Diversity Is More Than a Quota, It’s a Business Pillar
By: Autumn Gilliam, Everywhere Agency
February 23, 2018
It’s 2018. Is there really a valid excuse for leading a company that lacks diversity?
CEOs, it’s time to take a long hard look at your staff. Can you say your company actively pursues and retains diverse talent? Does your workforce represent a healthy cross section of age, culture/ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, personality, socioeconomic status, education, life experiences and ability level?
This is diversity. This is one of your company’s greatest assets and if you can’t answer those questions confidently, you’ve got a ticking time bomb on your hands.
Each year, we see examples of brands that failed to prioritize diversity and inclusion in their business models like Revolve, Apple and Google. Newsflash, if your corporation touts innovation and the value of out-of-the-box thinking, you cannot eschew the concept of a diverse workforce—unless you enjoy suffering public backlash.
Most recently, we’ve seen how lack of awareness of cultural and historical sensitivities can damage big names like RAM, H&M, Dove, and Shea Moisture—with each brand navigating their issues with diversity on a national stage. Many of these public fallouts could have been avoided if each brand were more in tune with the cultural climate at-large, which can be achieved by inviting and heeding a variety of perspectives at the decision channel.
In today’s ever-changing digital environment, it’s crucial to establish a brand that recognizes and speaks to your many audiences. Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all messaging and colorblind hiring practices. If you’re not hiring, retaining and listening to diverse talent, you’re getting left in the dark ages.
So how do you avoid becoming a case study?
Create a Culture of Diversity That Starts From the Top
Start with your company’s culture. A company culture that feels inclusive to employees of all backgrounds creates an environment that attracts future talent and helps retain the talent that you have.
Company culture is not a one-and-done initiative—it is an ongoing effort that should inform your hiring choices and your internal communications. And it should come from the top down.
There are many ways to weave diversity into your core competencies. Welcome differences! Encourage activities that highlight diversity, create a space for open dialogue around diverse ideas and perspectives, challenge status-quo thinking and lead by example. Once your organization is committed to creating a culture of diversity and inclusion, it’s imperative to check in on the status and progress of those efforts over time. Overnight fixes, while enticing, can yield long-term problems.
Be Intentional in Your Hiring Strategy
Diversity isn’t a fundamental pillar haphazardly achieved. It takes forethought and intention to create a diverse workforce. When seeking to increase diversity in staff, leadership has to start with knowing who you’re looking for and how these new candidates will contribute to your organizational structure. What strengths are you looking to add to the team? More importantly, what holes exist in your corporate make-up?
Actively pursue candidates with backgrounds that reflect these gaps and use language in your job postings that encourages the application of candidates outside your current employee demographics. For example, if you know your company breakdown is on the mature side, look for ways to recruit millennial perspectives. Research the job boards that they prefer, the newsletters they subscribe to and language they use for job postings.
Invest In and Incorporate Diversity Training
As pivotal as it is to attract diverse talent, retaining them means maintaining an environment where all feel welcome and valued. In the same way that you likely support internal training to maintain safety codes, professional development and company standards, diversity training should also be a natural part of employee development. Training that keeps your workforce knowledgeable and aware of the benefits and value of diversity is essential in maintaining the strong company culture that you’ve worked so hard to create.
Diversity isn’t “one size fits all.” Each organization has to find a diversity model and framework that fits them best. This starts with open and honest communication. Creating an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their views will retain the extraordinary talent you’ve attracted. With a strong foundation of actively celebrating diversity, organizations are better equipped to strategically attract and grow talent reflective of various demographics and backgrounds.
Countless Fortune 500 companies have already implemented a culture built on the principles of diversity and inclusion, like Macys or Airbnb. Taking their commitment to diversity a step further, organizations like the Atlanta Hawks and Pinterest have designated chief diversity officers, a fairly new corporate position.
It’s important to remember that improving and maintaining organizational diversity is a continuous and process. Don’t give up when you hit a little stumbling block. Push through to see amazing results—and avoid being the poster child of another PR fiasco that could have easily been prevented if only a person of color, for example, had been in the room during the decision-making process.
Autumn Gilliam is a multidisciplinary communications professional with experience in fashion PR, public affairs and, currently, influencer marketing at Everywhere Agency. She enjoys traveling and immersing herself in different cultures and environments and uses her passion for diversity and inclusion to contribute new perspectives to a host of projects in and outside of work.
Follow Autumn: @itsAutumnChanel