Diversity & Inclusion, Talent

How to Take Action: Strategies for Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Workplace in 2018

The volatility of 2017 further surfaced a number of longstanding and important issues, like racial and gender equality and diversity of thought in the workplace. While these issues aren’t new, the political climate created an environment where we all proactively address diversity and inclusion more frequently, bringing it to the forefront of workplace conversations, values and policies.Diversity

Diversity and inclusion are now increasingly top of mind for leaders of organizations due the impact of diversity on bottom lines. According to a 2018 report by McKinsey, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. For ethnic and culture diversity, companies in the top quartile were 33% more likely to outperform on profitability. Another report by Bersin by Deloitte found more diverse companies had 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee over a 3-year period than nondiverse companies.

Programs that encourage diverse leadership, develop employee communication and training in diversity and inclusion, establish mentorship programs, and help set transparent diversity goals are just some of the ways organizations can improve diversity and foster inclusion. As we enter 2018, I propose organizations explore the ways they can address these issues head-on. I’m committed to improving diversity and inclusion in the workforce, and I encourage you to do the same.

Establish Mentorship, Leadership, and Employee Resource Programs

Mentorship and other formal professional development programs have a major impact on inclusion. According to a survey from Heidrick & Struggles, more than half of respondents who participated in formal mentoring programs at work were satisfied with the experience, but only 27% of respondents said their organization offers such programs. Further, the nonprofit group Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) conducted a survey last year focusing on women in tech and found that a lack of female mentors was cited as a top barrier for growth.

If you’re in a position of leadership, I recommend mentoring diverse colleagues, coaching them to grow into leadership roles. In addition, check to see if your company already has an emerging leadership program and nominate standout employees at your company or encourage your colleagues to join.

If you don’t have a program at your company that promotes more diverse leadership, you should consider rallying colleagues to have proactive and transparent discussions, internally, about the company’s efforts to develop future leaders from all backgrounds. Diverse leadership leads to diverse opinions and better decision making: According to research conducted by Cloverpop, inclusive decision-making leads to better decisions up to 87% of the time.

Having open and respectful conversations about diversity and inclusion with your colleagues is a critical way for us all to move forward. Create or join employee resource groups (ERGs) and encourage your colleagues to join, as well, to hear what other groups within your company are experiencing. Some companies have groups focused on underrepresented communities, such as LGBTQ and Veteran employees, which create an open and safe forum for employees to connect in different ways and also illicit meaningful impact on their company’s policies.

Encourage Everyone to Approach Diversity from Multiple Angles, Considering All Underrepresented Groups

This year, hot-button issues that mostly affect women, such as sexual harassment and the pay gap, will continue to be a focus. However, it is imperative for organizations to also look at other groups facing discrimination—based on race or sexual orientation, for example—to ensure their concerns are being addressed.

When it comes to racial and ethnic discrimination, current conversations typically focus on members of the Latino and African American communities. In 2018, it’s likely we will hear more Asian Americans voice their opinions about the lack of representation from their community in leadership roles, especially in tech companies.

In fact, according to a report by Ascend, Asian Americans at five Silicon Valley tech companies represented a larger portion of professional roles than executive leadership positions. The survey found that Asian Americans made up 27% of the professional workforce, but less than 14% of executive positions. This is increasingly important as leadership positions continue to consist of mostly white men. In 2017, Fortune found that white men account for 72% of corporate leadership at 16 of the Fortune 500 companies.

Another way to approach improving diversity is to build out your talent pipeline by participating in diverse science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education programs and internship programs, as well as partnering with schools that are representative of diverse student populations to form relationships with students early on. There are great programs that connect organizations with youth in STEM and underrepresented groups such as Girls Who Code and Code 2040. Historical Black Colleges (HBCUs) continually partner with companies to help with recruiting minority talent in fields where representation is low, particularly in STEM fields.

Set Goals for Diversity and How You Plan to Hold Yourself Accountable to Address Imbalances

Businesses and organizations that set hard targets for diverse workforces and hold themselves accountable will make progress much more quickly than those that don’t. Regulatory and governing bodies across Europe recently announced diversity targets that address the underrepresentation of minority groups, and in 2018, I predict we will see this trend translate to companies in the U.S., as the pressure to address diversity increases.

Transparency and accountability will be a critical piece to combatting diversity challenges: In 2017, Fortune compiled data about the companies on its Fortune 500 list and found that only 3% of the companies on the list were fully transparent about the demographics of its workforces. If your company has not reported workforce composition numbers—internally or externally—urge leadership to consider this path. It’s often through this process that companies uncover disparities they weren’t aware of and also provides a baseline for measuring improvement in the future.

With 2017 being such a notable year from a diversity and inclusion perspective, I look forward to seeing these issues being further addressed in 2018. If we work together to increase understanding about how we can create programs that establish an open and diverse work environment, we will make tremendous progress that transcends the workplace. By using these strategies, I hope you are able to generate and maintain an environment for diversity of all kinds.

Daniel Guillory is the Head of Global Diversity & Inclusion at Autodesk. At Autodesk, he is working to integrate all dimensions of diversity and inclusion into many parts of the organization including customer acquisition, recruitment, hiring, people development, advancement, investment, and acquisition.