DEI Is Imbedded in Successful Organizational Environments that are both Equitable and Inclusive
Diversity Initiatives, Strategies, positions and topics are very popular in today's business climate, yet tend not to be done consistently or correctly for all. Interestingly from my perspective long before DEI came on the lens of companies or business plans, many of the larger successful organizations were doing DEI right organically and it was part of the way they did business successfully. Today they are still doing it, but better including more aspects such as mindfulness and taking trauma into account with the seven layers of diversity coming into the workplace. This is an opportunity for other companies who are growing to learn how to
be Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive while being fiscally sustainable at the same time attracting and retaining talent using old school low cost methods.
The larger organizations branding at that time was successful then for both their products or services, and recruiting because they did not ignore any areas to proactively try to attract talent including underserved communities and being compliant including all demographics, age groups, locations as well as offering perks such as flexible schedules, succession planning and reduced hours for retires, different shifts, promoting van and car pools or public transportation discounts, day care incentives or onsite services, tuition reimbursement, discounted products from the company to grow business, celebrating employees personal and professional milestones to sustain a team environment, having suggestion boxes and group meetings to discuss new ideas/innovation meetings, and having a no tolerance policy for speaking to others disrespectfully, disparagingly and while trying to promote a positive cohesive work environment where everyone could show up as their authentic self and get recognized for their work or their contribution without anyone taking credit. The work environment was engaging and supportive, you learned these things by training about your job from management and being in the work environment itself from others behaviors. Leaders were hired early on in their careers and then grew them through middle management to leadership, in addition new talent was brought in mid career and trained consistently as part of the work process on acceptable behaviors. There were weekly, monthly and quarterly calls with thousands of people learning what was going on in the organization from proactive communication from leadership and there were local or regional events, some which included family to learn about everyone outside of work. These practices have been minimized over the years with Covid or due to budgeting and replaced with recruiting technology platforms, advertising and other options to attract and retain diverse talent while those large organizations still can keep employees over 30+ year careers recruiting the same family members or employees friends from referrals, community events, high school or GED graduate training programs vs. only focusing on University Recruitment programs as the employees are able to do both get a degree while earning a living and having opportunities for career advancement, it keeps employees engaged in their work to their organizations and jobs over the long run because both are committed to each other.
I learned this as I began my career in the human resources field over 20+ years ago, and I was very fortunate to both work in some large companies as an employee and work with other client companies as a consultant for several successful fortune 500 organizations that made the work environment an inclusive and equitable place to learn, get promoted and work. This was learned not through any new strategies, initiatives or attending events, ERGs and even training it was the way you were not only onboarded, but recruited and how they did business. As I speak about this, I am not talking about where jobs were in those days advertised, I mean it was apparent in all aspects of human resources in the behaviors between employees and management in the work environment. I am writing about this because, I had the benefit of learning about inclusivity in the workplace organically. I also learned that when I had to work with clients who were not equitable or inclusive I knew it right away and it was not just by what people said or did, it was the uncomfortable way I felt in organizations and from employees or management behaviors who had so much to learn. I was not a person who was shy about providing my insight on why there were issues with policies, process, recruiting, retention, management, training needs, best practices, budgeting and saving money, as well as high conflict employees or low online ratings from previous employees and creating weak recruitment branding.
