If we learn best practices by example, we don’t have to go very far for lessons. “We’re all about diversity and inclusion at TDS,” notes the corporate website. “We believe that a diverse workforce improves organizational effectiveness and business performance by encouraging a broad spectrum of thoughts and ideas. At TDS, we actively support the attraction, development, and retention of a diverse range of employees.”
Goldman Sachs, too, has long been a proponent of workplace equality and it posts a clear message on its website: We value diversity. The firm actively promotes diversity of employees with regard to race, gender orientation and opinion, and it seeks a diversity of suppliers and customers. Furthermore, the company notes, it has long guaranteed gender equality of wage. One tool the firm uses: conversation. “As a firm that values diversity and a spirit of teamwork, we find it valuable to come together to share experiences and perspectives — about our commonalities, about our differences and about using both to enhance our workplace and bring the best of the firm to our clients. Having open and honest conversations was especially critical throughout the past year, when social and political events underscored the importance of such dialogue.” There are more specific examples of how the firm uses conversations to promote cultural harmony and better the business online.
How do companies make diversity a priority when there are so many other challenges to the bottom line? It requires a concerted four-step approach to establish a culture of inclusivity.
1) Assess: Assessing and evaluating a diversity process isn’t something done annually; rather, it is an integral part of the management system. Policy review, recruitment practice review, and employee engagement measurements can all help set the company on a more inclusive path.
2) Plan: At the beginning stages of purposefully building diversity? The plan must be comprehensive, attainable and measurable. Decide what changes or initiatives should be included and attach a timeline to meet those goals. Communication is essential to the plan, as exemplified by Goldman Sachs. Employee input at every level of the plan will help ensure its adoption company wide. Encourage employees to express their feelings and ideas about how to make the company and its products more accessible and welcoming to all. Think about what facets of diversity training might be helpful, including a generic education about the cultures of existing or incoming minority employees. While humans inherently fear the unknown, we are entranced by “different” if it is properly framed.
3) Implement: First, the company must insist upon a personal commitment of executive and managerial staff. It isn’t optional: leadership must incorporate diversity policies into every aspect of the organization’s function and purpose. A frank evaluation of readiness by an outside consultant may be helpful in determining what, if any, special diversity training or education any individual manager might benefit from.
4) Follow-up/re-assess. How is the workplace culture reflected on an annual survey, during performance reviews and exit interviews?
It’s easy to say – “we value diversity” – but putting those values into company-wide practice is anything but fluid or easy. It takes focus and determination to create a culture that is welcoming of diverse practices, thoughts, and orientations. And it takes top talent to lead all of those people toward a common goal. However, the benefits outweigh the pain of change. If consumer opinion isn’t enough of a carrot for some managers, studies also show that the company will become more adaptable, have higher retention rates for top talent, and be less susceptible to market fluctuations – all great reasons to embrace change.