wages, terminations, and other markers to see if there are any patterns that need to be examined. Remember, there is always room for improvement: make sure that you are listening to the voices of underrepresented groups in your organization or company for feedback and concerns.
These steps will go a long way toward improving your organization’s diversity and inclusion. However, it is important to recognize that there is no silver bullet — this will be an ongoing, rather than one-time, effort. Over the course of updating diversity and inclusion policies, you may face uncomfortable conversations and situations. These are crucial to building emotional intelligence and supporting marginalized identities in your workspace.
As a technology company providing a service to the community, the GivePulse team constantly aims to learn and grow as we work toward creating the inclusive organization we are striving to become. To do so, we will continue to regularly review the above steps, just as we do with our platform’s accessibility, performance and security. We will ensure that our values are developed and reflective of our own evolving community. As of this summer, we are working to add specific language regarding DEI to our code of conduct, and will be reinforcing our dedication to radical candor. Recognizing the risk of implicit bias in hiring processes, we ensure that job candidates meet a diverse range of interviewers and evaluators. Our promotions and payscales offer regular opportunities for reevaluation for any reason, and we acknowledge and celebrate the differences that our diverse set of experiences, identities, and stories brings to our decision-making processes.
DEI will look different for every organization, city, and region. But true diversity efforts will also extend beyond the workplace. Being truly open to dialogue and showing a willingness to have conversations around issues of discrimination, current civil rights movements, congressional bills such as HR-40, and upcoming elections are crucial to building bridges and forging strong partnerships. Engage with your community, and encourage your organization to do the same. Push yourself and lead by example.