Diversity Commitment Actions
As a manager, you are a role model. Your employees will look to see what you say and do to evaluate your dedication to addressing diversity issues. It's essential that you understand the business case for diversity, why it's important for your organization to address diversity issues, and what the specific diversity issues are that you want to resolve within your organization. In short, you'll need to have some talking points around diversity.
Senior managers will want to develop a diversity statement for their organization. You also will probably want to have your leadership team participate in a team-building exercise around diversity.
The suggestions below fall into three categories: communication (what you say), action (what you do), and accountability (what you're willing to take responsibility for).
You will need to communicate throughout your diversity initiative from the time you first begin to identify issues until you implement and measure your results. In short, communication is an on-going process that will need to reach many audiences both internally and externally. Listed below are some suggestions for demonstrating your commitment to addressing diversity issues through communication.
Write a memo or letter to employees stating your commitment to identifying and resolving diversity issues. You will want to be as specific as you can in this letter and delineate the process you intend to pursue. If this is your first communication, you want to balance your enthusiasm for creating a diverse and inclusive work environment with the realistic understanding that change is complicated and takes time. You should not write a letter that merely states your commitment to a diverse workforce that is free of bias and discrimination. Employees will see through such an empty gesture.
Develop and deliver a formal presentation on diversity to internal audiences. It's important that your employees see and hear you speak about diversity issues. You can kick off the diversity effort with a formal presentation, or you can save the presentation until after the research phase. Once changes have been implemented, you can update your presentation with any progress and the outlook for the future.
Talk about diversity in regular business forums. It's important that diversity is integrated into the typical operations of the organization. Because diversity can improve your performance in many ways, it is desirable to ask about diversity results during routine business update meetings.
Talk about diversity in informal settings. You should look for opportunities to have a two-way dialogue about diversity, for example, using town hall meetings, or brown bag luncheons. During these sessions, you may want to speak for 15 minutes at the beginning and then take questions. Allowing your employees to air their concerns will be a powerful demonstration of your commitment to diversity.
Make speeches about diversity outside the company. Talking about diversity in external forums demonstrates your commitment to diversity and enhances the company's reputation in the community among employees, customers and other business partners.
In addition to talking about diversity, you will need to become personally involved and there are many ways you can do this.
Participate in diversity awareness training. As discussed in the Where to Begin section, it's important for you to learn about typical diversity issues. While you can read books and view videotapes, these intellectual tools may not have as much emotional impact as participating in a well-run diversity training session. Ideally the training should have experiential exercises so you can begin to understand the impact of differences at an interpersonal level. The learnings from such training will strengthen your commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Recognize diversity champions within your organization. A diversity change process requires the commitment and energy of as many employees as possible. One way to sustain the momentum during what is often a long process is to periodically recognize the efforts of individuals who have contributed to the diversity effort in a positive way. By recognizing and rewarding employees, other employees will be persuaded to get involved.
Participate in and support the activities of employee network groups. Many companies have employee network groups so employees who share a similar demographic characteristic or other characteristics can get together. These groups can be very helpful in the diversity change process. They educate other employees about their cultural background, they provide mentoring and career development guidance to their members, they often assist with recruiting, and they provide crucial feedback to an organization's diversity effort. You should look for ways to interact with these groups by attending their functions, speaking at a forum, or meeting with their leadership.
Encourage your employees to participate in employee network groups. As described above, employee network groups have many benefits. Your employees are more likely to participate if they feel that their manager supports their involvement in these groups.
Get involved with community organizations that serve diverse groups. When you interact with people who are different from you, you will expand your understanding of diversity issues. In addition, you will be demonstrating that your commitment to diversity extends beyond your formal position as a manager. For more information see the list of community organizations in the Resources section.
Get to know a diverse group of employees. You need lots of personal interaction with people from different backgrounds in order to enhance your understanding and appreciation of cultural differences.
It's not enough to talk about diversity and take some actions around diversity. You need to assume responsibility for improving your work environment with respect to diversity issues. If you have developed the business case for diversity, it's easy to link improving diversity performance to enhancing overall corporate performance. Addressing diversity issues also may support the achievement of specific corporate strategies, for example, expanding internationally or becoming an employer of choice.
Identify relevant diversity performance measures for your organization: You will want to review the measurement section and identify both quantitative and qualitative measurements for tracking the progress of your diversity effort.
Evaluate all employees, including individual contributors. As part of performance management, every employee should be given feedback on their commitment to addressing diversity issues within your organization. In this way, every employee takes ownership for creating a work environment that is fair and inclusive.
Establish an on-going feedback mechanism. Quantitative and qualitative measurements describe only part of the story of your diversity effort. Employee feedback often fills in the gaps and suggests reasons why your measures on diversity performance are improving, or not improving. You should develop a process to get feedback from employees, individual business units and/or teams.
Monitor and report progress. It's easier to begin a diversity initiative than to sustain the energy and commitment necessary to resolving diversity issues in the workplace. Nevertheless, your accountability as a manager requires that you monitor the impact of your diversity initiatives and periodically report on your progress.
Take action and show results. You shouldn't just talk about diversity. You need to have on-going results, even if they're small.
Mid-level and senior managers also should consider the following:
Make a high level appointment of a qualified woman, person of color, or person with a disability. Nothing signals your commitment to increasing the diversity within your organization like the selection of a woman, person of color, or a person with a disability to a senior role.
Hold managers accountable for ‘mutual familiarization' – getting to know a diverse group of employees. Just as it's important for you to get to know a diverse group of employees, it's important for your managers. By increasing their familiarity and comfort with employees from different backgrounds, they will be more likely to recommend someone who is different from them for a new position, a high risk assignment, or a special program.
Evaluate the performance of all managers. As your diversity effort progresses, you may want to tie a portion of manager bonuses to the achievement of specific diversity objectives.
Consider the use of a balanced report card for diversity. A balanced report card utilizes a wide variety of agreed-upon measures to evaluate a diversity effort. You should review the Measurement Section in order to select the most appropriate measures for your organization.