Diversity speaks to the characteristics and traits that make people unique.
It is more than meets the eye as most of the traits are invisible i.e. “below the iceberg.”
Examples of these invisible traits are personality, beliefs, values, socio-economic status, orientation and religion. Each organisation determines which dimensions of diversity matter most to them.
Inclusion does not mean representation, but rather refers to the behaviours and practices that give people a feeling that they are welcome and belong. For an employee in an organisation this means a place where they can achieve their aspirations. The question is, “are organisations defining and integrating D & I effectively and sustainably within the entire employee life-cycle for mutual impact?”
The employee lifecycle truly starts with workforce planning, then hiring to retirement, with possible rehiring.
An organisation ought to identify how diversity and inclusion will mutually impact it and the employees positively. Adopting this approach assists to determine the key business needs, problems or opportunities that will be addressed. This is the most critical stage to articulate the business case, “the why?”.
The expectations of the executive leadership level are that they show commitment to defining, designing and adopting an integrated D & I strategy supported with clear practices, measurement and the resources. Important to point out that D & I is a journey that evolves and not a short- or medium-term standalone initiative.
When an organisation adopts diversity practices, it implements non- discrimination policies and creates and actively supports Employee Resources Groups.
It will also put in place frameworks to ensure that employees who are under-represented or historically disadvantaged are afforded opportunities to grow and assume positions of influence. To ensure their success, they are supported with coaching, mentoring and structured development programs. Flexible working also promotes work-life balance or work-from-home for survival as is our current global context.
Inclusion principles also must be explicitly integrated into an organisation’s mission, vision and values statements. Their importance is also clearly communicated for employee wellbeing and success. Space to engage through forums foster greater understanding across the organisation of the importance of valuing and embracing differences. It is a collective effort and not the sole mandate of leadership.
Hrom a Human Resources (HR) perspective, D & I should not look like “an addendum” to the traditional HR practices.
Weave it into your business as usual
Principles of inclusion and fairness must be clear in all practices from planning who and how many to hire, broadening reach into diverse sourcing channels and the attraction as evident in using branding, job adverts and an employer value proposition that resonates with diverse talent.
Thereafter it is extended into unbiased assessments, transparent interviews, fair compensation and benefits, onboarding, targeted learning and development and performance, succession and retention management strategies that promote the career growth and retention of diverse talent. Employee experiences are to be consistent and not dependent on which part of the organisation an employee works. To ensure fairness in the organisation, it is also critical that equal opportunities are afforded to non- diverse employees.
Here are some additional recommended Human Resource D & I practices to embed in employee experiences:
- Including specific and measurable diversity targets into the strategic workforce plan
- Open and transparent hiring and promotion processes
- Advertising all open jobs and positioning them in a way that encourages all people who think they may be interested and eligible to apply
- Providing information on the abilities, skills and knowledge that is needed for open jobs and guidance on how to develop these so that people have fair chance to grow their careers independently
- Allowing self-nomination from internal applicants for open jobs
- Structuring jobs so that they are not biased towards specific genders or cultures
- Identifying and tapping into non – traditional and diverse talent pools
- In terms of representation, ensuring minorities and those historically disadvantaged are adequately represented in all business and functional levels
- Interviews are structured and panels are diverse and collective and objective hiring decisions are made based on pre-determined and weighted evaluation criteria
- Holding leaders accountable for the reward, promotion and succession decisions informed by standard and pre-determined evaluation criteria
- Considering strategies to retain diverse talent as their attrition can be fueled by experiences of exclusion
The role of leadership
When Senior Leadership “walk the walk” on D & I practices, they are showing that they understand the opportunity and impact of adopting an intentional D & I strategy.
They further demonstrate this by involving employees impacted by decisions in the decision-making process. These decisions made align should align with stated values.
Transparency about their intentions and sharing information widely with employees is a key driver for engagement and enhanced performance. HR’s role is to facilitate the seeking of feedback continuously on how well the organisation is promoting diversity and inclusion. This is done formally to collect and analyse data on employee’s inclusion experiences to identify areas of improvement.
In addition to holding Leaders accountable for outcomes, they should also be recognised for adopting the organisations diversity and inclusion practices.
Acknowledgement: Carol Hondonga has recently completed an eCornell course in Diversity and Inclusion and has referenced some learnings from this.
About the author
Carol is a Global Human Resources Strategist with diverse experience leading and delivering high impact people outcomes within Africa, Middle East, Europe and North America for multinational organisations within healthcare, aviation, renewables, power, oil & gas, mining, transportation, digital and financial services. Special areas of interest are diversity and inclusion and talent management. Carol is currently pursuing her Doctorate with Monarch Business School in Switzerland.
➡️ You can get in touch with Carol via LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/carolhondonga/