Spotlight: Diversity Best Practices

diversity best practices

Today, most companies talk the talk about diversity and inclusion.

They say that a diverse workplace is vital to the future of their business and yet when push comes to shove, they aren’t walking the walk: failing to make the effort to source a varied group of hires and create a truly inclusive office environment for all.

Understanding the challenges inherent in building a truly multicultural and inclusive workplace takes expertise, research, and strategic thinking. Diversity Best Practices (DBP) is one of the nation’s top organizations working to provide thought leadership and solutions for corporations to change their approach to developing diversity programs.

Deborah Munster

“Over the next 10 years, researchers estimate a 23mm talent gap.  As the baby boomer generation prepares to exit the workforce, we have a tremendous opportunity to close the gap in how we hire, develop, advance and retain diverse candidates,” Deborah Munster, DBP executive director tells Ivy Exec.

But today, most companies are locked in a talent war and are not seeking innovative solutions to building out their talent pool beyond chasing after the same candidates in the same way as they have for decades.

“We provide insights, solutions and tools to achieve diversity and inclusion goals. We look at what are the best practices in talent processes, like recruitment and tackling unconscious bias.” Munster says of what she calls the short-term problem of hiring inclusively.

But achieving a truly diverse hiring effort is only the beginning. DBP also helps companies focus on what to do once those diverse hires are integrated into the workplace. And when it comes to building a culture where diversity can thrive, corporations need to look at the long game.

“On the long term perspective, diversity and inclusion require a cultural shift,” she explains. “The biggest challenge is the perception that it doesn’t work and that efforts are not getting us as far as we want to get.”

Munster points out however that while 88% of companies they polled have a strong diversity and inclusion mission, only 29% of them actually tie those objectives to compensation. Only about 40% even hold the corporate leadership accountable for reporting diversity and inclusion metrics at all. As a result, Munster cites concern with the accountability disconnect.

“For maximum effectiveness, D&I should report directly to the CEO in an organization because that’s how you build authenticity, credibility and a direct path to the C-Suite,” she insists, noting that most companies struggle to track and measure success in diversity and inclusion efforts.

Subha Barry
Subha Barry

Subha Barry is the senior vice president, managing director of DBP and Working Mother Media, and has experienced the challenges of climbing to the C-Suite as a diverse hire. She got her start in the 1980’s as a commodities trader and even after transitioning to become a financial advisor, she was the only Indian woman advisor at Merrill Lynch.

“The one big advantage I had was that I was always judged and valued objectively,” Barry recalls.

She remembers that as long as her numbers were strong, others around her had to accept her value as a top performer in the group—even if they didn’t like the way she looked or the way she spoke with an accent. To better understand her unique position, she once asked her manager why he didn’t hire more people from diverse backgrounds like her.

“He said: ‘I got lucky with you. I wouldn’t push my luck again,’” she says.

Now, Barry is making sure that other talented workers do not have to fight being overlooked because of their backgrounds. She’s defined DBP’s mission to help companies employ working parents; to aid in the recruitment, development and promotion of women into senior roles; and to create a platform wherein all employees can be brought to the table in an inclusive environment.

Because a major part of the problem is that companies think they’re doing a much better job with diversity and inclusion efforts than, in reality, they are, DBP has created an inclusion index. This benchmarking index provides an enhanced database that allows DBP members to see exactly where they are missing the mark: perhaps they are not focusing enough on hiring disabled employees but are doing excellent work in the area of hiring men and women equally. Wherever they are succeeding or missing the mark, this inclusion index can illuminate the problems and help guide them on the path toward resolving them. It’s the only index of its kind to cover such a broad spectrum of diverse metrics. Ultimately, the index grades companies on their willingness to be transparent about minority hiring; their adherence to DBP’s prescribed best practices for hiring, retaining and promoting minorities; and for their ability to promote a culture that fosters diversity and inclusion.

While the road ahead is long for companies to truly embrace diversity efforts, there is one group that is currently a minority but is very quickly becoming a majority that must be recognized: millennials. Munster points out that the American workplace is transitioning as Baby Boomers exit and millennials are on pace to make up 75% of the workforce by 2030. With this shift in age comes a culture shift as millennials have different priorities in the office than prior generations.

“Millennials don’t like to be categorized,” Munster says. However, data has shown that millennials tend to remain at companies longer term when there is a culture of openness that gives them a path to advance and develop.

“Millennials aren’t just looking to hop, they are looking for the next opportunity,” Munster clarifies. “Companies need to shape that message for recruitment.”

Barry concurs and cautions that millennials are less likely to stay in a job where the culture does not suit their needs and values.

“With millennials, they don’t stick it out. If they are uncomfortable and don’t feel at home, they walk. Baby Boomers have afforded them the luxury of saying: if you don’t like it, you can move home and figure it out. Now, they take that luxury,” Barry says. “But now, we’re beginning to understand what millennials want. When they come to work, they want their ideas to be valued. They want their sense of purpose reflected in how the company behaves. And they want their values embodied by their company’s leadership.”

While these millennial cultural must haves might seem like a high bar for a corporation to meet, these younger hires might be forcing companies to get more in tune with a healthy culture of diversity and inclusion than they’ve ever had to be in the past.

“Think of millennials not as a generation, but a mindset,” Barry offers. “You can have 60-year olds and 65-year olds with a millennial mindset. The better you can do this, the better you can combine the experience and wisdom of the Baby Boomer generation with what the millennials bring to the table.”

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