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Diversity and Inclusion Simplified: Key Steps for Businesses

Updated: June 11, 2024

I know many of you will disagree with the title. You’re thinking, there’s nothing easy about diversity – we can’t even figure out what’s the right buzzword or training program. I was hoping not to date myself in an article but for those of you familiar with the late comedian, George Carlin, I recall his tirades on language changes over the years. Amid COVID-19, it’s interesting that we’ve reverted back to saying Toilet Paper and not Bathroom Tissue. He had a pretty great shtick about “shell shock” which remains one of my favorite performances, but I digress. Back to the HR buzzwords – we started hearing about diversity and equity, then it was all about inclusion. Now companies want us to feel like we “belong”. Instead of talking about unconscious bias or implicit bias – we’re now being asked to be consciously inclusive – huh? Is this my boss’ way of telling me that I forgot to invite someone to a meeting? Employee engagement surveys now measure “sense of belonging” -really, you can measure that? I won’t go into a discussion about data analytics, just that “belonging” is the new buzzword for inclusion. I believe, like Mr. Carlin, that sometimes when we try to make things “sound better” – we don’t actually talk about the real issues. We end up talking around them.


The Real Issues Behind Workplace Diversity

Even in today’s environment, the cornerstone biases are still standing. For example: Ever try to have a conversation about those red flag diversity issues and all anyone wants to talk about is diversity of thought because there can’t possibly be racial discrimination in your own workplace? Seriously – get over it. The “isms” (ageism, ableism, racism, sexism) are important and here’s why they’re easy. They exist. It’s an “either/or” option. It either is there or it’s not. You either have more Whites in your workplace or you have more African Americans or Hispanics, Asians, etc. Diversity is your demographics – the ones you can see and the ones just under the surface, that you know exist but you just don’t talk about.

So, look at what’s there? Just because you have more of one demographic than another doesn’t mean that you’re doing something wrong. What’s the demographics of the town, city or state you live in? How big is the company you work for? I know you all hate it when HR folks say “it depends” but it does. I don’t answer employee relations questions in a vacuum – meaning you’re not going to run hypotheticals by me and get actionable next steps. You need to provide names and specific incidents. Individuals are just that, individuals, and I won’t recommend corrective action based on a generalized statement – we must take into consideration the individuals involved and their particular circumstances and any mitigating factors. So, too – you can’t improve on your employees’ sense of belonging if you’re unwilling to really get to know the individuals who make up your team. And to do that, you have to be willing and able to look at the current representation.


Measuring Employee Engagement and Sense of Belonging

Diversity is your snapshot – it’s your company’s photo album. You’ve got to do the same thing with diversity. You’ve got to first take a look at what’s there. Accept it as your snapshot and figure out if this is the snapshot you would expect as a customer – and if not, why? Who’s missing? Also, please remember that your employees are your customers (remember that engagement survey, please).

So, how do you do that? Well . . . here it comes again, “it depends”.

  1. How do you retain your records? Do you already have some form of BI visual dashboard or are you looking at information you can pivot in Excel tables?
  2. What are you concerned about – what’s missing in the photo or what’s the rumblings you’ve heard? Are you looking at gender pay parity? Or are you wondering about retention of a certain demographic or within a specific range of tenure?
  3. You may actually have to look at your snapshot from different angles to figure out if the concern you have is related to something that’s process driven or something that’s more about developing your individual leaders.
  4. Or is your photo blurred because you’re managing during a crisis and you’ve had to do things differently during a specific time-frame?
  5. Trends and historical data help. However, defining how you want your snapshot to look, setting a quantifiable future goal, is how you begin the process to improve.

Figuring out why and how to change your snapshot will take time, thoughtfulness and a “top-down, all-in” approach. But that’s another story. Your company diversity is easy because it’s already there – it exists. The question becomes – is the snapshot, the best representation of your company?