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  • Writer's pictureJaya Koilpillai Bohlmann

Eight Tips for Diversity Excellence in the Workplace

1. Have a diverse leadership team.  Gandhi’s oft-quoted “Be the change you seek in the world” means that, to have a diverse workforce, you start at the top, you start with yourself.  If younger professionals can’t picture themselves at the top of your organization, they probably won’t stay for long.  Show them there is a future for them, don’t just tell them.multicultural marketing isn’t diversity and inclusion

2. Define “diversity” accurately, and make it personal. Every company has to define what it means to be a diverse and inclusive culture – for themselves, taking into account operations, industry, size and type of their workforce, their type of business, and other considerations. In addition, start with knowing what diversity is – it is surprising how many companies don’t know.  Generally, diversity and inclusion are business strategies, ideally led from the C-suite and embedded at every level of an organization, that values and practices hiring and retaining people from many types of backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, ages, lifestyle preferences, and other attributes. It is an internal, employee set of programs, that can expand to supply chain, partners and other stakeholders in the organization’s sphere (if a company purposefully seeks out diversity in those groups). Having multicultural marketing programs, doing business across the globe – these do not automatically mean you are effectively practising D&I.

3.  Hiring is only the beginning. Once you have your diverse workforce, you need a plan to keep them, train them and move them up.  This is where inclusion matters, and it is the key, even more than diversity.

4.  D&I must be driven from the top.  It’s not a recruiting thing, not an HR thing, not a positioning thing…  diversity and inclusion need to be a culturally embedded mindset embodied by the C-suite and those just below them, who must drive the concepts and behaviors deeply into all levels of the organization. Measure results, repeat.

5.  It’s not about the money nor the recognition.  Some D&I programs depend too heavily on money spent on sponsored workshops,, conferences, dinners, and awards, and they appear on “best” lists galore.  Some of this can be important to show your commitment and for learning opportunities. Don’t rest there, though. Remember, D&I is internally driven programs to help your organization work better. Be sure the glamour supports that.

6.  Be ultra patient.  Cultural changes, mindset shifts, behavioral outcomes… these take time.  Maybe a lot of time, depending on the size of your company and your starting point.  Take some deep breaths and steadily, persistently, consistently, keep moving toward your goals, gaining support along the way.  Mark and celebrate your milestones. You will have them!

7.  Have a strategy, a roadmap, a plan of action.  This is a MUST!  If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you arrive… it’s trite, and true!  The most successful D&I programs have a near and medium term plan (1-5 years), reviewed by leadership teams and measured against results 1-2 times a year.  This is important to measure the ROI on your D&I budget, too.

8.  Learn as you go.  D&I, like every other business area, is growing and changing along with the population, the economy, the age of the workforce and all those other lovely factors we can’t control.  Talk to people in other companies similiar AND DIFFERENT from yours. Make D&I part of a learning environment. It’s a journey – make it a joyful one.

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