The idea that a company’s policies must default to the perspectives of a majority population, is starting to fade.
The 2020 United States census showed a decline in the percentage of the population identifying as white or non-Hispanic, from 63.7 percent in 2010 to less than 58 percent in 2020.
The Pew Research Center projects that by 2065, no single group will be seen as the majority.
That’s why it’s crucial for companies to embrace diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in their business strategies. It will no longer be viable for a company’s policies and protocols to default to previously held norms that don’t consider the experiences of people of color, LGBTQ+, or people with disabilities.
One way is to assemble a leadership team that represents an array of racial, ethnic, and global viewpoints and life experiences. This will help your company to consider diverse perspectives when developing workplace strategies.
Members of the leadership team often act as mentors and informal coaches outside of the management sphere, helping them to perform at their highest level and work toward individual goals. Research shows we tend to mentor those similar to us as affinity bias.
Without an equitable lens for the allocation of mentoring and coaching resources, there is a risk that people of color, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, or other marginalized groups who may not experience the benefits of mentoring and coaching, are missing out on highly visible leadership opportunities.
Empowerment to bring best selves to work and the world
Building a team that includes a solid bench of coaches from many backgrounds will make all the difference in the success of a company, but also in the lives of individual employees. When employees feel seen, valued, and empowered – and have a sense of belonging — they are motivated to do their best for the company and their communities.
After all, customers come from many backgrounds, so having a leadership team that weaves different perspectives into a company’s products and services — and the marketing of those products — can only help the business succeed.
Another factor that makes diversity a critical component of the business is: A company that defaults to a majority perspective may be unable to retain a diverse roster of employees. That’s more important in light of The Great Resignation. More than 4 million Americans left their jobs in July 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Employees’ reasons for leaving their jobs vary, but companies that don’t prioritize DEI and creating a culture of belonging have undoubtedly seen more resignations.
Companies that commit to DEI see lasting benefits by providing access to a dedicated DEI practitioner and certified executive coach regularly. Unconscious bias training is helpful, but a few training sessions can only go so far. Information is not the same as implementation.
Benefits of investing in leadership development
Keeping a dedicated DEI-certified executive coach permanently shapes the workplace culture in a way a guest coach can’t. Because the coach is embedded into the organization’s culture and familiar with core values, mission, and business priorities, they can help employees navigate the culture.
These coaches can build trust and leverage their cultural competency and knowledge of identities and adult learning to grow coachees’ leadership insights and develop coaching skills. As new issues arise, the coach and the staff can work through solutions in real-time, which brings about lasting change.
Think of it as a partnership that gives everyone a feeling of ownership in how the company functions. The DEI coach can be an internal resource to bring that coaching lens into leadership team meetings and decision-making to work with building inclusive leadership and belonging coaching skills for all.
Having access to an executive coach to grow their leadership skills makes employees feel their professional development and perspective matter to their employer, another reason they may be unlikely to look for the next opportunity.
Trust, competency, courage, and accountability are important, and having the right coach – one who can connect with empathy and lead with compassion to communicate areas to enhance the equity lens for greater inclusion to management – will go a long way toward making sure that suggestions become company policy.
A dedicated, internal DEI coach who has coached people of color, LGBTQ+, and persons with disabilities, may be better positioned to listen for patterns from those conversations to make recommendations for change.
Selecting a DEI coach
When choosing a DEI coach as your DEI leader, verify that the candidate has plenty of experience in the DEI space. It’s also helpful if they hold coaching and DEI certifications. A certified coach is trained to listen and synthesize what they heard.
- When employees expressed frustration for not being promoted due to feedback that they needed to enhance their English language skills, additional pronunciation training was made available. The organization also activated captioning options on virtual meeting platforms and for training videos.
- When employees expressed exclusion from training conferences due to dietary restrictions, physical limitations, or timing with cultural holiday observances, the DEI leader coach empowered them to ask for what they needed. As a result, the registration forms consider potential dietary restrictions or necessary accommodations such as access to mothers’ rooms.
- With low employee engagement scores, the DEI leader coach who has established the trust might ask those in lower-scoring groups, “What’s one small thing that would make a positive difference in your experience at work? If you were in charge, what would you implement for a more positive impact?
There’s another benefit to having diversity coaching as part of your company’s leadership development program. The camaraderie that develops between coaches and staff goes a long way toward shaping employees who can serve as DEI leaders in their areas of the company.
And eventually, those employees may hone their skills to the point that they can become the next generation of inclusive leaders and coaches for your business, thereby increasing your potential for employee retention, advancement, and innovative solutions.