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Diversity and inclusion initiatives have been knocking on Corporate America’s door for several years. Whether or not companies have the resources to implement strong D&I programs appears to be the pain point. Seems like organizations are beginning to realize diversity and inclusion programs aren’t something you can put a check mark next to by creating a task force or having the HR department comply with hiring quotas. Outside resources should be tapped, allowing for the first step – discovery – to begin. After all, how can any C-Suite truly know what the pain points are for a company unless they start a conversation with the employees and contractors inside an organization?

How to get the momentum moving in the right direction

Statistics show that only five percent of companies who have pushed the envelope have a female CEO, and only a handful of these companies has more than one female top executive. People are starting to notice. It’s a dismal track record and offers a limited path to the C-suite for women and minorities.

Do you have a D&I Task Force in place? You may benefit from a fine group of cross-functional peers with the ability to get things done, but how do you measure the group’s progress? 

Most organizations measure success based on execution. But if you apply that formula to diversity and inclusion, you may experience a sudden focus that launches a bunch of well-meaning programs – but lacks momentum. Did you start a project, declare victory and disband? You may not have the right tools in place to move the needle.

Solution

Realize this is not yet your core competency. Create a task force to find a subject matter expert (SME) or hire a D&I consulting firm that specializes in diversity and inclusion with an excellent track record for long-term success.

Is your solution part of the problem?

Approaching diversity and inclusion by the numbers doesn’t always work. Ask the NFL. The Rooney Rule – which requires National Football League teams to interview at least one minority when hiring a head coach – has not resulted in an increased number of minority head coaches.

In fact, studies show that mandatory training programs can produce the opposite of their intentions, especially when it comes to inclusion. After all, do you feel welcome when your “otherness” is the subject of mandatory training?

A woman adds post its to a wall as part of a presentation. A man and a woman are watching her.
Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Solution

Consider adopting the “next generation” version of the Rooney Rule, The Mansfield Rule as a guide. Because it was developed by professionals in the legal industry, it offers a way for businesses to track their progress and ensure the implementation of diversity and inclusion. In additon, D&I consultants can create customized training programs designed after the discovery process has ended and the results are analyzed. Imagine if your company had its very own solution based on the exact needs of the people?

How much does D&I cost?

Big budgets don’t guarantee successful diversity and inclusion programs. However, ignoring D&I could cost a company more. Because customized D&I programs take time, a budget should be allocated quarterly. Starting with the discovery phase, diversity and inclusion programs can include fireside chats, one-on-ones, surveys, interactive workshops, leadership advocacy training, panels, and motivational speaking opportunities to create relatable content and measurable results over the course of a year or more.

Remember, there must be an environment where growth can flourish. This is often the most challenging part of the effort to create diversity within an organization – especially at the leadership level. Because it’s important to include and support people who have beliefs that shape their actions differently than yours, D&I programs take time. You simply can’t rush getting to the root of the problem and implementing a custom solution.

Diversity-focused recruiting, even at the CEO level, also requires a strategic plan. Facilitating inclusion at the recruiting level is essential because a company cannot establish diversity if an organization has difficulty with the idea of recruiting people who present themselves differently because of life experiences.

Solution

Start with a plan, because promoting or hiring minorities is not the entire solution. Above all, companies must create a culture where everyone feels comfortable and heard. Mentor the next generation of leaders by initiating a recruiting program that places diversity and inclusiveness at the forefront.

Understanding the “why” behind D&I

Author Glenn Llopis tells Forbes Magazine that leadership teams at many companies are poor at problem diagnosis. Like the default-mode for a task force, Llopis says that managers move quickly to implement solutions without first making sure they truly understand the problem. In my experience, the only way to truly figure out the “why” is by interviewing staff from admin to C-Suite and encouraging transparency. You have to listen to your people to establish a connection and solution. And remember, listening is the hardest communication skill.

Solution

Diversity and inclusion require rethinking how a company will grow by finding more people who will think and act like its leaders but can enhance a culture due to our differences. Transformational change requires the discomfort that comes as a result of recognizing and embracing the things that make us unique.