Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is something we are all familiar with. Over the last decade, and certainly in the last few years, it has gone from being a box ticking exercise to something much more meaningful.
And all the good for that. Industries are waking up to the fact that it is diverse talent, with differing perspectives and experiences that drive innovation and reach better solutions to problems than talent fished from the same gene pool. A recent study by McKinsey found that companies in the top-quartile for ethnic/cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability.
It is also important in attracting and retaining the next generation of senior leaders. Gen Z have high expectations and want to get involved. A recent study in the US by talent development company Tallo, found that 86% of Gen Z applicants reported planning on participating in a DEI committee or contributing to the organization’s strategy.
But taking a business with a narrower perspective on what talent looks like, to one with a broader more progressive view is not just something that can be done overnight. So what are the pain points and how should you look to solve them?
The first challenge is mitigating bias. People tend to hire people like themselves which creates homogenous teams. That could be how they look, how they speak, or what educational background they come from. Often we’ve made assumptions about a candidate before we even meet them. In addition, when under time pressure we may select the most readily available candidate rather than building a diverse short-list.
So, how do you mitigate this bias?
The first step is to acknowledge that you have unconscious biases in the first place. Then slow down your thinking. Setting time aside to be more objective, and reflective about who you want to hire helps your decisions to become less driven by bias. It’s also useful to involve others in the recruitment process to challenge each other on their own biases, to check facts before expressing opinions.
The next challenge is to make your language more inclusive. Inclusivity is a moving target, especially across borders and cultures, but there are some things you can do to ensure you are getting the balance right.
A good way to start is to simply ask people what language they use to describe themselves. Active listening is also extremely important, learning how someone talks about themselves provides an opportunity to mirror that language. And if you make a mistake, and are challenged, it’s OK to acknowledge it. These are culturally fluid times and sensitivities vary.
And when it comes to retaining diverse talent there needs to be a strong mentoring framework within the business. Not just the traditional senior-to-junior mentoring, but also different formats such as reverse mentoring or co-mentoring. Bringing people together with diverse experiences helps to foster a culture of learning within the business, and creating employee networks from people that have similar experiences or backgrounds provides support. It’s important though that these groups should not be ‘silo’ed’ but rather join together and support each other as allies.
This is a highly competitive market for talent and DEI policies are increasingly, and rightly scrutinised, by candidates at all levels. So taking more time over hiring decisions, actively listening to ensure language is more inclusive, and re-visiting the role of mentoring and employee networks in the business is definitely the right way to go.
If business success is measured by performance and the research proves the business case for diversity then what are you waiting for?
By Paul Bendelow