As the country slowly begins to fully re-open and we enter recovery mode economically, companies will soon be bringing back their staff. Recruiters and HR professionals will once again become busy hiring new talent and growing their pipeline, a sign of normalization on the horizon. However, I hope we never go back to the old ways of business as “normal.” Those days consisted of major biases within the hiring and promoting processes. Last year enabled us to remove the blind fold, both seeing and feeling the separation and isolation in the workplace. This momentum cannot stop now because business is picking up. Saying we are now too busy to focus on DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) or putting it off for a later time are excuses. Companies need to offer more than their reaffirm commitment to diversity because what leaders do is far more important than what they say.
We can agree it is key for companies to diversify talent. Diversity brings different voices and perspectives to the table which in turn sparks innovation. One of the more common challenges is said to be the lack of diverse candidates. But I believe the issue at hand is the loose commitment from executives. The disconnect is not why recruiters are unable find top tier diverse talent but in fact it lays on the challenge of leadership not understanding the impact and value of diversity. They do not fully comprehend the “why”. Yes, having resources, like money, is important in helping change and reshape the narrative but intentionality is the difference-maker in this battle. Between 2014-2020, Facebook increased their total number of Black workers from 3% to 3.8%. Do we really want to say Facebook does not have the funds or capital to fix this minority gap? With over 300+ million Americans in this country perhaps Blacks and people of color just do not want to work for a dynamic and innovative company like Facebook? Or maybe as a society we just feel more comfortable with giving a multi-billion-dollar company like Facebook a hall pass on this issue. The bigger problem here is organizations too often blame the pool and not the policy when it comes to adding diverse employees. These are only a few examples of why it is key for organizations to invest in equitable policy and reform.
A recent argument that I heard and want to share is the monopoly analogy. Some people believe the rules have been addressed, i.e., Affirmative Action, and are now corrected inside the work field. Thus, everyone has access to opportunities and good paying jobs, but this notion points to the disillusion that systemic racism does not exist. You see, the theory behind the “monopoly analogy” is that rules are fixed, nobody has an advantage because everyone starts at the same level, all players have opportunities to succeed and advance. The major flaw here is that the theory is too simplistic. It too easily discounts generations of slavery, oppression, legal discrimination (i.e., Jim Crow Laws) that Blacks and people of color have endured. It additionally overlooks a person’s access to quality resources like education, community, and housing. Seemingly, the rules feel as though they keep being rewritten to work against you. Regardless of what theory you believe in, we need to commit to equity because it is about investing in people, period.
For companies interested in creating positive change in their work environment, here are a few tips. Please note these are 10,000-foot viewpoints and that if you are interested in further details or strategy, I do offer consulting services to help meet your goals.
1. Internal Employees – Employers too often focus more of their time and energy on external diversity hiring when they should be focused on current staff members. Companies need to create internal escalators and roadmaps as this shows employees that you are serious about investing in their professional growth. In a two-fold process, companies need to also track mobility. A large part of the problem is the starting line is significantly different for minorities. A McKinsey Study (2018) showed 64% of entry level roles are made up by women and people of color. What these statistics reveal is companies can hire diverse applicants but lack the motivation of promoting them. If we want to move the needle, improving in this area is paramount – break the glass ceiling!
2. Benchmark – Data is something management is always keen on. It shows you your strengths and weaknesses, and the areas where you need to focus and improve. Most of us know who our competitors are, i.e., our “comp set”. Yet, most companies do not measure their diversity hiring or initiatives compared to that comp set. This is vital information to learn where your organization stands in the diversity spectrum. Everyone wants to be the leader in sales and revenue but is your appetite for DEI equally as strong?
3. Time Bound – Once you have verbalized and created your diversity goals and roadmap, it is critical to include aggressive timelines. Also be sure to add consequences if your company fails to achieve set goals. The idea behind this action is to avoid a cycle of pushing the issue off farther and farther, or “kicking the can down the road” so to speak.
Another point to recognize is that diversity in leadership helps those who have been historically disenfranchised to build self-esteem and confidence. Being able to see someone who looks like you in leadership is psychologically powerful and motivating. Black and Brown kids are told to dream big but if they have never seen someone who looks like them who succeeded when dreaming big, how can they believe that they will be different? White-dominate culture makes up a large majority of this country’s politicians (93%), Fortune 500 CEOs (92%), NFL owners (97%), Hollywood movie directors (95%), and the ten richest Americans (100%). The social and economic playing field is far from even. It is a difficult system to fix, but it is not being helped by prejudice and unfairly holding back people of color from leadership and positions of influence. What is needed are new perspectives where we lead with curiosity, courage, and compassion.