In our current context, the gendered economic, health and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are threatening to reverse the gains made to advance gender equality over the years.
While organizational leaders acknowledge creating an organizational culture that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) – which is essential to the success of both their organizational goals and the wellbeing of their staff – many of them are concerned about failing. They worry about being crucified in public or on social media, are overwhelmed by the need to make immediate progress on culture and inclusivity, and are stifled by not having room for mistakes. They also realize that actions such as setting an inclusive culture through ongoing training, creating transparency in wage bands, removing bias from job descriptions and the recruiting process, hiring a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) lead have slow results.
Defining Opportunity for your DE&I Strategy
Let’s learn from the experience of Sgt. Pyotr Mikhaylov. Between 1697 and 1698, he traveled from Russia to Europe as part of the so-called Grand Embassy where he familiarized himself with conditions in the advanced countries of the West. He spent four months studying shipbuilding and working as a ship’s carpenter in the yard of the Dutch East India Company at Saardam; after that he went to Great Britain, where he continued his study of shipbuilding, working in the Royal Navy’s dockyard at Deptford; he also visited factories, arsenals, schools, museums and even attended a session of the British Parliament.
On his return to Russia, Peter devoted himself to creating an environment where large capital investments could be made to create metallurgical and manufacturing industries. He encouraged his countrymen to study the methods of other countries and invited experts from these countries to Russia and then rewarded the efforts of the emerging capitalists by providing them with a ready customer for their products – the army and the navy. During Peter the Great’s reign over Russia, a great number of manufacturing establishments were founded, the metallurgical made such great advances that by the middle of the 18th century Russia led Europe in this field, and the foreign-trade turnover was increased sevenfold.
Investing in Technology
Organizations around the world need to turn to modern technology to find solutions to their DEI challenges. Talent acquisition technologies, which account for 43 percent of DEI technologies, are being used to reduce the threat of unconscious bias and to improve applicant screening in an increasing number of organizations. Virtual Training is becoming the ‘New Normal’ for employee development with advanced options such as virtual reality training proving to be highly effective solutions that provide employees with life-like experiences. Virtual inclusion platforms centered around employee experiences and focused on employee engagement are being used to enhance connectivity within organizations and provide the assurance to staff that management is invested in their wellbeing.
The most successful DE&I initiatives are sustainable, meaning the strategy is supported by the entire organization, is measurable over time and is embedded into existing processes
Employee benefits technology such as intelligent automation is proving useful in revealing gaps within organizations without the risk of human error or bias, and employee recognition platforms are proving useful at transforming organizational culture and improving employee morale.
Investing in Systemic Change
Organizations also need to invest in systemic change. This is by focusing on the leverage points that drive transformation and implementing iterative solutions to catalyze change. Several organizations are adopting the ‘Rooney Rule’ [adopted from the NFL] which requires at least two to three candidates from underrepresented groups in the final candidate pool for every manager or executive hire to ensure that all levels of their workforce reflect the demography of their operating environment.
Other organizations are following Hollywood’s lead and implementing an ‘inclusion rider’ – a stipulation in the contracts of business leaders that requires that women, young people, people with disabilities, and marginalized communities be represented on business teams in proportion to their representation in the overall workforce of the operating environment. Yet others are deploying an ‘Inclusion Index’ – converting survey results into a measure that looks at demographics across levels, functions, compensation, and satisfaction levels across several areas – and tracking this periodically, typically every six months, to hold people accountable for meaningful change.
While all these are great ideas, they do not represent the start and end of all solutions in this field. Therefore, organizations are highly encouraged to bring onboard process facilitators to enable them to co-create innovative approaches that enable them to address the challenge within the constraints of their context.
Rather than punish team members who make bold attempts and fall short, we should focus on calling out those who do nothing at all. We should create an environment that allows teams to develop solutions and test them. We should allow them to try and fail, to iterate and learn.
Taking Bolder Action with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts
This period – the Covid-19 and Post-Covid-19 context – presents an opportunity and a chance for organizations to be innovative and adopt new technologies that will enable them to promote DEI in their organizations. Organizational leaders need to reframe the situation by asking these questions: What else can I do to enable my team to try out radical ideas that bring inclusivity sooner? What technology options exist that they can leverage to revolutionize results? How can I applaud them publicly?