An ocean of data details the value of a diverse and inclusive workplace, and it all points to one thing: organizational leaders who aren’t getting on board are missing out — big time. Companies brimming with employees from diverse backgrounds are primed to develop innovative, cutting-edge solutions. They don’t succumb to groupthink, but foster out-of-the-box ideas — a critical quality for organizations that hope to survive — and thrive — in today’s highly-disrupted marketplace.
According to several recent studies, diverse and inclusive companies are 70% more likely to capture a new market and make better business decisions 87% of the time. At a more granular level, ethnically-diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their competition, and gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to do the same.
Diversity and inclusion are also integral parts of recruiting and retaining employees — especially millennials. In fact, 74% of millennials believe their organization is more innovative when it has a culture of inclusion and 47% actively seek employment from companies that value diversity and inclusion.
So how do organizations create a culture centered on diversity and inclusion? Through collaboration. The responsibility can’t fall solely on one individual or department’s shoulders — it simply won’t work. Here’s how senior executives, frontline employees, and HR leaders can build high-performing, diverse, inclusive cultures by working together every step of the way:
Step 1: Putting Diversity and Inclusion at the Heart of the Hiring Process
As the employee relations hub of an organization, HR has their finger on the pulse of organizational makeup and culture. They are a pivotal part of the hiring process, a go-to source for advice, and the first to get their hands on diversity and inclusion surveys and assessments. This level of insight provides HR with a “big picture” perspective, allowing them to identify gaps and areas of opportunities that others may miss.
Take Carlos, an HR leader of a national tech company. After a recent survey, it becomes glaringly apparent to Carlos that his company is comprised of mostly middle-aged male employees from similar tech backgrounds. Carlos has seen the research — he knows this doesn’t bode well for the company’s overall growth and sustainability. He assembles other senior leaders, working with them to position diversity and inclusion as a memorable, measurable, and meaningful Key Result, or topline organizational goal.
Carlos’ recruiting team jumps into action during the next hiring wave, taking accountability for results now that they know what their organization is trying to achieve. They cast a wider net in their talent search and remove gendered language from job posts to attract a diverse pool of applicants. It works, and in no time they have hired several new employees that bring a fresh perspective to the table. The organization not only meets their diversity and inclusion goals, but several others as a result of innovative thinking and creative problem solving previously stifled by a homogenous workforce.
Step 2: Creating a Sense of Belonging
A sense of belonging is a core component of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Employees seek a workplace where they feel their thoughts and ideas are valued — especially when those ideas differ from their colleagues. Employees who feel this sense of belonging at work are more productive and committed to achieving Key Results. In fact, over 90% of employees who feel valued say they’re more motivated to do their best. Original Partners In Leadership research further confirms that when employees feel valued, or happy at work, 85% take more initiative and nearly 50% percent care more about their work. On the contrary, engagement levels plummet when employees don’t feel valued by leaders and colleagues.
HR leaders are some of the first to get wind of employees demonstrating low engagement levels — often from the individuals in question themselves. It is the role of HR to work with senior executives to cultivate employee engagement. How can they do so effectively? By promoting, training, and incentivizing personal and team accountability.
An accountability-driven workplace is one in which employees rise above their circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving Key Results. These employees are the ones taking initiative and developing bold, creative solutions that propel the company towards their goals.
Through feedback and focused recognition — championing employees for instances of outstanding performance — leaders create experiences that validate employees’ efforts rather than brushing them aside. Take Southwest Airlines for example. The company is known for its weekly meetings, during which CEO Gary Kelly offers numerous “shoutouts” to employees that have gone above and beyond to address pressing business challenges. An employee may get a shoutout for independently handling a customer service crisis with tact and grace, for identifying and resolving a glitch in the company’s website, or any other accountable action. During these shout-outs, Kelly is not only recognizing employees who have demonstrated accountability (thereby reinforcing this continued behavior), but also storytelling.
According to the proven wisdom of The Results Pyramid®, as other employees listen and take note of these stories, their own beliefs start shifting and, eventually, so too do their actions. They begin seeing challenges as opportunities to go above and beyond — and they do just that. Soon the organization is reaching results more rapidly than ever before.
Step 3: Maintaining a Diverse and Inclusive Culture
Assembling a diverse team is great, but maintaining a spirit of inclusivity — that’s another challenge entirely. We all come to the table with our own, often unconscious, biases. It’s human nature. HR leaders and senior executives alleviate some of the tension these biases carry when they emphasize the value of diversity and encourage a safe, respectful environment for all to express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas.
Auto manufacturing company Continental offers an ideal example of an organization that puts diversity and inclusion at the heart of its operations. The company sets clearly defined diversity Key Results — like increasing the proportion of women in management positions to 25% by 2025 — then follows through to achieve them.
The Global Diversity Network, an umbrella organization for women’s networks at Continental, was created to foster women’s career development. Within the program, women are provided with networking opportunities across all of the countries within which Continental operates.
The company also recently released a short film, “The Safety of His Dream,” to promote STEM among youth, women, and minorities. The film, featuring a diverse range of employees as well as an innovative young student, shows that Continental relies on employees from all backgrounds to succeed. That’s why they engage annually with the Women of Color STEM conference, the Society of Women Engineers, and the National Society of Black Engineers.
These are just a few examples of how Continental AG isn’t just “talking the talk,” but “walking the walk” through actions that support and recognize a diverse workforce. There’s no question — Continental AG’s efforts are working. FORTUNE magazine named the organization one of the “most admired companies” for the second consecutive year in 2018, the same year that Forbes dubbed them one of the “best employers for women” — a testament to the organization’s commitment to inclusivity.
Putting Diversity and Inclusion at the Forefront
Senior executives and HR leaders create a diverse and inclusive culture when they work in tandem, first developing a diversity-oriented hiring process and then creating and maintaining experiences that foster an inclusive workplace. As a result, their organizations boast a diverse array of employees developing creative solutions that put them ahead of the curve and keep them thriving in today’s fast-paced market.
Mary Reardon, Continental AG’s head of talent acquisition for the U.S. and Canada, puts it simply in her response to the company’s recognition from Forbes:
“Creating an environment that consistently delivers envelope-pushing technology…starts with attracting, employing and supporting a diverse workforce. In the U.S. alone we have more than 19,000 talented individuals working on the future of mobility. Varying perspectives and experiences spur creativity and innovation, vital elements to our future success. Being recognized as a top workplace for women by such a respected publication serves as excellent motivation to continue cementing Continental’s position as a company that cares about its people — both in and out of the office.”