Best Practices for Improving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Your Company

This year, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) was one of the most discussed topics in the high-growth tech ecosystem. At Venwise, we hosted a panel on Making DEI Core to Your Business featuring Fanny Krivoy (Founder of Analogous), Gary L Davis (Inclusion Strategist at Greenhouse) and Lori Muszynski (independent Inclusion Design Consultant). While each company has its unique challenges and there is no formula for achieving a more diverse and inclusive workspace, these panelists shared case studies and best practices from their experience helping companies expand their thinking on DEI.

If you are a business leader, this is how you can start making DEI core to your business —

1. Be proactive

Let’s face it, there’s a lot of work we can all do as individuals to increase our understanding of DEI. Empathy and a higher awareness can positively influence how we show up at work and model the right behaviors for those around us.

  • Get curious — Be curious about others. Be humble and recognize the gaps in what you don’t know, especially around identities you do not hold and the intersectionality of different identities. You can learn more when you ask questions and listen.

  • Gain awareness — Get out there and educate yourself. Do not just rely on specific groups to educate you. There are many resources that already exist so listen to podcasts, read books, and attend events to learn more. Here’s a great place to start.

  • Get unblinded — Understand your own blind spots. Consider reading books about this (Whistling Vivaldi, Blindspot), taking an unconscious bias test, or reviewing guidance via Google’s re:Work site on unconscious bias education.

2. Make DEI a business priority

If you hold a leadership position, you contribute to how DEI is valued and prioritized at your company. Be clear about the type of company and team you want to build and take action to work towards those goals.

  • Create space for dialogue — As a leader, you can create intentional spaces for people to have conversations and share ideas and feedback. Whether this is a part of your regular team meetings, lunch-and-learns, or happy hours, intentionality is everything.

  • Seek out mentees who are different from you — Mentor and/or sponsor someone who doesn’t share your identity (i.e. gender, race, age, ability, etc.) because that can be an important two-way learning opportunity.

  • Engage with everyone — Ask yourself who you might be overlooking, and take action to get to know them (e.g. coffee, lunch, etc.). Model what this behavior looks like and others will feel more comfortable following.

  • Sponsor DEI advocates — Volunteer to start an Employee Resource Group or Affinity Group, or become an executive sponsor for an existing group.

  • Address feedback — Take complaints seriously and take appropriate action.

3. Review your current hiring practices

Getting more diverse identities and perspectives at your company starts with ensuring you have a diverse pipeline. Take a look at what your company is currently doing and think beyond the status quo.

  • Challenge the approach — Challenge the “culture fit” reasoning when hiring new talent. Do you want to hire talent that will keep you where you are, or talent that will help you evolve your company’s culture and expand the way you think about business challenges and opportunities?

  • Evidence-based hiring — Commit to building a structured hiring process where interviewers are trained on how to interview and evaluate candidates using evidence and not snap-decision judgements.

  • Rewrite your job descriptions — If people don’t see themselves reflected in your job post, they won’t come to you. Think about the identities your job posting appeals to and reframe accordingly. TapRecruit is a resource that can help.

  • Look beyond job boards — To get a more diverse talent pipeline consider Boolean searches, attending conferences and local events that highlight underrepresented talent (e.g AfroTech, Lesbians Who Tech), and partner with Bootcamps and nonprofits that help teach people technical skills. Partnering with high schools or creating an internship program is also a great way to attract talent while paying it forward.

4. Link DEI metrics to your business goals

Your company’s diversity goals or metrics should align with the company’s values. This creates greater company-wide buy-in when policies related to inclusivity are implemented because it already establishes these goals as a part of the company’s culture.

  • Mirror your customers — If the team designing your product doesn’t reflect the diversity of your customers, ask yourself how to get those perspectives into the work. Do you need to add members to your team or look outside your design team for feedback? Do you need to compensate with extra user research and testing?

  • Mine and splice your data — Survey your current workforce using engagement or staff satisfaction surveys and analyze results by demographic identities (e.g. race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.). Additionally, commit to looking at this type of data for your current talent management workflows and processes and adjust your talent management strategies based on any gaps you observe. Some metrics include: voluntary/involuntary turnover rate, average time to promotion, % of staff making use of professional development funding and resources, % of staff referring networks for open roles AND tracking likelihood of receiving offer.

  • Wallet motivation — Some companies implement a bonus structure where not meeting your diversity metric impacts your bonus. Executives would receive less bonus if they did not hit their metrics. While this may not work at every company, it has shown success at others.

  • Exit sentiment — During exit interviews, ask employees explicitly if there’s anything they’d like to share with respect to DEI at the company. The 2017 Tech Leavers report cited “unfairness” as a primary driver for turnover, so use these conversations as a space to diagnose any areas of opportunity to improve.

Remember, DEI is not just a checkbox

While diversity, equity, and inclusion has become a business focus, it involves reflection, vulnerability, and trust from all parties, which then translates to company policies and initiatives. And as you build out policies and programs to foster DEI, make sure the voices of the underrepresented groups you are trying to support are included in the conversation. Creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace involves listening to your employees, educating yourself, being critical about what your company is currently doing to achieve this goal, and then being intentional and data-focused when introducing and evaluating new initiatives. It is a continuously evolving journey, but well worth the investment for your employees, product, and company.

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