June 29, 2022

From Good Intentions to Execution: Implementing Holistic DEI Solutions

  • Younger generations of workers, in particular, demand that employers create a fair environment for everyone. As a result of these priorities, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts in the workplace matter more than ever before. 
  • Companies need to develop and implement equitable processes like pay transparency, which provides accountability for organizations and protection for diverse candidates. Flexible working environments and accommodations are also important elements of DEI efforts.
  • Measuring DEI outcomes allows company leadership to stay accountable and understand the trajectory of their initiatives. Investing in ways to decrease bias in the hiring process helps organizations to move from narrowly defined diversity to holistic equity.

Human Resources professionals know better than anyone that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts (DEI) are a top priority for talent in today’s job market. Many organizations have great intentions of focusing on diversity. What’s more, plenty of companies even develop strategies designed to increase inclusivity.

But when the execution is lacking, those good intentions for DEI won’t result in actual change. That’s where consultants like Robyn Rodriguez come in. 

Rodriguez is the founder of Her HR Help Desk, and she specializes in transformational consulting for HR organizations. She offers a fresh set of eyes and helps HR departments improve their processes and go from good intentions to stellar execution.

On an episode of the TribePod podcast, Rodriguez discussed the DEI essentials to create better workplaces for everyone. Read on for insights around generational differences, pay transparency, DEI metrics and accessibility.

Generational Shifts and Joining Workforces

HR professionals everywhere are responding to this time of rapid change. The pandemic, of course, forced significant transitions. But hiring younger generations of workers also requires a mindset shift. Younger workers are intentional about how they want to work, and they’re particular about the benefits offered by their employers.

HR isn’t adapting quickly enough to these demands, Rodriguez says.  

“There has to be a social impact at your company, or you're not going to attract a younger workforce, which is driving companies to have some sort of alignment or stance in regards to political issues,” she says. 

Younger generations view social responsibility as a core requirement for employers, regardless of their industry. So DEI initiatives that create a fair environment for everyone are an essential element for attracting and retaining this part of the workforce.

Making these social and DEI issues even more urgent is the reality that many baby boomers, who made up the majority of the workforce pre-COVID, are not returning to work post-pandemic. Replacing this segment of the workforce means a greater need to recruit younger workers and appeal to their priorities. 

In the meantime, there remains a clear divide within HR between the “old school” and the “new school.” 

While millennials came into the workplace with a certain level of tech prowess, they also demanded new levels of empathy from their leadership. On the other hand, their predecessors — Gen X and the baby boomers — tend to excel in certain interpersonal skills and bring natural emotional intelligence. 

Generational differences aren’t inherently negative. But because everyone is overworked and most are burned out, Rodriguez says, many are stuck in a reactive state of viewing a different generation as “other.” 

“A huge missed opportunity in organizations in general, and specifically in HR, is the marrying of the minds,” says Rodriguez. “I can learn from millennials... and they can learn a lot from me. But we're not leveraging each other's skills.” Instead of fighting one another for our own way, complementary skill sets and perspectives offer a chance for each generation to learn from one another. 

Letting go of your own ego and control will benefit the team. As basic as it is, we are stronger as a whole when we simply work together.

Equity Through Transparency

Implementing fair and equitable processes is an important part of creating a better workplace for everyone. Equitable practices like pay transparency are an essential element of DEI — but Rodriguez feels they aren’t being discussed often enough. 

“We focus so much on diversity and bringing people in-house, [but] we're not talking enough about paying them fair and equitable [salaries] for their skill sets,” says Rodriguez. “We talk a lot about inclusion. But we're not talking about belonging.”

Some states like Colorado and New York have begun to require that job postings include the salary range for positions. This transparency is an important step toward greater pay equity because it keeps companies accountable. Pay transparency also offers a level of protection for diverse, qualified applicants. 

Companies may be resistant to stating a pay range out of fear that every candidate will ask for the top of the range. But recruiters need to be clear about how their salary bands work and the distinctions between the top and bottom of their range. Being upfront about salary can save recruiters time in the long run, since candidates know before applying whether a role aligns with their expectations.

