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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion…Starts with You

You’ve been hearing about it in the news and probably within your company…or maybe not.  I once worked with an executive who called those terms “wall street fluff” and paid no heed to the need to incorporate them into the company in order to be successful.  So, whether or not your company has embraced these concepts, what can you do as a leader in your company?

First, let’s start with what do we mean by Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and why are they important.

Diversity = Candidates that have differences that may include race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, language, (dis)ability, age, or religious commitment.  Most of these candidates have been under-represented in their field and whom many companies have hesitated to take a chance with because of these differences.

Equity = Refers to promoting justice, impartiality and fairness within the procedures, processes, and distribution of resources within the company.  The biggest example you will hear about is Fair Pay because historically women have been valued and paid less than their male counterparts in the same role for the same, if not more, responsibilities.

Inclusion = This is an outcome designed to ensure that those that are diverse feel and/or are welcomed within the company, to the degree to which they are able to participate fully in the decision-making processes and development opportunities within the company.

The point behind bringing these concepts to light is to change the employee landscape and remind companies that it is the differences we all have that help bring different ideas and points of view that can ultimately benefit the company.

So, as a Leader, how do YOU bring these concepts into your realm?

First, keep in mind that just because you start to incorporate a more diverse group of employees doesn’t mean it will be easy.  Why do I say that? Because remember these folks have been turned down and turned away so much already that there will be some hesitation at first.  They have probably heard it before from other managers that their ideas will matter, that complaints will be reviewed, they will be included or head up projects, etc. and then they never were.  It’s a new layer of trust that you will have to build with them.  This will start in the interview process and continue through their employment working for you.

Remember, employees don’t leave companies, they leave leaders. It’s important for you to build up your team like you are your own little sub-company.

Start in the Candidate selection process!

When you go to review a candidate’s resume – don’t make judgments based on their name to start.  Too many hiring managers have made assumptions about people based on their names.  I tend to scroll right down to the employment section to see if they have the relevant experience before I look at any education or skills section.  Anyone who has experience doing a comparable job will be able to assimilate much faster than someone without but with a college degree.

Next, the interview.

I start with phone interviews only because I want to hear how a candidate sounds over the phone, especially if they will be interacting with customers on the phone.  It also takes some of the edge off from the first interview as the candidate isn’t sitting nervously across from you, which may come off as a negative.  Let the first interview focus on how well they would fit into the company and ask them how they believe they could contribute.

When you have the second interview, do video or in-person but now focus more on their skill set and ask for examples of when they have brought up ideas or changes to better their department.  Instills that every job requires you be a team player but also let’s them know that you will be open to hearing ideas or changes.  Keep in mind – they are interviewing you at the same time you are interviewing them.

If you need to hold a third interview in order to choose between your top 2 or 3 candidates, them do so but don’t string candidates along past a third interview.  It comes across as if you don’t really know what you want in a new employee or that the company is holding out for someone better.  Speaks to the company’s culture.

Now, make sure you keep that momentum going with your candidate as your new Employee!

You should already be doing this with all your employees but make sure to introduce your new employee to your team in an informal setting – not in a team meeting but try a team lunch.  Give everyone the chance to “let their hair down” and get to know each other as a person, not just as the new employee. 

During team meetings, make sure to go around the room to ask for input, suggestions, ideas and concerns at every meeting.  Make it a “safe space” for your employees.  Check in with your employees every 2-3 months with a one-on-one to have conversations as it relates to their job and building the trust relationship between the two of you.  Disgruntled employees hit that level when they feel ignored for too long so don’t wait to have conversations about how they are with their job more frequently in order to address issues…as it also shows others on your team that you truly care about them as a individual and a team. 

When something comes up, such as a religious accommodation for your new employee, ask them if they wouldn’t mind sharing with their fellow employees what their practice is and why.  Resentment comes from not knowing and assuming accommodations mean more work for them.  Use every situation as a learning opportunity for all and it will also help your employees ask questions on their own. 

Sexual orientation, religious accommodation and disability are the top three areas, in my opinion, that cause the most misunderstanding when it comes to diversity as companies don’t know how to handle them and, therefore, don’t teach their leaders “how” to address and incorporate those differences into their team.  Disabilities, for example, aren’t always obvious and because “dis-ability” comes with a negative connotation, most candidates/employees are afraid to share. 

It’s going to be slow going to shift the “old world attitude” and embrace diversity/equity/inclusion, but it starts with small steps that you can put into place even before your company does.  Be that leader that takes the first step for others to follow.

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