As a manager or business owner, you know diversity and inclusion has evolved from a legal imperative and “the right thing to do” to a business necessity. Today’s innovative and successful startups build diverse teams from the beginning. In order to compete, mature businesses must weave diversity into all aspects of their current operation. It’s important to remember that “diversity” can mean many things – not just race and gender. Think generational, ability, experience…
Insights from a first-time Director of Diversity & Inclusion.
As Enterprise Bank & Trust’s first Director of Diversity & Inclusion, I work with our St. Louis, Kansas City and Phoenix markets, to create an inclusive environment that will benefit our team members, customers, investors, and the communities we serve.
You might be contemplating the creation of such a position or be new to it yourself. So was I. To gain an idea of where to focus and how we might evolve, I turned to companies that have effectively made diversity and inclusion a priority. Their insights included:
Increase in Creativity When people with varying backgrounds and experiences come together, they often end up with better solutions to business challenges.
Increase in Empathy An inclusive environment helps employees develop understanding and respect for one another, leading to stronger working relationships and a spike in productivity.
Increase in Brand Awareness A company known for a strong and diverse talent base is viewed favorably by customers, investors, and the communities it serves.
Increase in Recruitment and Retention Companies known for diversity draw the best candidates and tend to retain talent. This translates into more creativity, production and revenue.
Not only are we as a business on a path to better reflect the communities we serve but we are also witnessing our competitive advantage grow.
Do you have a diversity plan for 2017? Here’s what we did.
Chances are you already have some diversity procedures in place. Most companies do. At Enterprise Bank & Trust, we made a commitment to put a plan in place, which included a doable step-by-step process.
- Formed a Diversity & Inclusion Council.
- Placed our Diversity & Inclusion Position (me) under our CEO – evidence of commitment from the highest level of management.
- Added diversity and inclusion to our Guiding Principles.
- Instituted unconscious bias awareness training throughout our organization.
As part of our normal routine, we:
- Analyze and respond to gender equality issues in compensation.
- Focus on recruiting, developing and retaining a diverse workforce.
- Set goals and accountability around workforce diversity.
- Engage governing boards at the bank and parent-company levels that believe in the value of diversity to the organization.
How you can introduce or expand diversity and inclusion?
- Secure 100% commitment from the senior management team. It begins at the top. Without their commitment, it will be hard to energize your employees. Start with the business case – there’s plenty of great data available regarding the improved financial performance of companies that are more diverse and inclusive.
- Introduce a Diversity and Inclusion committee. Bring together employees from all ranks and all departments to meet regularly and to discuss their ideas and determine what can be implemented.
- Speak with key players at other companies with strong diversity programs. Professionals in this field are usually happy to share best practices, as well as information on what hasn’t worked for them.
- Identify an internal person to serve as your champion. The HR generalist doesn’t have to be the default. Look for someone who has the general support and respect among your employees and understands the importance diversity and inclusion play in the workplace. We intentionally placed this role outside of HR to show diversity isn’t simply a workforce issue, but rather something integral to everything we do.
- Deal with diversity and inclusion honestly. Diversity can be an uncomfortable issue to talk about – the words discrimination, racism, and privilege often cause negative reactions. Successful organizations have leaders who are comfortable dealing with this discomfort and turning it into positive change.
If you need a final reason to set your initiative in motion, the dynamics of our workforce and business landscape are changing. Will you be riding the change or struggling to catch up?
- Within the next 10 years, 75% of the workforce will be Millennials.
- More than 40% of Millennials belong to a non-white race or ethnicity.
- Within five years, the minority portion of the workforce is projected to double.
- Hispanic businesses are growing 15 times the rate of all U.S. firms.
Even if your steps are small at first, they will lead to larger ones. The important thing is to start somewhere. I’ll leave you with this thought: the one thing we all have in common is diversity – so let’s celebrate it every day.