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Is your company really ready for diversity?

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Before you ask about the benefits of diversity in the workplace, start by asking this question: What is the meaning of the phrase: “a good company”?

Based on our research at Team JTC, a good company equals a good work environment. A good work environment enables you to be your best at work. And being able to be your best at work gives you a sense of career self-determination—which is the power to control one’s own career path.

Some examples given by our job search clients to describe a good work environment are:

  • I can bring my whole self to work and do not have to assimilate to fit in
  • I am invited into exclusive networks like “the good ol’ boys club”
  • I can see people who look like me in leadership roles
  • I feel included on my team and among my peers
  • My voice is heard, and my messages are amplified
  • I get fair access to internal opportunities (i.e., promotions, projects, etc.)
  • I can see fairness in how opportunities are given to people who identify like me
  • I receive mentoring and / or sponsorship
  • I receive constructive feedback and insights on how to get to the next level

In essence, working for a good company means working in an inclusive environment. Working in an inclusive environment ultimately affords a sense of self-determination of career. So, while your workplace is on the road toward creating an inclusive environment and culture, have you taken a moment to audit the environment? Even if you feel that you have a great work environment, I want to challenge you to ask one question: For whom?

The "who" is more important than the "what."

In other words, WHO does your work environment most benefit? WHO do you have to be to experience this great work environment?
So, let us go back to the earlier list.

  • Your work environment enables (WHO) to bring their whole self to work without having to assimilate to fit in?
  • (WHO) gets invited into exclusive networks like “the good ol’ boys club”?
  • (WHO) gets to see people who look like them in leadership roles?
  • (WHO) typically feels included on the team and among their peers?
  • (WHO) has a voice that gets heard and messages amplified?
  • (WHO) gets fair access to internal opportunities (i.e., promotions, projects, etc.)?
  • (WHO) sees fairness in how opportunities are given to people who identify like them?
  • (WHO) receives mentoring and sponsorship?
  • (WHO receives constructive feedback and insights on how to get to the next level?

Imagine your employees saying this to you:

“If I feel that I can bring my whole self to work, enter exclusive networks, see examples of people like me in leadership, feel included on teams, feel that my messages are amplified, get fair access to opportunities, see fairness in how opportunities are given, have access to a sponsor, and can receive constructive feedback on getting to the next level—then there’s nothing preventing me, or blocking me from setting my own career path.”

When things are equitable, employees have a sense of self-determination in their careers. So, when it comes to your organization’s ability to increase diversity, remember that the environment always wins.

Change begins at the top.

According to IBEC, employees join companies but leave managers. A Gallup poll of more than one million employed U.S. workers concluded that the number one reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor. 75% of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses and not the position itself. Despite how good a job may be, people will quit if the reporting relationship is not healthy. "People leave managers, not companies...in the end, turnover is mostly a manager issue."

The number one reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor. Gallup's State of the American Manager report

Use the data you have.

What populations at your workplace get to experience a sense of self-determination of their career? The intent of the organization may be good but watch and observe the outcomes.

If you are in Human Resources or management, you have access to data that can tell you how your employees are feeling about their environment. You can find data represented in employee engagement surveys, exit surveys, 90-day new hire check-ins, and even by reviewing external sites like Glassdoor.com. Additionally, you can conduct an equity audit and review salary data to understand other factors that may be impacting an employee's experience.

If you want to know whether your organization is ready for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, separate this data demographically so that you can also understand the experiences of historically underrepresented groups. If you find that the environment is not ready or prepared for the type or level of representation they are seeking, someone has to have enough courage to say so aloud.

If you do not say it aloud, you will continue to hire people into your organization who leave, and the narrative will be that there was a problem with the people hired and not the environment at your workplace.

Remember this: there is no possible way to increase diversity if individuals are leaving the organization as quickly as they are entering. Therefore, as leaders, hold yourself accountable. It is you as the employer that needs to be striving to build a more inclusive culture. Once you begin to do this, you will truly be able to retain top talent and begin increasing and truly reaping the benefits of diversity.

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