Diversity and inclusion are hot topics in today’s workplace. They have an impact on aspects such as day-to-day interactions, recruitment and selection, talent management, succession planning, compensation and benefits, and, most importantly, learning and development.
Some organizations acknowledge the importance of diversity and inclusion, as well as the benefits for the business. Many, however, still do not allocate sufficient time and resources to design customized initiatives that can make a difference in their business environments, mistakenly believing that a quick fix will be sufficient.
Let’s meet Paul.
Paul is the learning and development training coordinator for W Tech Services. He is in charge of scheduling the mandatory training sessions for the corporate Diversity and Inclusion Week. All six company sites will deploy these trainings worldwide simultaneously using the same handouts and materials. All employees will receive the same swag at the end of the sessions in appreciation for their attendance as a reminder of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. All sites will display posters with pictures and information about all the locations where the company does business during the entire week. All electronic bulletin boards will project the same employee interviews about why they like to work at W Tech Services.
Sounds familiar? What’s missing?
Paul was excited about being part of a global corporate initiative for the first time. His excitement lasted only until he overheard Amparo, Benicio, and Ram referring to the initiative as the corporate flavor of the month and saying that they had never seen another mandatory corporate training make any difference in the workplace.
Paul spent the rest of the day wondering what his colleagues meant. At first, he thought that Diversity and Inclusion Week would be a good idea because this site was known for having employees from different countries, as well as equal numbers of women and men in leadership positions. He also thought that the trainings could bring some new information for everyone and the posters and interviews would showcase all worldwide sites. But as the day wore on, he began to think that perhaps he was missing something.
Have you been in a situation similar to Paul’s? If so, what did you do? If not, what do you think he should do?
The next morning, Paul approached Amparo and Ram in the cafeteria. He found out that the company had rolled out similar initiatives in the past and that many employees did not think they had been effective. Amparo and Ram shared examples of misinformation and biases about topics beyond country of origin and gender. They believed a lack of understanding regarding differences in opinion, religion, sexual orientation, parental status, and age affected business results. After that conversation, Paul began to understand why Amparo and Ram were skeptical about the real value of this Diversity and Inclusion Week.
What could you do as a learning and development professional in a situation such as Paul’s? Would you step up and take some kind of action or would you remain silent?
First, Paul conducted a thorough Internet research about diversity and inclusion initiatives. He learned that diversity encompassed more elements than he’d previously considered. He confirmed that Amparo and Ram were just beginning to scratch the surface about what topics needed to be discussed. He even found studies citing the value of embracing diversity for the business.
Paul was now convinced that all of those issues included under the diversity umbrella had to be addressed gradually. He also thought that some of those issues, such as age, parental status, and religion, were more relevant for his site than others. So much for a one-size-fits-all initiative like the one corporate was rolling out.
What about inclusion? Why was it important? Soon enough, Paul realized that inclusion was related to creating an environment where differences would be acknowledged and respected. This began to sound like a cultural change. Could a cultural change be accomplished over the course of a week? Certainly not.
Paul faced a dilemma. He was required to complete the tasks assigned to him; however, in the short time he’d spent digging deeper into diversity and inclusion, he became convinced that those tasks would be insufficient.
Equipped with basic facts and some best practices, Paul decided to begin to sketch a business case for something that could expand the scope of the corporate initiative at least for his site. Being a training coordinator, Paul knew that he needed to get his manager’s support before going any further.
Clearly, a diversity and inclusion initiative must include more than a short training and a week-long series of isolated events. For such an effort to really become an initiative, it had to be visualized as a program intended to transform the organization’s culture. And that means answering many questions before embarking on path to culture change.
If you find yourself in a similar position, here are some steps to take.
Step 1: Analysis
Where is your organization in terms of diversity and inclusion? For example, is the company beginning to understand diversity and inclusion? Do employees have some knowledge about the topic? Are they skeptical about diversity and inclusion? Is the company fully committed to diversity and inclusion?
Where does it want to be? For example, does the company want its employees to be knowledgeable about diversity and inclusion at the end of the initiative’s first year and fully committed at the end of year five?
What will the organization do to get there? For example, will the organization prepare a three-year plan to implement a diversity and inclusion initiative?
How will the organization know it has achieved its goals? For example, does the company expect employees to recognize its efforts towards diversity and inclusion in company surveys?
Do executives support a real initiative for cultural change?
Will the company embrace a cultural change and its associated costs?
Step 2: Process
Identify the purpose of diversity and inclusion in the organization.
Establish guiding principles for diversity and inclusion.
Select best practices that are appropriate for your organization.
Appoint committees whose members have clearly defined roles.
Propose realistic and measurable goals.
Design a multichannel communications and internal marketing strategy.
Assign responsibilities and accountability.
Allocate sufficient funds and resources to support the initiative.
Obtain buy-in from key stakeholders at all levels.
Measure results along the way.
Celebrate successes and learn from mistakes.
Step 3: Plan
Start with the overall goals for diversity and inclusion.
Consider aspects of sustainability, including using materials such as posters, videos, checklists, tips, and books, as well as solutions such as training, coaching, mentoring, and special interest groups.
Propose specific objectives related to each goal.
Delineate specific and articulated actions that will be taken to achieve each goal, such as a series of training solutions.
Assign responsibility for each objective to an area or an individual beyond learning and development, such as senior managers.
Consider adding a second individual or group to share the responsibility for each objective.
Identify who will provide direct support to those who are responsible for each objective.
Assign realistic completion dates for each activity.
Decide how you will measure your progress considering indicators already available in the organization.
What do you think? Have you worked on diversity and inclusion initiatives at your company? Share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments below.
(As published in ATD Links / April 22nd, 2020)