Leadership Tips for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

As an executive, you may assume that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is an HR initiative — one that will positively impact the company but not require much from you. Or you may be ready to go with DE&I but are unsure where to start. Regardless of your readiness for these efforts, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are some of the most important building blocks to business success right now. 

You have more power than you think to see DE&I initiatives succeed — here’s how.

Support Best Practices in Hiring

Your buy-in sets the tone for successful DE&I initiatives. When your tone and behavior note skepticism or you act like changing hiring practices is a chore, the entire company responds to that message. Many employees will see DE&I efforts through the lens you put on them. If they sense lackluster support from you, diverse hires may feel less included and like they are used as a means to an end. 

When in meetings or working with teams, be aware of how your attitude is impacting the discussion. Advocate that your teams use gender-neutral job descriptions and remove identifying features of candidates before reviewing resumes and cover letters. Remind them that overcoming our own unconscious biases allows us to find the absolute best candidates for the job, improving performance for the company as a whole.

Improve Diversity in the C-Suite

Diversity measures too often focus on entry-level positions. There is often much more hiring done at that level, and recruiting straight from diverse colleges and universities is a valuable strategy. However, promoting diversity requires just that — promotions! Offering a clear path to advancement for diverse talent helps your company in many ways.

First, fostering diverse leadership builds institutional knowledge that helps the company grow with a strong historical background. 

Second, as your entry-level team continues to grow more diverse, you want them to be able to look at the management team and see people who look like them and who are also from a variety of backgrounds. This helps younger professionals see themselves in future leadership roles.

Finally, having diverse candidates for C-Suite, top-executive roles inspires employees across the company, showing them that the possibility for achievement is high for everyone. 

Hold Departments Accountable for DE&I Efforts

Once teams set benchmarks for recruitment, using an excellent talent acquisition recruitment platform to track the DE&I metrics can help every department see where they are compared to their goals. Tools and reports may feel like just another part of business operations, but accountability in the numbers is a big reason why people keep DE&I top of mind, on top of the other considerations when recruiting solid candidates. 

Rather than using reports as a way to tell folks that they aren’t achieving DE&I goals, use them as a reason to redouble recruitment efforts, re-evaluate the job pipeline process, or forge new connections to bring in new candidates. 

Recruitment is complex, but reports and tools can help you pinpoint the exact challenges you’re facing and develop the right solutions.

Combine DE&I Consulting and Employee Committees

Whether you have the bandwidth for an in-house DE&I coordinator, an outside consultant to make recommendations, or no DE&I-focused positions, employee committees can bring a lot to the table. Introducing a resource group or committee can help get the employees who are most passionate about DE&I together to talk about best practices while also figuring out what would work in your company’s context. 

Make sure that these employee teams are offered resources, including on-the-clock time that counts toward their job objectives, and that their recommendations are seriously considered. As a leadership team member, you have the power to put their recommendations into practice and increase the committee’s profile.

Be Willing To See Roadblocks and Work Toward Removing Them

One of the simplest of being a leader who is working on diversity, equity, and inclusion is the willingness to see how the company has fallen short in the past. It isn’t necessary to be defensive or to even rationalize why the company previously had less focus on DE&I. Rather, your employees need you to model what it looks like to take responsibility for a need, even if it should have been acknowledged and handled a long time ago.

Identifying roadblocks can be painful, especially when an exclusive practice is deeply ingrained in the traditions of the company. Whenever possible, be the leader who takes a moment to examine their own reluctance to change. In some cases, the change wouldn’t make a difference, but often a change can send a strong signal that your company really wants all employees and candidates to feel valued and welcomed. 



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