Don’t Let Your DE&I Efforts Slip
By Christina Stokes
In early 2020, there was an incredible amount of momentum industrywide with corporations making DE&I efforts a priority in their organizations. As employees were processing ongoing acts of systemic racial injustice, leaders commenced launching and implementing initiatives aimed at improving their workplaces across hiring, employee experiences and policies.
We saw the creation of new roles, such as “Chief Diversity Officer,” being championed and celebrated. Businesses embraced transparency, and began sharing areas where they were falling short, and the steps that they were taking with their internal and external stakeholders.
As we enter the second quarter of 2023, the country is in a state of economic instability. The pandemic is winding down, but business leaders remain cautious, and we are now witnessing budget cuts, more attacks on human rights, mass layoffs, looming financial crises and more.
Unfortunately, I am also starting to see that DE&I initiatives that were so top of mind three years ago are, in many places, losing their prioritization and funding. This is a moment where we need to dig our heels in and rally together so that we do not go backward and lose the progress that was made in this space.
It will always be the best business decision to prioritize DE&I initiatives. DE&I closely tied to the talent acquisition process, for instance, will result in a more innovative, engaged and productive workforce, increased retention rates and a positive, progressive reputation within your industry.
Public relations, in particular, is a global industry, and it pays to employ a diverse workforce. When you have people with different experiences, perspectives and backgrounds at the table, you produce better work for your clients, your teams appeal to a wider customer base and profitability will increase.
DE&I and EEO consultant and founding partner at Inclusion Strategy Solutions, Wendy Amengual Wark, emphasizes that we need more than window dressing, which is essentially performative DE&I.
In a discussion about how the world of DE&I in corporate America has changed since the dawn of COVID-19, she shared with me: “Evolution is critical to survival. The healthiest organizations have evolved from acting strictly in reaction to laws or traumatic events. They are proactive and inclusive intentionally. A hybrid of workstyles, workplaces, work hours and methodologies is what is needed to do our best and be our best. Employers of choice stand out by standing up for diversity, equity, inclusion, access and belonging (DEIAB) beyond buzzwords.”
Now is not the time to let our DE&I efforts slip. There are budget-friendly ways to continue incorporating DE&I into your talent acquisition process and employee retention efforts:
- Ensure that the language in job postings is inclusive and implement blind résumé screening wherever possible.
- Provide training for hiring managers and those in the interview/selection process to target unconscious biases.
- Identify metrics to see where improvement is needed and track your progress to remain accountable.
- Have frank discussions with staff at all levels and in all functions to maintain transparency and generate new ideas.
- Provide continuous opportunities to staff for learning, development and professional growth.
We can’t dump the corporate response on the backs of impacted groups, such as the individuals who run our Employee Resources Groups (ERGs), either. It is up to employers to be the genuine leaders and change-makers that people need.
Wendy further elaborates: “Create safe spaces for employees to be fully heard and fairly treated, including DEIAB councils, anonymous surveys and focus groups. Promote your commitment to DEIAB internally and externally. Finally, provide support for mental and emotional health so that employees can get help when and how they need it.”
Remember that it is not only a matter of principle. Companies that fail to prioritize DE&I run the risk of falling behind their competitors and will not reap the many benefits of maintaining a diverse workforce and an inclusive workplace.
For more information and a deeper dive, I recommend checking out “State of Inequity: Building a Brighter Future for BIPOC at Work” a report released by Hue in partnership with The Harris Poll.