Randi Bryant, chief diversity and inclusion officer for Freshworks (pictured), shares her perspective on how to ensure diversity and inclusion at work.
Whether a school, sports team, tech startup, government agency, or Fortune 100 — companies of all types are trying to develop and execute plans to foster diverse and inclusive environments.
Over the last two decades I’ve had the opportunity to create programs that impacted organisational culture, and were woven into the fabric of a company, while providing practical skills to improve interactions.
In this time, I’ve created two D&I workplace strategies — led by the executives of the company, and others led by employees. Here, I delve into my top tips to help your business tackle diversity and inclusion head on.
Put very simply, diversity in the workplace means that a company hires a wide range of diverse individuals. It is often misconceived as solely multicultural matters, however, it in fact applies to diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexuality, language, educational background, and so on.
For executives, a crucial first step is to ask, “where are we over-represented?” This may not be something you think about right off the bat, but it’s important to have an open view of this in order to know the next step to take.
For example, I once had a client that sold hockey equipment, and much of its staff were former hockey players. Once we had an understanding of where there was an over-representation, we were able to hone in on our focus.
For this specific client, our definition of diversity meant the business was to include people from other sports in the hiring process to encourage a diversity of thought within the business.
Provide alignment through leadership
An effective way to drive change forward is to empower and educate the leadership team of an organisation. This ensures that those who are capable of change are willing and ready to do so with new goals and accountability.
This could come in many forms, whether it be hiring a diversity and inclusion officer, tying diversity and inclusion to performance metrics and reviews, or even implementing diverse hiring incentives.
The bottom line is that diversity and inclusion need greater priority within organisations, and leadership is an important driving force.
Start conversations from the bottom-up
It’s not just enough to look at diversity and inclusion from the perspective of the executives, but rather to get a holistic view. How can you do this? By getting everyone in the company involved, including your employees.
A climate survey is a great way to make this happen as they are generally used to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a company from an organisation-wide perspective.
Provided that the survey is designed and conducted properly, the information it collects can be used to gain an internal understanding of the company that no external consultant would ever be able to contribute.
Besides its benefits for employers, conducting a climate survey also gives employees the chance to voice their opinions through an official tool.
The simple fact of allowing workers to express their opinion and know that it will be heard and taken into account by the company management is an improvement in the work environment itself.
Another way to get them involved is by introducing ongoing opportunities for employees to elevate their thoughts.
For example, at Freshworks, we’ve been doing “Weekly Global Conversations”, where employees have a safe space to share their culture with the wider team. Not only has this enabled open conversations to take place, but it has allowed everyone to learn something new.
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
We know that innovation can only flourish when employees feel safe bringing their whole selves to work and utilising Employee Resources Groups (ERGs) can be a powerful tool to do this. According to Catalyst, ERGs are “voluntary, employee-led groups that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organisational mission, values, goals, business practices, and objectives”.
First created by former Xerox CEO Joseph Wilson in the 1960s, ERGs build high-trust relationships that help companies flourish.
They also help groups foster a sense of belonging and inspire conversation, bringing new ways to look at issues and drive innovation.
When there are gaps in experiences, leaders often turn to ERGs to ensure that everyone, regardless of role or demographic, can succeed. Today, many companies continue to experience the effectiveness of employing ERGs, including Freshworks, EY, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and KPMG.
Tackling diversity and inclusion is by no means a tick box exercise, but rather something that needs to be constantly monitored, reviewed and widely encouraged. It’s also about recognising that being different is a strength and ultimately, it’s these differences that bring about the greatest innovation.
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