For even the most progressive and open-minded companies, it’s safe to assume some level of unconscious bias exists somewhere—and more likely everywhere—within your organization. We all experience unconscious bias. The bias happens without you realizing it and is formed by your background, personal experiences and societal stereotypes among other things. In the workplace, unconscious bias often affects hiring, evaluations, promotions and compensation, which is why many companies are now trying to eliminate unconscious bias from their organizations. But beyond the desire for a fair workplace, there are many advantages to a diverse organization.
According to a recent McKinsey & Company report, diverse companies outperform non-diverse companies by 33%. By building a diverse staff, you’re widening your company’s scope of viewpoints, which drives innovation, increases employee productivity and connects you to a wider segment of your customer base.
Companies need to diversify their staff by embracing a variety of ethnicities, religions, genders, sexualities, ages and those from different socio-economic background. The first step is to realize that it’s a process not a program. It’s not about hitting quotas or setting up a single training session, but completely reinventing the way your employees think. It’s a top-down, organization-wide initiative, that takes time, and it starts with your existing employees.
Empower Your Employees
If you don’t already have them in place, be sure to set up diversity goals and company values around diversity. Though it should go without saying, make sure the group defining the goals and values is diverse.
Once you’ve set values and goals, communicate them clearly to your organization. Be sure to include how they relate do business goals or team goals, so your employees understand their importance. From there, ask your employees to hold leadership and the organization accountable for meeting the goals and upholding the values. Give every employee a communication channel for recognizing positive efforts and calling out instances when the values weren’t upheld. Put the power in their hands.
After an initial review, ensure the goals and values are easily found and regularly communicated. Add a diversity seminar to onboarding and leadership training, and send regular, anonymous surveys to your entire workforce to gauge people’s thoughts on diversity and unconscious bias in the workplace.
Finally, host a diversity workshop or unconscious bias training for all employees, especially managers. By educating employees on multiculturalism, you’ll create a
n understanding and accepting environment where all ideas are welcome.
Evaluate Your Evaluation Process
While many set hiring goals around diversity, most companies fail to set goals around the promotion of diverse individuals. Leadership teams are often less diverse than the teams they’re leading, so it’s essential to examine your evaluation process to eliminate any unconscious bias there.
If you don’t have a standard review process in place, set up formalized annual reviews that take place once a year for the entire organization or occur on each employee’s work anniversary. By setting a date for each review, managers are forced to evaluate each employee individually and determine whether or not she’s worthy of a promotion. If the answer is no, give the employee actionable feedback for the next year to increase her likelihood of receiving a promotion. Are the actionable items relevant to business goals and aligned with those of other team members? If not, there may be some unconscious bias that’s keeping you from promoting that individual.
It's also important to establish standard expectations and measurements of success for each role to ensure performance is measured in the same way for all employees. Some companies measure performance vs. potential, which can be dangerous because “potential” is open to interpretation—and unconscious bias. You’re better off measuring employees against clearly defined benchmarks.
Form an Employee Resource Group
If those in underrepresented groups aren’t receiving promotions, consider an internship or mentor program aimed at developing diverse talent for leadership
positions. By connecting entry-level and mid-level employees with diverse leaders, they’ll see the potential for their own success. This will help minorities feel empowered to break through the glass ceiling and make change at your organization.
In addition to talent development programs, consider employee resource groups that make employees feel welcome and remove the feeling of isolation. By forming groups focused on empowering women, African-Americans or members of the LGBTQ communities, people with similar backgrounds can connect, mentor each other and educate those who are different. Your diverse employees will not only feel valued, but engaged, making them more likely to remain at your organization. These groups should also be pulled into discussions about shaping the future of company diversity programs.
Diversify Your Network with a Recruiting Partner
Even with goals and initiatives aimed at hiring a diverse workforce, the talent pool you’re pulling from is likely limited to likeminded people from similar backgrounds to your own. To tap
into talent pools you don’t have access to, don’t know about or don’t have the time to engage with, consider working with a recruiting partner. Not only do recruiting firms introduce you to talent with diverse backgrounds, but they act as good sounding boards to determine how your diversity initiatives are performing and how they stack up against other companies. The outside viewpoint offers an unbiased analysis of how you’re doing.
If you’re looking for a recruiting partner, the team at PeopleFoundry would love to help hire and promote diversity at your organization.
No matter which steps you take first, it’s important to remember that diversity management is an ongoing process that requires constant tweaking and adjustments. Altering your company mindset won’t happen overnight and it’s not as simple as checking a box. But by getting feedback from employees, colleagues and partners, you’ll slowly work towards a more successful and diverse organization.