Pay transparency allows all employees to seek fair and equitable compensation for their skills and experience. It ensures that all employees are on the same page regarding their pay. Companies that are transparent about their salaries show employees that they are willing to invest in their people equitably and that they don’t have anything to hide.

Expanding and Measuring DEI

In general, Rodriguez reiterates that companies aren’t doing enough to support DEI efforts, particularly for women and people of color. But pushing DEI initiatives alone won’t be enough either — organizations need to think bigger.

“[DEI] really needs to be expanded upon to be an everybody issue,” says Rodriguez. Everyone should be involved in furthering company-wide inclusion efforts. And individuals of every demographic should be heard and feel a sense of belonging, rather than sensing that DEI initiatives are a box to check or an obligation.

Since the pandemic, the younger workforce — Gen Z, in particular — has been more vocal than ever about not only demanding inclusion from organizations but also being specific about taking action.

One of the challenges of increasing DEI efforts is that success can be difficult to measure. For example, applicants may decline to answer questions about their demographic information if they think their answers could be used to discriminate against them. Rodriguez recommends clarifying that candidates’ information will only be seen by HR, rather than the hiring manager. 

It’s important to not only gather DEI metrics but also to track and report on patterns in order to steer change. For instance, companies should notice when only men are being hired for roles that women are proportionately applying for. Rodriguez says, “You need the metrics behind that, to build the story and guide accountability at the top.”

In addition to gathering demographic data, methods for more equitable screening efforts include using tech to remove bias. Apps like Career.place screen resumes without names and other identifiers, limiting anything that could skew decision-making in the first step of the recruitment process. 

Another skills-based approach to recruiting is gamification. Some companies like Unilever start the recruitment process creatively with a game that measures core competencies for the position. Top performers are then invited to apply. This process keeps the first hiring stage focused only on candidates’ abilities and not on their demographics.

These tech advancements can be incredibly useful for furthering DEI and decreasing bias. Lack of awareness and hesitation to invest in these tools, however, can pose obstacles for some companies. 

But as a whole, HR professionals can anticipate that the workforce will only continue to demand equitable hiring practices, so these investments are worthwhile to attract and retain top talent.

Hybrid Work and Accessibility

DEI initiatives aren’t just limited to demographics like race and gender. Companies also need to consider accessibility and accommodations for disabled individuals. And these topics are often closely connected to virtual versus remote working arrangements.

In the wake of the pandemic, some employers are requiring employees to return to in-office work environments. But employees who require accommodations to work from home — due to physical limitations or other related needs — may not feel accepted or included by these reinstated policies.

Rodriguez emphasizes that work-from-home accommodations need to be a component of DEI initiatives. The need for flexible arrangements also extends to employees like working parents whose lifestyles require greater flexibility. 

Now that workers have seen that they can balance their life with their work — and have demonstrated their value as employees — workplaces will need to adjust in order to retain talent. And hybrid environments will likely be the key to success for many organizations.

Plus Accountability

Rodriguez explains that it’s important to allow employees to work within their means. “Allow them to work in environments where they feel comfortable,” she says. While it can seem challenging on a large scale, taking a flexible and individualized approach to work schedules and locations will be the best bet for hiring and retaining employees.

Flexibility doesn’t mean a lack of accountability, though. Some HR professionals may worry that an increasingly empathetic and flexible environment equates to decreased productivity or more lax rules. 

But employees can still be held responsible for the guardrails that uphold a company’s accountability structures. “Flexibility and empathy do not nullify those policies and procedures within our company,” Rodriguez explains.

Moving Forward Together

Equity is the future of the workplace. It’s not enough to just talk about DEI or even strategize about it. Instead, companies need to put action behind their words — from recruiting diverse team members to fostering inclusive company cultures.

Companies that put their employees first and create a space that values employees as people and as professionals are those that will thrive in this new world.

This article is based on an episode of TribePod, a HR community podcast by Proactive Talent, a recruiting, employer brand and retention consulting firm. Subscribe via Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts for more insight into best practices in human resources.

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