Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) is often seen as the initiative that an organization might put forth to create a welcoming environment for all employees, which is true to a certain degree. But for DE&I to become ingrained into company culture and business operations, it must be in the thread of everything — and that includes the entirety of the employee lifecycle. Otherwise, it’s nothing more than smoke and mirrors, putting the integrity of your business at risk.
Leadership buy-in is often the first order of business. Every successful initiative moves from the top down. DE&I is no different. You need executives to appreciate its value, engage in discussions, and invest the resources to drive inclusivity throughout an organization. It can also be of benefit to work with a consultant, as an outside perspective can shine a light on where improvements are necessary and make a case for leadership to enact an action plan.
Once leadership is on board and you’ve identified where DE&I may be lacking, only then can you begin incorporating DE&I into the lifecycle of employees in the following ways:
Reevaluate the recruiting process. If your company plans to practice what it preaches, DE&I must show up everywhere in the recruiting process. From the website and mission statement to the job posting and work created, incorporating DE&I from the initial interaction with your operations will ensure everyone recognizes that it’s an expectation at all levels of the organization.
Review where you’re sourcing talent and how you’re valuing skills and experience over educational pedigrees. What sorts of language do you use to describe openings? What services, resources, or accommodations do you afford interviewees to ensure they can show up as their best selves? Who is visibly present during interviews?
Ensure development opportunities. Employees have always wanted development opportunities. The same is true for career advancement — it’s just they’re more upfront about it these days. Much like recruitment, evaluate what you’re offering in these areas. Does everyone have the same training opportunities? Do leaders mentor employees equally?
It’s also important to look at how you fill positions when they become available. How do you communicate performance expectations for advancement? Is it clear to all? More importantly, assess your leadership succession plans. Make sure they include a diversity of candidates.
Prioritize proper offboarding. Offboarding doesn’t often get the attention it deserves, but it too plays a role in DE&I. Reexamine the process, paying special attention to not only how you treat employees on their way out but what types of questions you ask during the exit interview. The feedback gained can be critical to improving DE&I initiatives — and all business practices — in the future.
Driving any type of change can be a huge undertaking, DE&I included. Strategizing, developing new policies, and establishing training programs are just the tip of the iceberg to move everyone in the right direction. But no matter where you focus your attention, it will be a good start.