It Starts With HR: How to Create a Diversity Initiative

Diversity and inclusion programs used to be considered hallmarks of a progressive workplace—an added benefit to a new age office. But now, with sexual harassment and equal representation claims coming to light well into the new year, HR departments are placing a heavier emphasis on the value assigned to demographics.

While it’s good to recognize the importance of such an initiative, take time to create a system that works for your organization. Assemble a team with insight and unique perspectives to develop the right infrastructure for your company, which may be different for small business versus larger corporations. Customize, emphasize and maximize on this opportunity. 

When launching a diversity and inclusion initiative, consider the following list of priorities. 

Identify (and communicate) the value that diversity and inclusion bring to business. 
Make sure employees understand, a company that more closely reflects the demographic of its labor force can more easily identify with consumers. Consider how elevating the value of unique perspectives can actually sell more goods and services, and set specific goals on how to achieve that. 

In order for any new program to last, it’s crucial to have visible leadership support—which can only happen with frequent and honest communication with employees. 

Ensure Company Buy-in and Support (especially at senior or manager level).
Not only is senior-level support important for an initiative like this to succeed, but managers should be trained on how to remain accountable. Identify ways that each level of staff can support and engage in specific efforts. 

Consider a senior level executive to be the champion and face of this initiative. This will create unity and a clear sight-line of the overall goals. 

Consider creating a diverse committee of employees that represents all departments and leadership levels. Define a budget and expectations with performance indicators and task them with promoting regular training, seminars and events to build awareness, as well as developing policies and procedures that promote workplace diversity and inclusion. This encourages change from within and emphasizes that the company is interested in the opinions of its employees.

Acknowledge awkwardness. For real change to happen, people must be honest and open. Be aware of individual privilege and bias, and acknowledge that everyone has something to learn. Treat this as an opportunity to demonstrate true leadership. 

Analyze, assess, adjust. This is an ongoing process and should be reviewed regularly. Be sure this initiative follows the business model: collect information (data), implement strategies and course-correct.

Organizations are growing more multicultural and multigenerational. It might seem like a daunting task, but by keeping it simple, remaining accountable and equipping employees with the tools to listen with empathy, any company can make great strides in creating a more diverse and inclusive culture.

Contact the experts at Adams Keegan to help your company find out how a diversity initiative can improve your bottom line.