In June, spurred by worldwide anti-racism protests, companies pledged to do better on racial equality. Two months later, after making internal and public declarations about their commitments, some leaders may be wondering how to handle the next steps.
It starts with gathering data, say experts in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Ruchika Tulshyan, founder and chief executive officer of consulting company Candour in Seattle and author of The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality in the Workplace, suggests an internal audit. How many people of color does your organization employ, and how seniors are they? Have you measured employee engagement levels by race or gender? Do you have performance reviews to indicate how fair and inclusive managers are?
Once you know where you stand, set clear, measurable targets. “Deal with the problem using the tools businesses use for any problem they actually care about—evidence, goals, and metrics,” says Joan Williams, a professor at University of California Hastings College of the Law who studies gender and racial bias. Especially helpful for setting objectives: Look not only at outcome metrics (how many Black people are in the C-suite) but also at process metrics (performance review ratings). Those can help identify why outcomes are uneven. Communicate these goals to staff with a transparent, long-term vision about why meeting them is vital. Tie it back to the company’s mission and values so employees feel they have a stake in the outcome.
As with any reform, there may be resistance. “People don’t volunteer to change,” says Abigail Mary Dunne, a senior faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C. Win skeptics over by talking about what your company is missing out on by failing to be more diverse, she says. And though you can make the robust business case for diversity, she adds, make the moral case, too.
The next step is to hold employees at all levels accountable for meeting goals. That’s no different from any other vital business initiative, says Kira Hudson Banks, a consultant and psychology professor at Saint Louis University. Be upfront about progress, even when it’s uneven or stalled. “To be accountable doesn’t mean to be perfect,” Banks says.
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August 10, 2020