Three Steps for Strengthening Diversity and Inclusion
Corporate America is being compelled to examine the persistent lack of diversity in the workplace and address the underlying issues. MLT Founder and CEO John Rice shares insights on the root causes, along with three actions leaders can take toward meaningful, measurable, and sustainable diversity and inclusion strategies.
Leaders can take three near-term steps to support their diverse employees and build a more diverse organization.
- Understand the underlying problem — why we are where we are and why people are protesting across the country.
This is not just about systemic racism and how we are policing Black people or prosecuting those who commit crimes. It’s also about the narrative that exists that enables police and other citizens to think they can get away with racist behavior. Additionally, it’s about the exhaustion underlying the long-standing inequities with respect to economic mobility, health care, wealth inequality, housing, etc. which are all getting worse during the pandemic. It’s important to focus on the underlying problem and not just the symptoms.
- Communicate with courage and not perfection — stakeholders will remember what you said but also what you did not say.
We are at an inflection point and people will not just remember what you said, but what you did not say. People won’t expect you to have all the answers. But they do want you to understand the problem, and they want to know the values you stand for and what you stand against. Communicating with courage will not only demonstrate to People of Color that you get it, but it will also give your white colleagues more confidence to communicate and to listen and that will be important to moving the needle on the underlying issues.
- Take a rigorous approach and don’t settle for random acts of diversity.
Make a commitment to taking a rigorous approach to move the needle in your world — for recruiting and retaining diverse talent and for your professional services suppliers. To create a comprehensive, rigorous D&I plan, go back to the basic underpinnings of strategy and execution you built your business on.
- Start by defining the problem and opportunity at hand.
- Define what success looks like in 3-5 years qualitatively and quantitatively.
- Based on that success definition, prioritize the levers to invest in that will get you there.
- Define interim progress metrics.
- Lay out an organizational approach with clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and accountability for implementation and driving outcomes throughout the organization.
Too often leaders fail to deeply understand the underlying drivers of the problem and don’t define success. So they struggle to prioritize the levers to invest in, and then it’s hard to determine interim metrics and hold anyone accountable. They are then left with a diversity strategy defined by “let’s just do better than last year,” which would never be acceptable in any other part of your business. That leads to random acts of diversity which often look good but will leave you in the same place in a few years that we are today. It is that lack of progress that is the core issue that is being protested today.
For more information, contact MLT Founder & CEO John Rice. To get started on building a winning D&I strategy, contact MLT’s Advisory Services Team. For even more insights on how to move the needle on diversity, check out John’s recent piece in The Economist Intelligence Unit.