About a month ago, I got to be with my peeps. HR peeps at HR Tech in Vegas. My peeps. Different, opinionated, passionate, vivacious people. My peeps. We encourage each other. We challenge each other. My peeps.
It got me thinking about the conversations I’m having with other peeps, many of whom lead organizations. More and more companies are talking about inclusion and equity. It’s refreshing. The power of people individually regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, veteran status, and the list goes on, is a more consistent topic of discussion. And then how these individuals come together for the good of the whole. The conversation has been good, very good even. So, how’s the action?
As a statistics aficionado, I often review the latest metrics and seek to understand context. For instance, research from The Boston Consulting Group tells us that companies with a more diverse workplace earn 19% higher revenue than those not diverse. Cool. But what does diverse mean? Is it merely numerical? What we know from research, too, is that much of the diversity accolades are based upon how many people groups are added and represented.
Representation is not inclusion. And inclusion is not equity. And without working this progression, fostering an individual’s sense of belonging won’t happen. These are heavy lift considerations and come with a cost. If you are part of senior leadership and have found that your meetings consist of sighs of relief upon review of the latest talent acquisition diversity numbers, you are missing it. Stop patting yourself on the back.
But let’s back up a minute. When the push for diversity began, why did it begin? Needing better revenue numbers and then applying the statistic on diverse organizations mentioned above weaponizes diversity. Companies may tout a push for diversity but do so with ulterior motives. Those motives will surface quickly and the turnover numbers (at around 6 months) will show how effective the “diversity” initiative really is. When you choose to pursue diversity, you are supposed to be choosing to change the fabric of the organization, not merely make more money. Those organizations that show such revenue growth are few because of the fundamental understanding that diversity is not the goal. It’s equity.
Companies implementing a few pieces to such an equity-driven initiative show themselves to be most successful. For instance, how do you handle getting a lay of the land? Often, companies forget to audit in areas such as inclusion and equity. The diversity numbers make it easy to push out a report, but these other considerations require a heavier lift with more subjective and open-ended questions. A simple 10-question survey with radio button answers won’t cut it. Yes, horror of horrors, it will require more effort. But true inclusion and equity efforts are people-centric.
Listen to your people. All your people. It’s okay to explain that listening to everyone does not mean that all requests can be implemented. What it does mean is that all will be considered. All will have an opportunity for influence, innovation and impact. That’s what we all want anyway. Talk less, listen more. Solutions can then be implemented.
The audit might be uncomfortable, but it is absolutely necessary. Taking stock of what is really happening here at our organization allows for real transparency (not the displayed “company value” of transparency) and the chance for real opportunity to heal, to grow and to encourage.
There may be some lessons to learn from Thompson Reuters Top 100 Most Diverse and Inclusive Organizations, but not all those lessons will work for your company. The audit will lead to diagnosis and then to treatment plans. Involve a team of people in to do the work. It should be people from different departments, from different socio-economic backgrounds and educational pedigrees, from different people groups. The explosion of creativity within this group will require a champion or two to foster. Lean into those folks. Equip them to lead effectively and bravely.
To end with one more stat, 67% of job seekers are looking for diversity in their next organization, according to a Glassdoor survey. And these job seekers represent various people groups. We need to engage with these talented individuals, but we also have to cultivate our companies to be inclusive and equity-driven. Today. We are to look to this today. Today, please. It matters. Today.