A strong diversity and inclusion program has many operational benefits, including the numerous publicly available research statistics on increased innovation, higher sales, additional return on investments, but it also enables organizations to reach a wider array of talent and begins to change stereotypes. This work can’t be done in a silo, it needs to be integrated into every aspect of an organization’s culture and decision making. This starts at the top with an actively engaged executive team. The decision-makers should have diverse points of view, talents, histories, and accomplishments. If every executive has similar life experiences, I guarantee a case of group think will occur. A diverse team offers a wide perspective on nearly every issue – how to address competing businesses, how to attract the most talented workforce, how to respond to crises. The C-Suite has to drive the conversation and the processes that develop and enable diverse talent and teams. An element that is too often forgotten in these conversations in the contingent workforce. To reap the amazing benefits and the institutional progress that we are striving for with diversity and inclusion efforts we have to bring both our traditional, full-time workers as well as the growing contingent workforce on this journey.
When leaders are authentically focused on change and impacting diversity and inclusion, it becomes a priority for the organization. Leaders are strong role models, both as representatives of diverse groups as well as being strong allies regardless of their backgrounds. A leadership team that is well informed and confident about diversity, equity and inclusion is essential to creating a culture and a talent brand that can reach a diverse talent pool, bring in the best people regardless of background and foster an inclusive environment where everyone can succeed and belong. Done right organizations can create change in the world through their internal impact and enable their organizations to establish connections with a diverse array of customers and meet the challenges of the future.
Long-term change has to be systemic and corporate change is one element of this. When we put in place processes that block bias, remove barriers, create transparency and develop a culture that celebrates differences we enable diversity to thrive.
In addition to critical process changes DEI strategies should be comprehensive and encompass the elements that impact culture such as awareness and knowledge building along with clear expectations and accountability. This includes employee programs, inclusive leadership workshops, racial literacy campaigns, and worker supports diversity metrics and tracking, clear goals and measures of success. The goal is to ensure that every work whether full-time or contingent is included in our diversity and inclusion work – whether it is gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or any other dimension of diversity. For both full-time and contingent workforce the strategy has to include measurable action, not just posting a slogan on the wall.
A contingent workforce has a significant impact in the success of any diversity and inclusion initiative. This is a rapidly growing segment of the US and global population. For many organizations this group makes up 10-40% of their workers. These people are critical to the overall success of an organization’s goals. One of the first steps is to collect their diversity data. Often organizations have little to no visibility into the diversity makeup within this important group. Data is necessary to make informed strategic investments, short and long-term goals and ultimately to hold ourselves accountable. Data moves us forward.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning again, this starts at the top. We should lead by example, both within the organization and within our community strong informed advocates and allies are essential if we want to make real change.
Rebecca Samarasinghe Perrault is the Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leader at PRO Unlimited, the modern workforce management solutions provider. She is also a TEDx speaker and has spent the last 15 years helping organizations harness the true power of the individual. She partners with leaders to develop impactful diversity and inclusion strategies to engage in strategic change and organizational transformation.