Diversity Insight, Q&A

Q&A: What Is the Future of Diversity and Inclusion?

Where does diversity and inclusion (D&I) stand today? Where will it be in the future? The HR Daily Advisor recently sat down with Nancy Saperstone, Senior HR Business Partner and Communications Specialist at OneDigital to discuss this very issue.

inclusionHR Daily Advisor: How would you describe the current landscape of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in today’s workplace? Is there more of a conscious effort from company leaders to facilitate change?

Saperstone: The landscape around diversity and inclusion in the workplace has changed significantly within the last year. Employers are beginning to understand they are wholly responsible for how their employees act and treat others. Education around diversity and inclusion is no longer a “check-the-box” item, but a vital aspect of company culture.

Employers are moving from reactive to proactive and conducting small, live, in-person trainings on the federal and state laws, as well as harassment and diversity.

In addition to employee well-being, companies are also beginning to acknowledge the affect diversity can have on their bottom line. In its Diversity Matters report, McKinsey cites that ethnically diverse companies outperform their homogeneous counterparts by 35%. The Harvard Business Review also found that diverse companies are 70% more likely to capture new markets. If a company wants to succeed in today’s climate, they must educate their employees on diversity and ensure inclusion.

HR Daily Advisor: D&I trainings have made great progress, but despite these trainings, companies are still facing high-profile incidents of employee bias. Why is this? What are the underlying limitations to D&I trainings?

Saperstone: Companies face ongoing issues with diversity and inclusion when there’s a disconnect between what is taught in training and what is practiced at the company. If just one employee isn’t in sync with company policies, this can cause a breakdown in the efforts of a company trying to do the right thing. For example, Roseanne Barr’s recent tweet resulted in the canceling of her show. Her tweet was not the company’s view, ABC in this case, but rather one employee whose values didn’t coincide with those of the company. To ensure that training has a positive impact, companies need to drive home their expectations for behavior, as well as the company policies.

If an employee doesn’t truly comprehend what is being taught in these trainings, all the diversity trainings in the world are useless. Implementing programs that will engage employees and giving pertinent examples and stories will help make the training more effective. It’s critical that all employees “walk the talk” when it comes to diversity and inclusion. These programs are not just for lip service; real action is required.

HR Daily Advisor: How can companies shift their culture to strike a balance between the corporation’s values and the individual’s belief system? How can a company measure if this has been successful

Saperstone: When developing corporate values, employee buy-in is critical. Values that are developed in the executive team bubble won’t resonate with employees and will result in conflict at various levels of business. Therefore, aligning employees with corporate values will create a culture that is more integrated with the company’s mission and goals.

Once these values are developed, employees must understand what they mean and how they relate to the business. In doing so, the C-suite must set the example—culture starts at the top. Using these values in the performance management process will further reinforce expected behaviors.

To support the success of employee engagement with these values, trainings should be constantly reviewed, updated with the times, and made current to support the culture the organization is working to build. Anonymous surveys about the company’s culture and diversity and inclusion can also give executives an accurate representation about the state of the company.

HR Daily Advisor: What do you think the future of diversity and inclusion in the workplace will look like? As Baby Boomers officially age out of the office and Millennials and Gen Zs are left to be the driving labor force, how will this impact organizations’ approaches to D&I?

Saperstone: Millennials and Generation Z employees have grown up in a world that is more diverse and less tolerant to inequality. These younger employees demand more in terms of diversity and inclusion. In a few short years, Millennials will constitute the majority of the labor force, and diversity and inclusion is likely to become more commonplace.

In the meantime, companies should work to educate all employees on its importance, including generational diversity. Glassdoor found that 57% of employees want their company to do more around diversity. With the changing workforce, employers must be proactive—diversity and inclusion will drive recruiting and retention in the future marketplace.

Nancy Saperstone, Senior HR Business Partner and Communications Specialist at OneDigital is on the OneDigital Human Capital Solutions team and finds her technical HR knowledge and excellent client relationship skills paramount in her client delivery. With twenty-five years of experience as a Human Resources Generalist in varying industries and size organizations, Nancy is an invaluable resource to her clients. She has worked with companies maintaining a mature Human Resources infrastructure, such as Ernst & Young LLP and Random House, Inc., as well as startups such as SmartTime Software, where she helped lay the building blocks for a successful organizational and HR philosophy while ensuring federal and state compliance