As leaders continue to face economic uncertainties during this time of rapid change, topics like diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) can be pushed to the sidelines as other crises loom. However, more companies are recognizing that improving DEIB initiatives will be a crucial differentiator in how they can weather these storms and grow their businesses. While 92% of organizations believe that a diverse workforce is beneficial, only 19% believe that diversity is well integrated into their current structure.1
For many organizations, the actual planning and implementation of these critical DEIB strategies are fraught with challenges that can lead to stalled progress. Here are three common DEIB challenges companies face and ways to prevent or resolve potential obstacles.
Make DEIB a priority among company leadership
It’s no secret that company leaders who openly support diverse hiring are reaping rewards in the form of profits and boosted staff morale. Meredith Morales, Senior Program Manager of Inclusion Recruiting, Innovation, and Solutions at LinkedIn, strongly believes that a diverse workforce has a direct impact on a company’s bottom line.2 Despite this, 26% of organizations still say there is not enough support from company leadership to expand the diversity of their staff.3
The reasons leaders aren’t moving as quickly on DEIB range from competing priorities to some feeling hesitant about stepping out of their comfort zone to build relationships with underrepresented groups. An important step to help leaders move from awareness to action is providing training that coaches them on how to include diversity in their core strategy.
Delta Airlines is one global company with leaders who have committed to a comprehensive DEIB strategy with a focus on recruiting a wide range of diverse employees. To drive forward an inclusive culture, Delta hosts “Let's Talk About It” sessions, which are meaningful conversations between CEO Ed Bastian and featured guests surrounding the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. “Thoughtful action combined with a focus on championing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace and within our personal lives will play a healing role to help us keep climbing,” Bastian said.”4
Reduce unconscious biases
Unconscious racism, sexism, and ageism can create biases and inhibit diversity in the workplace – particularly during the recruitment process and during career advancement conversations. In fact, 41% of organizations believe this is the case.5 These unconscious biases occur when people unintentionally discriminate against certain types of people or treat them unfairly. This can cause serious problems for companies, considering employee discrimination is illegal, and there is often a fine line between the two. Though managers’ unconscious biases are not ill-intended, they can negatively affect a team and left unchecked they can negatively affect an organization’s culture.
According to Ashish Kaushal, founder of Consciously Unbiased, everyone is biased by virtue of being human. He also notes that we must learn how to apply biases in the right situations and understand how bias can introduce unintentional discrimination and result in problematic judgements.6 Unconscious biases can also prevent people who come from diverse cultures from applying for jobs at certain companies that don’t make it a priority.
A healthy, productive, and inclusive workplace is one that actively infuses diversity into the culture. Senior leaders can begin to accomplish this by creating more opportunities for employees to expand their circles beyond their own identity groups to interact with coworkers from different cultures, religions, races, sexual orientations. In addition, business groups and volunteer-led employee groups can support diverse employees through career development and mentoring.7
It’s so important that executives lead from a people perspective, according to Dr. Syneathia LaGrant, VP of Global Learning & Development for ManpowerGroup. “Get to know your employees as much as possible, try to understand their perspectives and listen to their unique voices.” Only then, she notes, can managers provide support and the resources needed to ensure that all employees feel included and respected.”
Effectively attract diverse job candidates
One of the top challenges organizations have in achieving workforce diversity is a failure to attract a diverse range of talent.8 This is a huge issue, considering nearly one third (32%) of employees and job seekers say they would not apply to a company that lacks diversity among its labor force.9
The key to addressing this matter begins with reimaging the recruiting process. Organizations should incorporate specialized tools that leverage analytics-based decision making to reduce bias and match people to roles suited to their interests and experience. When shaping policies and programs, leaders should ensure proper DEIB training for human resource professionals and managers to help reduce inherent biases. It’s also important for them to address the needs of diverse audiences beyond ethnicity, race and gender and turn the perception of challenges into strength for individuals with physical disabilities and cognitive diversity such as dyslexia which result in unique thought patterns, ideation processes, and problem-solving methods), sexual orientation (i.e., LGBTQ+ workers), and military veteran status.
To achieve this, companies must clearly define and broadcast what DEIB means to them, demonstrate its value and meaning when it comes to teamwork and profitability, and encourage open conversation among workers and leadership about its importance.10 Defining appropriate diversity success metrics based on a company’s goals is a necessary step to achieve them.
Diversity is a key driver of innovation and creativity. A heterogeneous team – one comprised of members with differing life experiences and outlooks – has the power to contribute unique perspectives that can lead to breakthroughs. And when these challenges are openly acknowledged and resolved, companies can reap even more success.
1. Everest Group Future of Work II: Who Will Do the Work Report 2022
3. Everest Group Future of Work II: Who Will Do the Work Report 2022
5. Everest Group Future of Work II: Who Will Do the Work Report 2022
7. Everest Group Future of Work II: Who Will Do the Work Report 2022
8. Everest Group Future of Work II: Who Will Do the Work Report 2022