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Want Diversity and Inclusion in Your Workplace to Matter? Begin with Business Leaders.

Nearly a quarter of HR professionals surveyed by SHRM declared that racial discrimination is alive and well in their workplace. Among black HR professionals, that number rises to half. We know the inequity evident in our communities also has crept into the places where we work. Even so, the opportunities to work with a variety of people from different backgrounds, cultures, and countries will only increase in today’s global workforce. Business leaders are beginning to realize that even with hired consultants and training, they’re no closer to making strides in diversity and inclusion than beyond awareness of the issue. So, how do leaders begin to bridge the gap between awareness and action? How do they approach the next steps and acculturate diversity, equity, and inclusion into their business norms?  Here are a few ways business leaders can expand their commitment to DEI and ensure an inclusive culture is represented at every level.

  1. Start with making inclusion a priority. Hire and promote with a commitment to inclusion and begin with board members. A diverse board shows employees, customers, and shareholders that your organization is ready to act on its promise. Make your organization accountable beyond hiring a diverse workforce by ensuring opportunity and advancement are available to all employees at all levels.

  2. Review and reevaluate inclusivity regularly. Periodically attend group meetings. Reward random acts of inclusion publicly to solidify the guiding principle leading this ‘new’ culture. Review benefits and incentives with an eye for detail directed to inclusion and equity. During meetings, notice who dominates conversations and curtail bropirating or whipeating and other forms of double standards and stereotyping on the spot. Train managers to ask people directly for their contributions if they don’t speak up. Don’t ignore lower-profile contributions and make them part of the evaluation process.

  3. Foster candid conversations about bias. If the conversation is stuck in neutral, consider investing in experienced experts for workshops. Another consideration is to conduct confidential surveys. With surveys, there’s an opportunity to learn about the organization’s current culture by analyzing employees’ responses to experiences, rather than relying on what we think or believe their experiences to be.

  4. Expand the organization’s corporate social responsibility through charitable works. Identify ways your organization can promote social and racial justice. Tap into the employee pool about volunteer ideas with non-profit organizations that promote social and racial justice. Work side-by-side with your employees in community projects, such as building homes, volunteer teaching at local junior high and high schools, or establishing a workforce training program. Charitable dollars for community-based initiatives provide positive press and help the communities where an organization does business.

  5. Expand marketing beyond race, gender, and sexual orientation and include age, people with disabilities, veteran status, and political differences. Inclusivity means it should benefit everyone. Ensure communications, public relations, and marketing include groups that have largely been ignored and lacked opportunities.

  6. Rethink building an organization for social justice and social change. Aside from making bold statements about social injustice, encourage positive remarks made by staff regarding inclusion and equity. Commit to working with only companies that share your company’s values and beliefs about equality, diversity, and inclusion. When North Carolina passed the notorious ‘bathroom bill,’ a bill thought to be prejudiced and hateful towards the transgender community, the NBA and several other companies decided to pull their events in that state—bringing about change one check at a time.