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7 Deadly Mistakes To Avoid With Diversity Programmes

A Simple Guide to Effective Diversity Programmes

Recent protests have pushed diversity and inclusion at the top of the business agenda for most companies. Business leaders are starting to understand that diversity, inclusion and equity are not only the right thing to do morally, or a nice to have, or a luxury but rather a necessity for the business. Businesses realise that diversity and inclusion trainings and programmes significantly increase talent attraction and retention and the chance of recovery after the Covid-19 crisis. Diversity training is not about ticking a box, or feeling good about doing the right thing, it is about creating a better work environment where each employee is fully engaged, better at solving difficult problems and increasing productivity and revenue for the business. Business leaders are starting to understand that it would be a very big mistake to focus on their short-term financial recovery and forget about DIE. CEOs and business leaders are not all experts in diversity and inclusion and some don’t know much about unconscious bias, microaggressions, micro-inequites, biased language, perpetual acceptance or organisational unconscious so it is great when they accept some help with diversity training. As a diversity consultant who has helped many organisations implement successful diversity and inclusion trainings and programmes, I have seen common (and deadly) mistakes which prevented businesses from implementing an effective diversity and inclusion programme. I want to share my experience so that more organisations can implement successful diversity and inclusion programmes. Here is everything you need to know about the most common mistakes to avoid with diversity training and programmes:

1) Focusing on inclusive and diverse hiring only but not retention

A common diversity and inclusion initiative that organisations start is implementing a hiring program to attract diverse talents. Many companies set goals to attract female talents or BAME talents or even disabled talents. Whilst this is a positive starting point, the challenge is that many organisations fail to implement a program to retain and even promote their diverse talents. This leads to a retention problem. Organisations spend time and resources on hiring diverse talents but they lose them due to a lack of focus on retaining them. Google CMO Lorraine Twohill recently admitted “One of my biggest mistakes is I’ve been very focused on hiring in my team, but not on retention, career progression, inclusiveness. How do we build an inclusive, truly multi-cultural team and how does that affect the work?” she asked. A simple way to do this is to get help from diversity consultants who can build a program to retain and even promote diverse talents so that the organisation can benefit from a truly inclusive, diverse and engaged workforce that will be more productive.

2) Leaving your corporate mission statement out

When I work with organisations on helping them create a diverse and inclusive workplace, I see many of them focusing on a diversity training or a speaking engagement on this topic. Again, whilst these are positive actions, these initiatives only will not succeed unless the organisation approaches diversity and inclusion in a holistic way. I always recommend that companies review their corporate mission statement. The organisation mission statement should include a clear, strong statement on their vision regarding diversity and inclusion. The company culture needs to be re-written at its core so that change happens at every level. The goal is to create a systemic culture of change. During this phase of the creation of a systematic process of change, the core values of the organisation dictate what work is necessary; at this phase, a culture of inclusion is practiced by all and a sense of community emerges; the employees should come together from the different departments to take part in creating tangible changes; the question becomes how we can sustain a culture of inclusion and incorporate the organisational core values in every facet of our work and within the organisation; the success of this part of the systemic process is the responsibility of hiring managers, HR officers; their mission is to make co-workers accountable for their behaviour so they continue the ground work and the culture of inclusion becomes weaves into every facet of the organisation;

3) Failing to get leadership commitment

Not getting CEO commitment on diversity and inclusion is probably the most common and deadly mistake of any diversity program. Top management support is one of the first requirements in creating a shared vision for a systemic change; positive and lasting behavioural change is the primary requirement for a cultural change approach. Change agents must determine how new behaviours will become a strategic advantage for the success of the organisation. For too many years, diversity and inclusion have been regarded as separate concerns. The reality is that it takes the top leadership of an organisation to bridge the diversity gap. It is the vision and commitment of the top leadership team that allows employees to be part of a behavioural process of culture change within the workforce and then makes them responsible for creating a culture of inclusion.

4) Focusing on the short term only

Many organisations I have come across had a short-term vision of diversity and inclusion. A majority of them would host a diversity training, tick a box and forget about diversity and inclusion for another 12 months. This leads to very little change in the organisation and this does not solve the diversity and inclusion challenge. Diversity is a journey and the most successful organisations (Apple, Google) have an ongoing D&I program and are constantly challenging themselves on what else they could do. Best practices to ensure long-term success regarding D&I include forming a diversity and inclusion committee, developing a diversity and inclusion mission statement, executing regular internal diversity and inclusion surveys, encouraging CEO’s regular participation in diversity and inclusion initiatives.

5) Being complacent about your diversity efforts

I have lost count of the times I heard “we are doing great with our diversity and inclusion” from managers, mostly straight white males, who were genuinely thinking that every employee in their organisation was 100% engaged, felt 100% included at work. As mentioned earlier, diversity is a journey. Like revenue and sales pipeline, it is something that needs constant attention and effort. The most successful organisations are constantly investing time and resources in new, better diversity programs. The best way to fail with diversity and inclusion is by being complacent and thinking that you are doing great. It's not good enough to bring in unconscious bias training and think you have checked a box and it's all done. I recommend that organisations set diversity and inclusion goals for workforce composition, workforce composition in leadership, professional development, leadership accountability and constantly monitor the progress to assess where they should invest next.

6) Failing to compensate diversity and inclusion results

A common mistake is to leave compensation or bonus out of the diversity and inclusion conversation. If diversity is good for business, it should be compensated as such. Just like revenue, sales pipeline or new product launch, diversity should be rewarded like any other business metric. Companies that incentivize leaders by tying a certain percentage (I recommend 30%) of their annual bonus if they meet specific diversity and inclusion goals set themselves up for success. The advantage of setting monetary rewards is that it drives real behaviour in action. To drive a systemic culture of change, organisations must create goals that are linked with financial rewards.

7) Forgetting about the diverse vendor component

The vast majority of organisations ignore the diversity of their suppliers. It is extremely rare for organisations to have goals regarding the diversity of their vendors. However, if companies want to be credible about their diversity and inclusion efforts, they must set goals to attract and retain diverse vendors. A diverse supplier indicator refers to the ability to create a diverse vendor base, which the organisation can use to promote diversity and inclusion. This also means that the organisation has established concrete spending goals and is actively seeking diverse vendors for company’s projects. Diverse vendors include female-owned businesses, BAME-owned businesses and disabled-owned businesses amongst others. Supplier diversity goals should be in place to ensure that the organisations actively support diverse populations externally as well.

While many organisations are waking up to the need for diversity and inclusion programmes, only a few of them have a really holistic approach of diversity and inclusion. Investing in diversity training, unconscious bias training, hiring professional diversity speakers and creating Employee Resource Groups are positive initiatives and they should be part of a long-term, holistic approach to diversity and inclusion in order to achieve a systemic culture of change. At Inspired Human, we specialise in helping organisations double employee engagement and retention through diversity trainings and programmes so that they can hit their retention and productivity goals. Book your complimentary 60 minutes diversity consultation today:;

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