How Employees Can Drive Diversity and Inclusion in Your Company Culture

When the story of 2020 is officially in the books, what will it say? Depending on who’s telling part of it, the main theme could be the pandemic, or the economic crisis, or the point at which we realized essential workers should be recognized and compensated for their work.

The story of 2020 might also be remembered as an important year in advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace as fundamental to company culture.

The business case for diversity and inclusion

Of course, the business case for diversity and inclusion isn’t new. As an HR professional, you are probably already well aware companies with diverse workforces are 70% more likely to capture more market share and nearly 90% more likely to make better business decisions. You’re likely aware a diverse workforce advances innovation and can improve customer service—and diversity is important to more than two-thirds of job seekers, especially those from the Millennial and Gen Z generations.

As the Black Lives Matter movement gained greater awareness in the spring and summer and allyship grew nationwide, more people nationwide are examining their own bias and understanding of racism, diversity and inclusion. More workplaces have as well. Amid this trend, employees can aid their employers’ momentum when it comes to diversity and inclusion in company culture. Here are a few ways employers and employees can be more successful in working together toward this goal.

Training and education

These are times in which many—employers and employees—are realizing they have much to learn. Bringing in trained professionals to expand shared understanding of cultural competency, racial trauma, microaggressions, pay inequity and more can ultimately strengthen your company culture by creating a foundation of shared understanding. According to experts, diversity training is most effective when it lays out an inclusive company culture, embraces diverse approaches, and goes beyond do’s and don’ts to create a sense of shared understanding.

To reap the most benefit, make training and policy development regular and ongoing. This ingrains them into your company culture and may help employees feel more invested in them.

Expand diversity in hiring

Companies which are still recruiting and hiring in the time of COVID-19 may have changed their practices while still relying on the same sources for candidates. This makes sense: recruiting and hiring is time-intensive, so hiring managers often rely on proven sources. These can include job fairs, alumni and career services networks, and posting platforms. Revisiting these sources and expanding them to include new sources and pools of talent (like veterans and those with career gaps, among others) can be ways of broadening hiring diversity.

In addition, employees themselves can be sources of referrals. Reach out to include them in your recruiting efforts and make it easy for them to do so with links and regular communication.

Involve leaders and managers

Many organizations choose to start or advance their efforts toward diversity and inclusion with consultants and change agents. It’s important, though, to involve leaders and managers from the beginning. Doing so can help them serve as champions for progress and, according to research from Harvard Business Review, ensure programs fit smoothly into the ways management is already working.

Be ready to be held accountable

These are high-stakes times: greater awareness is fostering more accountability. Consumers aren’t shy about calling brands out on social media for the change they believe must occur within companies. Your employees are stakeholders in your brand’s success, so invite them to be part of the effort to be held accountable. Leaders and managers can clearly share plans and goals for diversity and inclusion internally (as well as publicly) and be transparent in communicating progress. And, when missteps do occur, employees can be part of calling out what happened and what needs to change.

How is your organization involving employees in your diversity and inclusion goals and initiatives? What are your priorities for 2021?

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