Why Diversity and Inclusion Isn’t Working

Until the late 1990’s and early 2000’s big businesses were not giving diversity and inclusion much attention. Businesses started to care a lot more about implementing diversity and inclusion tactics when race and sex discrimination and other HR-related lawsuits began to hit their pockets. In less than 15 year’s, Merrill Lynch shelled out nearly half a billion dollars to settle cases like these. Despite, the heavy financial costs associated with the less than equal opportunities their employees receive companies still aren’t making a diligent effort to ensure that these programs work and here’s why.

No Clear Understanding of Goals

Most companies implement diversity and inclusion as an initiative for recruitment, reputation management and just to check of a box on their list of to-do’s. While these aren’t bad ideas, they aren’t great ones. What about what is currently happening in the workplace?  Another common mistake is viewing diversity and inclusion opportunities as expenses instead of investments. The focus should be “How will this drive business growth?” instead of, “How much will this cost?” Companies should also assess what diversity and inclusion solves instead of trying to solve diversity and inclusion. Viewing these plans as problems is counter-productive and undermines the true meaning and value that can be added to company culture. Instead, executives should be having real conversations about why people need this plan and what enterprise-wide opportunities there are.

No Call To Action

We know how it goes. When companies think of diversity and inclusion it usually goes like this:

  • Create a team of individuals that can effectively market the employee resource group to their targeted audience
  • Explore ways to partner with organizations and gain visibility through event sponsorships and attendance
  • Package all this together and market it via company-wide emails, mugs, notebooks, press releases…
  • Get recognized as one of the most diverse companies on some top 100 list.

Sound familiar? The problem is that this does not directly asses the needs of employees and set real achievable and manageable goals for the company. Obtaining executive sponsorship and financial backing for a focus group that will be held accountable for delivering the message and igniting the dialogue needed to change is critical. Measuring these efforts by the number of luncheons and conference attended will not suffice if they are not invoking change. If the company is serious, having an in-house, experienced diversity and inclusion manager or bringing on a consultant group to better help drive these efforts should definitely be considered.

Diversity & Inclusion is not an HR policy, it’s a culture shift

Hiring an influx of women and minorities under the diversity and inclusion umbrella can breed resentment and disdain within a company’s culture. Identifying people within the company and investing in their progression is much more effective. This doesn’t need to be announced as a diversity and inclusion effort but instead as simply, the company culture of promoting from within. This will increase loyalty and pride within the organization.

Diversity and Inclusion is not just “something to do”. It’s also not a problem. It will take time and money to identify the right strategy. Developing innovative strategies that builds trust, promotes community, and holds the company socially responsible is key.  What are your thoughts?