It’s a common refrain heard at D&I-focused events: Employee diversity benefits not only those being hired, but companies overall. But how to get there?
“It’s not just the ‘right’ thing to do, it makes business sense,” said Tanya O’Neill, the associate director of leadership and professional development at University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine.
O’Neill spoke on Thursday morning as company leaders, decision makers and influencers from the Philadelphia area gathered at the National Museum of American Jewish History — and remotely, in this reporter’s case, thanks for a COVID-19-inspired video conferencing option — to talk about how to turn aspirations of diversity and inclusion policies into an an actionable plan.
The event was produced by arts nonprofit Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and dove into topics like how affective D&I policies make for better business and how hiring managers and company leaders can shape their companies to support a diverse workplace.
While many people immediately think of race in D&I initiatives, a truly diverse workplace includes a mix of people of different age brackets, genders, abilities, sexualities and socio-economic backgrounds. These teams reap more innovation and creativity, which is financially beneficial, O’Neill said during her time onstage.
But, people of color do make up more than half of Philadelphia’s population, and companies without a racially diverse workforce often box themselves out of appealing to a majority of the population, O’Neill said.
“This is your audience, the people you serve, the communities you want to connect with,” she said. “Think about how much of this population you actually reaching right now.”
O’Neill also said to actually have a diverse workforce, a company can’t only be thinking about its entry-level positions: “It’s got to be reflected in upper management,” she said.
Diversity and inclusion consultant Shawn Mott explained the various benefits of a diverse team including having a broader range of skills, language abilities, perspectives and productivity.
So, how do you work on a diversity and inclusion policy in an earnest and sustainable way? While it starts with assessing your hiring practices, you can’t expect an employee to flourish without internal support, Mott said.
In an equitable workplace, everyone has a fair and just opportunity in hiring, promotions and development. They're not just handed the same exact set of tools and told to perform their duties.
“It’s one thing to recruit a diverse workforce, it’s another to include it,” Mott said. “If you’re only recruiting a diverse workforce, that’s not the whole picture.”
At any given company, there’s decision makers and influencers, he said. While decision makers are those ultimately calling the shots, influencers can talk about the benefits of supporting a diverse workplace.
Leadership ought to consider the difference between equality vs. equity: In an equitable workplace, everyone has a fair and just opportunity in hiring, promotions and development. They’re not just handed the same exact set of tools and told to perform their duties, Mott said.
“If it’s a tool that’s to help you perform your job, but is that tool any good if it doesn’t meet your needs?” he said.
Strategies for building a strong team start before the hiring process. Mott told attendees that before the event, he spent time pursing their company’s websites looking for things like language, team photos and leadership. After just a few minutes, it’s easy enough to tell: “Is this a place I want to work?”
When hiring, audit your job listing for language that might ward off diverse candidates and make sure that you’re seeking folks from places where diverse candidates congregate. If you’re relying on a network to seek candidates, consider who’s in that network, and then broaden it. Also consider practices like only offering paid internships, because a very small part of the population can afford to work for free.
Increase diversity in candidate screening by leaning on AI to search candidate resumes or seek out a blind resume service that will filter candidates through based on experience, and not just who knows who. (For further reading on this topic, check out “6 ways to make your hiring process more inclusive.”)
Well-managed diverse teams outperformed their peers by 80% in team-based assessments and showed 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee over a three-year period, according to the story — and yet, 70% of organizations didn’t have inclusive practices.
Steps attendees were asked do after Thursday’s event included bringing two actions back to their organization, identifying an accountability partner within their organization, and making a plan to check-in on their progress 30 days from now.
A quick question folks can ask themselves as they’re implementing their inclusion efforts boils down to a simple question, O’Neill said.
“Is it a place where people can truly be their authentic selves?” she said.