People care about a company’s diversity and inclusion commitment. This has been true for quite some time and has only grown in importance as a result of the events of last year and the resulting social justice protests that put a spotlight on these issues. A just, equitable society for everyone includes an economy, marketplace, and businesses that are welcoming of everyone and affords each of us equal opportunity to succeed.
We work with so many great companies that understand this and are working to address issues of inequality and bias in the workplace. I personally know many wonderful people working on D&I issues, so of course I’m aware of the ongoing work, but not everyone is. That’s not good for a number of reasons, in particular because it hampers your ability to recruit the very individuals you want to hire, and can affect retention too.
People Really Care
Surveys consistently show anywhere from 70-90% of people care about a company’s D&I. Those are big numbers no matter how you slice them. Nasdaq recently discussed adopting a board diversity rule, Glassdoor added D&I as a category that companies can be rated on, and it’s likely the concern and scrutiny will continue. People care, and that’s not going away. No one wants to work where they do not feel welcome and included. We all want to be respected and paid fairly, and we want others treated the same way. We hope to feel that there is a commitment to shared values and we expect this to be demonstrated across the board, not in pockets or silos.
As I said, so many are working to change and improve things (if your company is not thinking about this already, that’s a problem), but it’s critical to ensure you are fully and effectively communicating what your company and your people are doing.
Tell Your Story
The way people learn about your company’s culture and commitment? By consuming the information that is available. Whether you provide it, or someone else does, what’s out there is what people will form their opinions on.
Which is why it is so critical that you tell your story. Internally and externally. On multiple platforms. Make sure that everyone knows what you are doing, and the results. Efforts to increase supplier diversity, promote POC to leadership positions, hire a diverse workforce, ensure a welcoming environment for the LGBTQ+ community, address gender-based pay differentials, support social justice initiatives – they are all parts of the whole and yet not inclusive of everything companies are, and should, be doing.
The more people understand your goals and the steps you are taking to reach them, the better it is. You will of course share different levels of detail internally and externally as warranted, but giving people a picture of the whole is important. It isn’t useful to work hard to attract diverse candidates if you don’t also show them how that commitment extends to creating an inclusive, equal opportunity workplace where they will thrive. They either won’t accept your offer, or they won’t stay long.
Share Specifics and Stories
Share your numbers, statistics, results. They matter. Recognize though that they are not the full story – quotas and percentages cannot be the extent of your efforts or all you communicate. Give details about internal programs as well as efforts to support external justice and equality. Let people know the full breadth of your commitment. Promote the programs that will yield long-term results as well as short-term wins. Big donations garner easy headlines; people-intensive initiatives require nuanced communication.
Share your mission, goals, and plans for the future. Show how you are working to both attract diverse candidates and create an inclusive company. Put the info out there! (see below for more on that). Don’t hesitate because you haven’t fulfilled them, or even made the progress you want to. The effort and commitment count. Share success stories as well as the areas where you fell short and need more effort. Transparency is an oft, some might say overused word these days, but there’s a reason – people want it.
Don’t Overlook Any Communication Channel
There are so many communication options these days it can be overwhelming, so much so that it’s tempting to just opt out or stick with your status quo. This is a mistake. Social media, print/traditional media, a good PR and marketing team, industry or other external groups, annual reports, internal newsletters, interviews, word of mouth – they are all communication channels, and they can all be helpful or hurtful if not managed well.
You need a communication strategy specifically for D&I. Take into account the audience you are trying to reach and the story you want to tell, then understand that different mediums are better depending on the answer. Don’t assume that your website will cover everything (it won’t) or that a Twitter or Instagram account is either all you need, or stupid (both opinions are wrong). There is no one size fits all anymore. It’s a mistake to ignore the reality of Nasdaq or Glassdoor, but what you want to promote and how you want to say it will be different for each.
We are a Latina-led, woman-owned business with approximately half our staff self-identifying as diverse, and we can do better as well. We all have to be vigilant against bias and prejudice, especially its effects in the workplace. I’m offering suggestions because I am aware of the pitfalls, not because we get it right all the time! We’re always striving for improvement though. Recognizing the issues that exist and trying to find solutions is an ongoing collective effort in both the personal and civic spheres of our lives. We all have a part to play in creating more diverse, inclusive workplaces.
Communicating about your actions regarding D&I issues and your efforts gives people important information that they want in order to make a decision. It’s smart and will help with recruiting and retention. But it also strengthens our collective efforts. The more we realize we share these goals, the more we can work together to find the answers. Tell your company’s D&I story!
Feel free to reach out to me and share your thoughts.