As I progressed on my career journey throughout the years either working in other organizations as an employee or a consultant as part of a client organization, I always made it my priority to speak up and work to educate those companies about successful best practices for assuring the organization did not look or feel the same, these always included providing opportunities to all in the company organically. I went into organizations not with solutions, but assessing, listening and observing behaviors. It is and was easy for me to determine when there were processes or practices that are not working and were typically not diverse, inclusive or equitable. This was one aspect which made me successful in solving problems or providing solutions while saving companies money when I had to create a plan as an employee or a consultant to work to close gaps and be successful not only in recruiting, but HR and Training. I finalized my DEI knowledge by obtaining my formal CDP designation or Certified Diversity Professional Program about five years ago at Emory University through the National Diversity Council. I feel blessed to have received this training and certification, I also know that foundationally I was utilizing these practices for two decades prior in my career as I learned this framework at the successful organizations I worked for and with. I am sharing this now, as I know how important it is for an employer to know your employees feel they are working in an Equitable and Inclusive organization. The companies that I had to work in and create solutions for who were neither equitable or inclusive had many red flag issues which included, retention, recruiting or lack or candidates issues, high conflict within the employees and just did not feel like a supportive environment. When inquiring about why the leaders felt the issues occurred they would attribute it to many things included older employees disagreeing with newer employees or change management and people having problems with the way they always did things in the company. I knew that as a consultant if the "way we always did things" was successful they would not have a need for an external consultant. Interestingly I could pick it up as I sensed it in an uncomfortable feeling when I entered the work environment, yet it was not talked about and there was not a lot of team or co-worker engagement, as it was more cold and work until the minute it was time to clock out or leave which results in less productivity.
I have worked through the last Recession and worked with several organizations through downsizing, I have always tried to find the opportunity in the adversity or a way to make the employees and myself feel more comfortable in this process. I created a job coaching program paid for by the employer to assist anyone who was downsized to get assistance with resume writing, job searches, interview skills training, negotiating offers and reviewing companies to determine which opportunity if they had multiple offers would align best with their needs in total compensation not just salary. This type of program makes employees feel more secure and trusting of an employer that they may have worked at for their entire careers if the organization has to make hard decisions to sustain the business. It also creates an opportunity for the employer to leave the employee on good terms, just as an employee would give a two week notice when resigning. This type of program will increase the potential for boomerang or return employees in the future or when the economy improved. As I read the latest major job report released last Friday, which is the standard for the impact of the economy for the fiscal business trends, I am happy to report that in September the report showed an increase over August in increasing jobs added to the economy which was higher than the projections for the report expectations. The uncertainty of the current economy with the news and markets continuing to report a potential looming recession, the increase of spending due to high interest rates and increased costs of food, gas and other necessities this information is good news for a stronger than anticipated job market. The organizations that organically implement equitable and inclusive practices in the work environments are not only on average 30% more financially successful than those businesses who are not supportive of DEI, they also do not have large issues with retention or attracting talent. All of this comes together because today as a Human Resources professional I work to stay up to date on education, certification, reading/studying trends and involved in best practices with the professional organizations such as SHRM, NDC and university programs to learn many things. I was also taught this information organically and I have always worked naturally too to assure my work environments were as diverse, equitable and inclusive which is not only right it is successful and has provided an opportunity for me to learn from others who are also very knowledgeable.
In closing, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion done right is not something that needs to be advertised or led by one person, it is a successful way to do business, felt in the work environment by the teams/employees, the organizations are more fiscally sustainable, talent is diverse and retention issues are lower as employees sustain long careers at these companies and want to bring their friends and family in. I feel many of the things that I have learned organically and formally in human resources best practices over the years had DEI, Trauma and Mindfulness practices all tied together in them and were already happening with little branding or a need for specialists decades ago. The larger organizations were attracting multiple generations of families to work in the companies and many started at the bottom positions growing their careers over decades to management and higher positions. The work within organizations to grow talent, have had consistent processes and training to be compliant while accurately measuring data, employee communication, everyone working together as teams with each person celebrated as an individual and everyone learned while celebrating together their differences collectively. These brands have strong fiscal foundations and success, there is opportunity to grow a career and employees come together which builds a natural or organic recruiting process to retain employees over decades while being innovative and providing more opportunity. The diversity programs were built naturally from the bottom up, trained all management and employees to understand how to support inclusivity while being equitable as each person has opportunity to grow their careers and utilize the company products and services of their employer at a discount. This is DEI is supported from the top down at all levels. The employees are understood, trust is built to overcome external and internal trauma, teamwork is supportive not competitive so that employees feel safe discussing more and clearing their minds to be more productive at work which reduces distractions and makes a happier, healthier diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment for all. The DEI strategies today are not as robust and can be more project or initiatives based, communication is not always understood by everyone and can end up being fragmented, unsuccessful and very costly in dollars as well as to the company business and talent brand if done incorrectly.