The financial case for workplace diversity continues to be made across the business landscape with many companies committing significant amounts of capital to building an inclusive culture, but few executives today actually know what it should look like. Ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform the national median and average 24% higher year-over-year revenue growth than businesses with workforces that are not as varied (Fortune); however, these very same managers often just do not know how to create and, more importantly, sustain diverse workplaces.
“A truly diverse and inclusive company culture demands more than talking the talk and checking a few boxes,” explains Elizabeth Olson, Principal, Executive Coach, and Advisor, from Shields Meneley Partners, a career-transition and leadership-coaching firm for the C-suite. “It is about being proactive, building an atmosphere of acceptance (not just tolerance) and creating a systematization of inclusivity that supports the business strategy and is structured for the long-term.”
If leaders recognize the return generated by diversity and inclusion programs is less than anticipated, the opportunity arises to take a deep dive and fruitful examination of the company’s program. This is a valuable chance to audit how the program is structured and executed. Installing and practicing an impactful diversity and inclusion plan takes significant work, dedication, and reexamination, which also means providing ongoing training on cultural sensitivity and understanding of unconscious bias.
Olson also suggests a specific kind of coaching for nonminority executives that provides an understanding of the unique management support that might be called upon from them to facilitate successful careers of the ascending minority cohort of workers they are supervising.
“Non-majority employees often do not receive the mentoring they need because of discomfort and a lack of openness by their managers,” says Olson.
Successful corporate diversity and inclusion extends to outside service providers and vendors as well. It is important to use suppliers that are also committed to the same ideals of inclusion. Olson also points out that companies need to consider the demographics of their customers.
“There are a myriad of competitive pressures for diversity that need to be documented and shared to support the logic of your policies and programming,” she says.
Furthermore, companies that have successful employee diversity and inclusion often have a leadership and C-suite makeup that more closely mimics the demographics of the employee cohort. Diversity and inclusion start from the top, but it might take time to groom new entrants.
“Have a real conversation about the importance of diversity in the C-Suite,” writes Forbes. “Identify structural and root causes leading to the problems on your team [and] identify emerging leadership inside your organization and invest in them.”
Successful diversity and inclusion programs at companies are more than just checklists; instead, they are ongoing programs that are thoughtful, strategic, and long-term.
“Diversity and inclusion programs are not one-size-fits-all,” says Olson. “However, there are common elements that all successful programs share and innovations are popping up as well. Executives interested in improving their company’s success would be wise to pay attention.”
Marc Raybin is the President of Cardinal Communications Strategies.