Steps to a Successful Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Policy
No matter what industry you may be in, a diversity and inclusion policy should be an integral part of any organization today. With diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) essential to organizational success, having a policy in place is crucial to ensure you’re reaping all of the benefits possible.
Your diversity and inclusion policy should aim to communicate a core set of principles that lead to the creation of a framework for any new and currently existing DEI-related initiatives. It should guide and apply to all stakeholders, from the Board of Directors to management, employees, partners and even subcontractors. To form a truly inclusive culture, of course, the policy needs to be applied to everyone equally.
In a similar vein, your diversity and inclusion policy should apply to all aspects of your organization – starting from recruitment through to job assignments, talent development, promotions, employee retention, and benefits and compensation.
Why is it important to cultivate such a policy?
In the past, many companies saw diversity and inclusion as an abstract concept. This was problematic, as not knowing how to approach DEI means you don’t realize the benefits and value it can bring to your organization.
We’ve talked extensively about how diversity, equity and inclusion can benefit any organization; some of the advantages you miss out on by not cultivating such a policy include attracting and retaining top talent, greater profitability and productivity, happier employees, and greater innovation and creativity. Essentially, having a good diversity and inclusion policy can give you a competitive advantage in a global market.
How do you implement your diversity and inclusion policy?
How can employers promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace? Once it has been created, there are several ways to ensure your ongoing commitment to the diversity and inclusion policy.
Your diversity policy means nothing unless it is effectively implemented – and a critical aspect of this is training. Training should extend beyond just employees to include management that will be tasked with enforcing it. For an organization to truly foster diversity and inclusion, your leadership needs to understand the goals and support them.
According to the Harvard Business Review, there are two main methods of diversity training in the workplace:
- Diversity training with perspective-taking is essentially the process of mentally walking in someone else’s shoes. An experiment had individuals take the perspective of minorities (LGBT individuals or racial minorities) by writing a few sentences imagining the distinct challenges a marginalized minority might face. They found that this improved pro-diversity attitudes and behavioral intentions toward these groups. These effects carried on even eight months after the initial training.
- Diversity training with goal setting involves asking participants to set specific, measurable, and challenging goals related to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This is used more broadly to motivate aspects of a person’s job performance. Goal setting led to more pro-diversity behaviors three months after the initial training and had long-lasting effects nine months after training too.
The length of time the effects last from a diversity training session is important, as most organizations hold them occasionally, with significant stretches of time passing between sessions.
In terms of training, continuous education is key. In addition to using internal resources, you may consider holding significant training sessions with external professionals – especially when it comes to how diversity and inclusion can relate to employer’s legal obligations and employee’s rights. Partnering with consultants can help you build customized training programs for the overall organization, as well as some that are function-specific as needed.
To fully benefit from a diversity and inclusion policy, leadership needs to understand the policy and how to properly apply it. Training sessions should provide thorough practice on application of the policy, possibly with case examples. The way you choose to conduct your training sessions may depend largely on your organizational setup; especially with hybrid workforces becoming more popular, you need to see what works best for your employees and staff.
You may opt to hold face-to-face training sessions, which are generally better for an in-house training team. You can hold hybrid online sessions, where some of the training is conducted online and some is done in-person. This gives participants the chance to meet a trainer face-to-face, but also learn on their own. Somee organizations also choose to conduct their training online, which can be cost-effective. In this case, you should encourage some type of forum for discussions.
It’s also important that management and leaders are aware of and watch for common red flags. These flags may signal an accommodation need, and should be dealt with correctly and quickly. Identifying these needs early protects the employer from potential discrimination claims, and it shows that you truly, genuinely care about creating a diverse and inclusive workplace for your team.
It has been noted that diversity training that is offered as optional tends to be more effective than mandatory training. But depending on where your organization is at its DEI program, this may or may not be a good option for you. It’s important to focus on training that is relevant to your specific business and employees.
Of course, simply training is not enough to have an inclusive workplace. So how can you tackle the challenge of being genuinely inclusive?
Spread awareness about unconscious bias. Understanding bias and forming an awareness of it is crucial before you can encourage change. Unconscious bias can include associations that people don’t even realize – they may be hidden beneath the surface and not align with declared beliefs.
A good way to start working on this is to encourage every stakeholder to review, question and analyze their own personal biases and assumptions. As they note their own actions, instances of stereotyping might help people become more aware of their unconscious biases and they can then begin to replace them.
Another key factor is to communicate the importance of managing bias. This really involves the importance of remaining curious and humble about differences. Cultural humility can help manage bias and foster more inclusiveness.
As more organizations implement diversity and inclusion policies, the future for legal diversity looks brighter, thanks to the efforts of committed legal professionals inside more and more enterprises.