As we kick off Pride Month, the team at Litera has been thinking about the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. It’s common knowledge by now that diverse companies make better decisions, are more innovative, and have better employee morale and job satisfaction, which increases the hiring pool and simultaneously reduces turnover.
This isn’t new information. Companies have been talking about the value of diversity for decades, starting as early as the 1960s, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act and accompanying workforce integration efforts. Yet many companies, despite good intentions and significant investments in DEI initiatives, are still spinning their wheels, with diversity ratings that are barely better than when they started.
Why aren’t companies knocking DEI programs out of the park by now? Here are a few possible stumbling blocks—and suggested solutions that may help you bypass them.
1. People think diversity is a zero-sum game.
There’s a common misconception that opportunities are like pie: when someone gets a slice, there’s suddenly less for everyone else. Consciously or unconsciously, that can make people who don’t identify as diverse hold back from putting their full, active support behind DEI programs or even resent those initiatives for fear that opportunities earmarked for someone else will no longer be available to them.
Solution: How well do your employees understand the benefits of diversity? How well do they understand your DEI efforts? You might survey people’s opinions—anonymously—to find out whether there’s a sense of reluctance around your diversity initiatives. You may find that people don’t know why inclusion efforts are necessary, misunderstand how they work, or fail to appreciate the benefits that a more diverse, representative employee and leadership base can yield. To the extent that opportunities are like pie, increasing the level of diversity at a company helps it make bigger pies, so there’s more for everyone.
2. We’re not aware of our blind spots and preferences.
The very nature of a blind spot is that we can’t see it—but when you know it’s there, as in your car, you can take extra care to look around the blind spot for hidden dangers. It’s the same with blind spots in our teams at work. People tend to repeatedly call on the same small set of resources for assistance, coaching, and advancement opportunities without realizing that their network is limited. As a result, diverse hires who haven’t yet formed strong bonds of association can be left out, impairing their ability to advance through the ranks.
Solution: To prevent preferential treatment for an “in-group,” set up a random rotation system for assigning project and mentorship opportunities. You could also build a skills database that your employees populate with their interests and aptitudes. With a database, someone in need of assistance could consult the list to identify available resources rather than relying on the network of people they already know.
3. It’s hard to define and make progress toward subjective goals.
In the business world, we’re used to setting goals, measuring key performance indicators (KPIs), and tracking metrics. But that sort of rigid bean-counting doesn’t work well with DEI efforts. You don’t “achieve” diversity when you hire a magic number of people of race A or age bracket B. You need to change minds, not just numbers. But it’s hard to make progress on goals that you aren’t measuring. It’s also hard to know what efforts are paying off without a graph of results to point to.
Solution: To have a successful DEI effort, you have to be willing to move past your fear and anxiety to talk about bias, prejudice, and diversity. Employee surveys and conversations may help you pinpoint problem areas or offices that aren’t comfortable for certain populations. If you truly need hard numbers, network analysis of employee communications may reveal who talks to whom—and who is consistently left out.
The key to increasing diversity and achieving the benefits of an equitable and inclusive workplace is communication. Companies need to recruit and hire a wide range of people and then ensure that they’re mentoring, coaching, developing, and promoting fairly, creating workspaces that work for everyone.
This subject is an important one for the team at Litera. Check out our upcoming series of Litera TV conversations about DEI and Pride Month, and be on the lookout for more blogs this month about what Pride means to Litera.