Is it the responsibility of private organizations to end societal injustice?
Organizations are facing a radical new reality as they try to attract and retain the best talent. Seismic changes in the meaning of and approaches to addressing diversity mean that only those organizations that are willing to view their diversity initiatives as strategically critical for their survival will thrive.
How has diversity changed? Over the last decades, the field of Diversity changed to Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). This change was a result of organizations learning the hard way that simply hiring a more diverse talent pool will not change the organization since many of these diverse employees were leaving their organizations. To rectify this, inclusion became the goal. Companies hired for diversity but had to manage for inclusion. Organizations had to address the concerns of their diverse employees. One response to this was the creation of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or Business Resource Groups (BRGs) made up primarily of employees from underrepresented groups who shared a common dimension of diversity such as race, gender, ethnicity, etc. (For more on diversity dimensions, see this article from the November/December 2011 issue of Training: http://pubs.royle.com/publication/?i=88853&p=68)
Most of these groups also allowed allies who wanted to support them. Successful groups often had an executive sponsor who would become the liaison between the groups and executive leaders. The importance of these groups grew from making recommendations on hiring diverse candidates to policies and practices to improve the success of the whole organization.
For example, People of Color have long been underrepresented in pharmaceutical clinical trials, which means that the efficacy of the medications being tested may vary by biological factors such as race. To attract more People of Color into clinical trials, one major pharmaceutical company reached out to its African-American Resource Group to help identify Doctors of Color who could be contacted for help to identify diverse candidates for clinical trials.
Over the last decade, the term, “equity,” was added to the title of this area, expanding it to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Equity means having to create a level playing field when it comes to salaries, promotions, etc. For example, IBM noticed that women were not being promoted to executive levels, primarily because they had not been awarded a patent and were not being mentored on how to do so. The Women in Leadership group at IBM asked the company to sponsor workshops on “How to be Awarded a Patent.” As a result of the workshops, more than 60 patents were awarded to women, boosting IBM’s profits and increasing the number of women at the executive level.
ADDING A “J” FOR JUSTICE
Global reaction to the killing of George Floyd and others by the police resulted in a growing awareness of the fundamental injustices faced by People of Color, which continues to exist. What will leading organizations do about this and how will it impact Learning and Talent Development? Simply providing training is insufficient.
To counter the historical injustices—including slavery, lynching, Jim Crow, voting suppression, medical experimentation, housing discrimination/redlining, unequal education, bigotry, high drug-related incarceration rates, and much more—organizations have to become the dominant change agent to create a more just, equitable, and inclusive workplace and society. Here are four new initiatives leading organizations are implementing:
- Diversity demographic and inclusion surveys. Organizations are looking to capture and quantify key aspects of their employee demographics and inclusion feedback through online confidential surveys. Such surveys capture key statistical information that can be compared internally to particular offices/ employee demographics, as well as additional questions focused on diversity and inclusion behaviors and organizational commitments. These surveys provide the guidelines for future DEI initiatives, including training.
- Discussion of previously forbidden topics. Critical conversations about the lived experiences of employees help to uncover the fundamental differences (and similarities) of employees based on race, ethnicity, immigration status, and more. At one of our clients, we recently rolled out a program on “Critical Conversations About Racism” and “Building Inclusion Through Storytelling” (For details on this program, see this article in the September/October 2020 issue of Training: https://pubs.royle.com/publication/?m=20617&i=672372&p=38)
- Implementing mentoring and sponsorship programs to become the employer of choice. My article in the November/December 2020 issue of Training explores this topic: https://pubs.royle.com/publication/?m=20617&i=678873&p=60
- Community outreach. Innovative outreach programs include: apprenticeships for high school students; adopting schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods by providing financial support, computers, SMART electronic lightboards, enhanced Wi-Fi, and more; sponsoring training and providing employment opportunities to those who are incarcerated.
The area of DEI is evolving every day. Organizations that are pro-active in leading DEI initiatives will become the employers of choice for the foreseeable future. Talent Development, Training, and Organizational Development groups will be critical in these ventures. Please share cases of new DEI initiatives you are exploring and the results of these endeavors with me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Neal Goodman, Ph.D., is president of Global Dynamics, Inc., a training and development firm specializing in globalization, cultural intelligence, effective virtual workplaces, and diversity and inclusion. He can be reached at 305.682.7883 and at email@example.com. For more information, visit: http://www.global-dynamics.com