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How to Prioritize Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the Workplace

Written by Alida

Published August 26, 2021

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) have been at the forefront of a lot of organizational leaders’ minds in the past few years. But is all that thinking and policy-drafting actually amounting to anything within your business?

Be honest, where do you stand on DE&I as a company? Just look at your team. This simple DE&I exercise can show you how far along you’ve come — or how far you have to go. It’s something every leader needs to do, but it’s only the beginning. 

Read on to hear about how diversity can make your business more innovative, and how company-wide initiatives, as well as a voice-of-employee (VoE) program, can help you get the best out of your dynamic workforce.


Aiming for innovation? Then DE&I should be a top priority

Fostering collaboration among a broader range of voices leads to more creative thinking and original ideas that the market needs. It’s hard to overstate the business impact of having diverse voices at the table when making decisions.

Researchers at BCG reported “a strong and statistically significant correlation between the diversity of management teams and overall innovation.” They found that companies with above-average leadership diversity produced nearly half (45%) of their revenue from innovation — a 19% advantage over competitors with less diverse decision-making teams.

A McKinsey study looking at gender diversity on executive teams found that businesses in the top quartile were “25% more likely to have above-average profitability” than those at the bottom. 

You can’t craft an inclusive mission statement or go to market with a unique, accessible product if all of your decision-makers look the same, have similar backgrounds and perspectives, or speak with the same voice. 

If that’s happening at your organization, you’re creating an echo chamber — and it’s doing your business a disservice. When virtually everyone operates with a shared mentality, it significantly limits your impact and ability to innovate.

The best innovations are combinations of the unexpected. They grow out of fertile ground that’s enriched with different and potentially even contradictory ideas and perspectives.

It’s often uncomfortable to bring together such a mixed bag of insights — but that’s what causes change and helps original ideas take form.


Be critical about who’s seated at your decision-making table 

No matter your team’s size or scope of responsibility, look critically at who’s in the room when you’re making decisions. How many different voices are represented on that team? Do you see a diverse group of people at the table, or is it a homogenous group? 

Well, now you know your company’s current stance on DE&I.

It doesn’t matter what vision statement your leadership team wrote in a slide deck several years ago. If you don’t see that vision reflected in the faces around you, chances are, you’ve been doing nothing this whole time.  

That may be uncomfortable to hear. But if you don’t like what you see, there’s still plenty of time to change. 


Make DE&I in your workforce a company-wide priority

To shake up a stagnant, homogenous workforce, you need to get buy-in from across the organization. With everyone on board, you can set actionable goals and then actually do what it takes to make meaningful progress toward those goals.

If everyone looks, sounds, and ultimately acts the same way, work with your CEO and HR leadership to update your trajectory. Whether it takes updating your hiring practices, company culture, employer brand, or a combination of all of these and more, solving this problem will and should be an organization-wide initiative. 

Also, think critically about how you got to where you are right now. Was it due to negligence and inaction, or are certain policies and practices actively excluding others? Use awareness to inform your next steps.

Change won’t happen overnight — but the longer you delay, the more opportunities you’re missing out on. Approach this as an ongoing process and keep taking steps in the right direction.


Turn up the volume on VoE

Just having a more diverse group in the room isn’t enough. Once you make that decision-making process more inclusive, the whole point — and the key to success — is to make sure their voices are heard and are being used to influence change.

You should be actively listening at all levels and taking action based on what you hear from your workforce. Don’t forget: It’s also your responsibility to circle back and listen again to ensure the decisions you’re making are working.

Whether you’re co-creating policies with managerial staff or developing new products, closing the feedback loop is an essential piece of the internal DE&I puzzle. 

If DE&I is a priority for your business, maybe you’re already fostering inclusive insight communities with your customers and feeding more diverse perspectives into your product development cycle. But this structure doesn’t necessarily help you hear out your employees.

In addition to those customer insight communities, work on establishing a voice-of-employee program to more deeply listen to and understand the people within your organization. Gathering input from the people you work with can show you whether or not you’re meeting the needs, preferences, and priorities of everyone who makes up your workforce. 


Not sure where to start?

You need to be tapping lots of different voices to drive growth and innovation. 

If you’re having a hard time capturing valuable perspectives and insights from across your workforce, Alida can help you understand what a VoE program could mean for your organization and show you how to get started.

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