Until a recent engagement, Corporate Human Resources (as in, Resources for Humans, NOT Humans as Resources) had been the area of management that I was least familiar. Of the vast learnings that I was able to take from the engagement, the segment of HR that I found most interesting, and enlightening, was Diversity and Inclusion (D&I.)
I wonder how many of you have a similar interpretation of D&I as I did. That is, everything governed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the need to be compliant with it.
The EEOC was established in 1965 by President Kennedy to investigate discrimination complaints based on an individual’s race, children, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, and retaliation for reporting, participating in, and opposing a discriminatory practice.
Of the many, very positive things to result from the policy were also some harmful practices, such as staff balancing. Many organizations believed that the best way to prove that they were not discriminatory in the workplace was to balance ratios among their staff members.
An example of this is a friend of mine who lost limbs in Iraq several years ago. This gentleman was hired by a government contractor and placed in a corner and ignored. The company felt that as long as they were paying this individual, they were doing him a favor. For the contractor, they were able to check several boxes for the price of a single headcount: he was disabled, he was a veteran, he was a combat veteran.
Until recently, this was my perception of what D&I meant, but not how I chose to apply it. To my pleasant surprise, I have learned that I am not the only one to apply Diversity and Inclusion as actively seeking, and seeking to understand, opinions and perspectives different than my own.
5 TIPS TO BECOME A MORE DIVERSE AND INCLUSIVE ENTERPRISE
1 – Diversity: Seeking to understand, accept, and value the perspectives of people of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages, disabilities, sexual orientations, economic backgrounds, and demographics.
The key here is in seeking to understand accept, and value; not just having these folks in the building.
2 – Inclusion: Creating a collaborative, supportive, and respectful environment that welcomes participation among all employees.
Being inclusive does not mean that everyone will agree, but it does assure that even if someone does not agree, that the differing perspective is welcome and understood.
3 – Corporate Strategy, Not HR Program: We can, and should, practice Diversity and Inclusion on a daily basis, regardless of our position in an organization. However, to be transformational, an organizational strategy needs to be developed and tracked at a CEO / COO / CHRO level to become part of corporate DNA.
4 – Accountability: Create, model, and hold people accountable to behavioral standards that support D&I. Educate the team on topics such as unconscious bias, and then establish metrics to track behavioral trends.
5 – Leadership: D&I is a deliberate practice and requires specialized skills to both deploy and track. Many organizations have realized significant value in placing a D&I organization within the office of Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO.) In additional to HR skills, data scientists are an essential part of the D&I office. In the future, we can begin developing machine learning tools to help us proactively uncover opportunities to be more diverse and inclusive.
5 Ways YOU can be More Diverse and Inclusive
1 – Come from a Place of Interest: We are all learning, all day, every day. We all have inherent biases based on our backgrounds and experiences. D&I takes deliberate practice and is inherently difficult for each of us. Sometimes the best way to overcome the difficulty in “choosing the new ‘B’ over the familiar ‘A’” us to address it head-on. As a meeting facilitator, consider kicking sessions off with a phrase such as “..we are about to embark on a journey that will challenge what we think and how we feel. It won’t always be easy, but I am excited to learn what you think, and what experiences have led you to those feelings. Let’s do this – BOTH EYES OPEN!”
2 – Actively Seek All Opinions: When seeking perspectives for your discussion, aside from considering ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc.; also actively seek perspectives of people from different part of the country. In the United States, there are no fewer than five unique cultural regions whose opinions and views should be considered. Assume the differing perspectives one could gather around Electric Vehicle use if people from Los Angeles, New York City, Central Pennsylvania, Nashville, and Fargo were to discuss the topic. The outcome would likely differ vastly if the conversation were to only include the perspective of people from any one of the geographies.
3 – Employee Network Participation: Most large organizations have many Employee Networks that exist to bring together people with similar experiences and interests. Consider joining one of these groups that you may not immediately self-select to join and participate from a place of genuine interest.
4 – Listen More, Talk Less: This one speaks for itself. It is impossible to understand the perspective of another person if you are the one doing all of the talking. Actively listen to what others have to say and avoid the urge to immediately respond or defend your perspective.
5 – Reflect before you React: Often, understanding comes in the minutes/ hours/days following a conversation. Consider separating exploratory talks from decision making conversations so that all participants may enjoy the opportunity to process the inputs of the group.
Big thanks to Monique for opening my eyes, and my mind, to what it means to be truly diverse and inclusive.
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