Integrating Diversity into the Company

Although protests following the videotaped death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer are decreasing, there’s still much discussion in communities not just about justice, but also the need for inclusion, diversity, and racial equity. Some brands were quick to publicly state their position on one or more of these topics, but critics are advocating that they move from statements to more tangible and visible action.

Where Does It Start?

When Harry S. Truman served as our 33rd President, a friend gave him a desk sign which read, “The buck stops here.” Some historians credit our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt, for first saying it. What was novel about Truman’s sign is that the reverse side said,” I’m from Missouri,” a clear reference to and abbreviated form of “I’m from Missouri. Show me!” Folks like Truman and others from the Show Me State were often characterized as skeptical.

To many observers, this saying holds true about the recent statements of diversity support. They wish to see companies that are truly intent on instilling a culture of inclusion, diversity and racial equity within their walls take active measures. Achieving this starts at the top. Both the CEO and the company’s board of directors need to not only agree on strong statements about diversity but also invest the capital and personnel resources to achieve success. Together, they need to set and fund measurable goals to achieve diversity.

This is also a time for self-inspection. Companies striving for diversity need to look internally to see if they have the staffing to help drive this, but also the diverse representation within the organization and board that represents and speaks for all groups. When that commitment is made, it’s time to draft and implement a diversity strategy.

A Diversity Strategy

Before going out and recruiting people of color and diversifying the workforce, there must be a culture of inclusivity. Without it, turnover will likely be high. But when employees feel they truly belong at an organization, are heard and respected, they will be among the most loyal employees. This is where investments in bias training, micro aggression, culture, values and management training are indispensable and invaluable.

Goal setting on recruiting Black and other minority workers will also cause the HR department to consciously consider how they’ll market to these groups as well as re-evaluate how promotions, raises, and bonuses are administered and weighed. Goal setting is legal, unlike quotas. 

Similarly, encouraging current vendors, contractors and suppliers to embrace the same while considering others that already support diversity sends a strong signal. Sharing that same message with consumers will also resonate loud and strong.

A review of where the company’s sponsorship and philanthropic funds are focused is also in order. It may be necessary and wise to redirect future funds to areas and causes that signal the company’s commitment to diversity.

Finally, companies sincere about diversity must hold themselves accountable. That’s the reason for the goals. It’s one thing to publicly support diversity and another to know if progress toward achieving it is being made. It’s then, when companies use their voices in support of diversity, that they can hold up what they’ve accomplished or the progress they’ve made as examples of their commitment.

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