Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging

How to Get Started with Diversity Progress When Your Organization Isn't Diverse

Mar 10, 2022 - Cat DiStasio

You’ve likely heard that the hardest part of any journey is the first step. But sometimes, the second and third steps can be pretty challenging as well.

This is certainly true of an organization’s diversity journey, especially when your starting point is pretty far from your goals. How you start your journey can determine the speed, quality, and enduring qualities of your progress.

Diversity progress matters now more than ever, because both employees and job seekers demand it. According to a recent Glassdoor survey, most (76%) employees and job seekers say a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating potential employers and job opportunities. About a third (32%) of those survey respondents say they won’t apply to a job at an organization where there’s a lack of workforce diversity, so if your workforce isn’t diverse, you’re already behind the curve and it’s crucial to start today.

So where do you start if your demographics don’t represent your values (yet)?

Lead with Transparency

First and foremost, be honest and authentic. Don’t use stock photos that suggest your workforce is diverse if it’s not. Employees already know the truth, and job seekers will learn soon enough once they meet your interview teams or tour your workplace.

Instead of trying to pose as a more diverse organization than you are, identify and share your Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEIB) goals. Acknowledge where you are, explain where you want to be, and share how you plan to get from Point A to Point B. Share this information first with your employees, leaving room for improvement based on their feedback, and then work to incorporate this messaging throughout your recruiting process so that candidates can see your commitment and transparency in action.

Demonstrate Commitment to DEIB Progress Across your Organization

Your commitment to DEIB progress isn’t just about hiring. It’s also about fostering a culture that celebrates and honors diversity throughout every department and every team. No matter how close you are to your DEIB goals, everyone in the organization can contribute to this important work and make a difference.

There are many ways to support and encourage diversity throughout your organization right now. Host conversations (whether in-person, virtual events, or a mix) and invite diverse voices to speak into your workforce about topics like history, culture, and anti-racism work. Consider the diversity of your business relationships with consultants, agencies, and vendors. Empower employees to form employee resource groups (ERGs) and business resource groups (BRGs) around any focus that is important to them.

Strive for a Fair, Inclusive Recruiting Process

Job seekers can sniff out if you’re trying to fake a certain workplace culture from the outside. If you’re not actually demonstrating your commitment to DEIB in your recruiting and hiring interactions, they have no reason to believe things will be different on the job. Since we know how important diversity is to today’s job seekers, this means many will abandon your recruiting process if their candidate experience doesn’t reflect the values they are looking for in an employer.

So make sure that’s not the case. Audit all of your recruiting communications, including interview questions and scripts as well as virtual event content, for inclusive language. Train everyone involved in the candidate screening and interviewing process to deliver a consistent candidate experience in every conversation.

Need more help spotting areas for improvement? Ask your current employees (especially recent hires) for feedback on the recruiting process. Find out how they rank the experience on different aspects of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging and invite their suggestions for getting closer to your goals.

Measure and Publicize your Progress

As you make gains toward your diversity goals, let the world know. This doesn’t mean you need to post “Look, we hired another minority candidate!” on your company blog. (Seriously, don’t do that.) But if part of your content strategy involves spotlighting new hires across the board, highlighting employee stories can be one way to share your progress. (At Brazen, we regularly spotlight recent hires on our social media accounts.) You could also share about internal initiatives and employee-led programs to include this momentum as a key message in your employer brand.

On a very basic level, diversity is measured in numbers and many large employers (like Google and Facebook) publish annual diversity reports that include information about their strategic goals for progress as well as lessons learned along the way. Your organization may not need to go all-in like this, but there’s definitely a version of this tactic that makes sense for your organization, depending on your size, industry, and target talent audience. You just need to find it.

Partner with Diversity-focused Community Organizations

Whether part of your charitable giving program, talent acquisition strategy, or a combination, finding tangible ways to support DEI-focused orgs in your local community and industry help demonstrate your commitment and show that you have some skin in the game. Reach out to local community organizations that actively support marginalized youth populations, enable educational opportunities, or help connect people from underrepresented groups with employment.

While many of these organizations always need financial support, look for other ways to help (in addition to writing a check). The leaders of community organizations will readily tell you what they need if you ask, and you may find rewarding opportunities to offer support that everyone in your organization can participate in (if they wish), like clothing and gift drives or volunteer efforts.

Conclusion

It may feel overwhelming to start your organization’s diversity journey if the path ahead seems long and daunting. But begin you must. And even baby steps toward a more diverse workplace make a difference in someone’s life experience, and that’s why DEIB work matters. Evaluate your starting point, set and share your goals, and be transparent about how you plan to move forward. Taking action today will impact your results tomorrow, so it’s never too late to take that first step.

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