Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) programs are a hallmark of successful companies. How can you build the business case for a D&I program in your organization? This summary of the Diversity & Inclusion panel that we ran at the F 2017 CUE Conference in Indianapolis shares some tips. (Part 1 here)
We already know that D&I programs make companies more competitive and sustainable, and a comprehensive employee relations strategy must include a diversity component. But where do you start if you don’t have an existing program, and how do you get buy-in from the executive leadership team? CUE’s Diversity & Inclusion panel shared some tips from their own experience at the Fall 2017 Conference.
First, take a look at the organization’s values. How do diversity and inclusion fit with those values? Then, look at the business strategy and objectives. How can a diversity program help the organization meet those objectives, and how does it align with the long-term business strategy. More than 90% of Fortune 500 companies have active diversity programs – they don’t have this because it’s the right thing to do; they do what gets results.
Next, determine where your gaps are, both internally (employees, leadership) and externally (customers, vendors, suppliers, charitable donations). Sometimes it’s better to have an outside organization come in to assess these gaps. Successful organizations understand upcoming retirement and retention trends and are clear on what talent is necessary to stay competitive.
If you have a lot of areas that need improvement, don’t try to tackle them all at once. Choose one or two of the most critical areas to work on first. Once you’ve met those objectives, then you can focus on new ones. Look for diversity champions, especially in the leadership team.
Supplier diversity is mandated in government contractors, but it gets good results for everyone – women-, minority-, and veteran-owned businesses deliver the same quality product or service, but they tend to be more loyal and more likely to promote your business.
When making the business case, use the same language and structure as the organization uses for any other business case. Make the case that D&I is an imperative not just to compete in the marketplace, but to lead the competition. Network with those who have existing D&I programs, both inside and out of your industry, and talk to them about strategies they used to make the business case and how they presented it to the C Suite. Use benchmarking and lists like Diversity Inc.’s Top 50 or the Corporate Equality Index to determine where you are and to help you measure your successes.
Your business case must be tied to business objectives, such as driving revenue and global growth or reducing turnover. Your employee resource groups (ERG’s) should have the same structure as other parts of the organization, with an executive sponsor, co-chairs, and committee leads. Their strategies should be specific, geared toward your areas of opportunity (e.g. recruitment, retention, promotion), and clearly aligned with business objectives.
Establish meaningful metrics for ERG’s and make sure your membership is varied; you want to avoid ERG’s becoming a social club. Once your ERG’s are in place, you can utilize them to help the organization accomplish business objectives. One example that was given was using a Young Professionals group to reverse-mentor older employees when the company transitioned to a paperless system. This innovative approach led to a successful implementation that was replicated globally. Diversity and inclusion are about building better relationships, not just mitigating risk.
Establishing accountability and measuring success can be difficult. Consider adding a diversity component to your employee opinion surveys to gauge employees’ views. You can use this information to drive membership in ERG’s, since members are more likely to view the organization favorably. To introduce accountability in leadership, many companies have used a layered approach, first making diversity a part of executive leadership bonuses, then moving down one layer each year. This top-down approach allows people to become accustomed to D&I being a part of the broader business strategy.
Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) programs are becoming a key part of many employer’s positive employee relations strategy every day. Many people feel that this is in response to external factors and the “PC culture.” CUE’s panel of diversity experts would disagree.
At CUE’s Fall Conference, our panel of Diversity and Employee Relations Experts included Noel Hornsberry, Yvette Hunsicker, Lorin Bradley, and consultant Arthur Johnson of Vision Inspired Performance Group led a session to address issues in diversity and inclusion. Each of these specialists agreed that you cannot have a comprehensive employee relations program without a strategy that addresses diversity and inclusion.
Countless stories on the issue of sexual harassment have appeared recently in the media, including national outlets like the New York Times, and the Washington Post. More recently, regional papers like the Chicago Tribune and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, both featured articles on pervasive sexual harassment in the retail and restaurant industries.
While there is no question that sexual harassment must be addressed appropriately by all employers from a legal and training perspective, labor relations staff should not overlook the potential of sexual harassment forming the core of a corporate campaign aimed at your brand.
A short op-ed from the website The Week published on November 27th lays out this approach very concisely. “Going forward, national labor battles like the Fight for $15 movements need to become the front lines in combating workplace sexual harassment as well”, despite labors own internal on this front; labor organizations claim that they offer the best hope for workers to protect themselves from workplace predators. We know that unions are not the only solution, but it does mean that you must take steps to ensure that your employee relations plan addresses this issue directly with your supervisors.
What is diversity? Each person had a slightly different take, but mainly it is recognizing and valuing the differences that each employee brings to the workplace – from more obvious traits like race and gender to less noticeable things like thinking and working styles – and leveraging those differences to drive business performance. Without innovative and diverse thought, employees are less engaged in their work, and the company is less competitive in the market. A good D&I program can drive employee engagement and retention, as well as performance and revenue.
Most diversity programs include Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s, also called Business Resource Groups or Affinity Groups), which are groups of employees who share particular characteristics or life experiences (e.g., job function, race, sexual orientation, generation). Their purpose is to provide support to both the company and other employees in career development, addressing employee relations issues, marketing and product development, wellness, and even social responsibility and volunteering. These groups are crucial for keeping your finger on the pulse of the environment within your organization, and their formation should be driven by the characteristics of your employees, not a pre-set list of groups you want represented.
How valuable are ERG’s? Well, more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies utilize ERG’s for everything from refining their recruiting strategy for millennials to improving the product experience for customers with disabilities. Companies with active ERG’s tend to be more competitive in the marketplace, and employees who are members of ERG’s have a 15-25% more favorable opinion of the organization than those who aren’t. Higher engagement results because ERG participants are more educated about what’s going on with the company, they understand more about business strategy, and they build more relationships across the organization and different functional groups.
D&I programs should be based on the core values of the organization and communications with employees should be rooted in those values. When we create a culture of respect and appreciation, each person can come to work and show up as their whole self. The organization becomes more competitive and sustainable as a whole, and employee relations issues are identified more quickly and resolved.
Need some tips on getting started? Check out Part Two of our series Building the Business Case for Diversity and Inclusion.
Article by Lara Lawson