CEO Reflections: From the Desk of Dr. Fiona Jamison

Businesses across the U.S. and around the world have been facing a long-overdue reckoning: Many have failed miserably at treating their employees of color fairly and equitably.

The fallout has been tremendous as executives have resigned over racist comments and behaviors. Companies have responded by condemning racism and committing funds to promote diversity and inclusion. Microsoft just announced a five-year diversity plan that aims to double the number of Blacks in leadership roles and double the number of Black suppliers it uses. Google has announced plans to draw more than 30% of its leaders from minority groups by 2025.

Corporate leadership knows it can and must do better. And if it cannot, it must make way for managers and executives eager to create workplaces where all employees feel respected, valued and empowered. Those qualities are the hallmarks of inclusive workplaces, and research has shown that when leaders foster this environment, their companies are more successful and simply, better places to work.

If your organization wants to be a genuinely inclusive and diverse workplace, it must move beyond merely parroting the platitudes of “empowerment” and “opportunity” and “respect.” While those values are the foundation of diversity and inclusion, they are attainable only when everyone has access—and a sincere invitation—to opportunity, power and influence.

It’s time to ask some hard questions about inclusion:

  • How often do a diverse mix of employees attend pivotal meetings?
  • How often do they help make key decisions and have exposure to upper management?
  • Do teams and leaders solicit diverse thoughts and opinions?
  • Do employees feel that everyone has equal access to promotions, training and development and “stretch assignments”?

You may feel confident that your organization is doing a stellar job in all these areas. Your teams—particularly your employees of color— might see things differently.

To create a truly inclusive workplace, you first need to measure and track key metrics of race/ethnicity, gender, age and tenure at the company. A helpful way to see a lot of disparate data is on a “diversity dashboard.” Our team builds these so our clients can easily garner insights generated by analyzing by these critical demographics.

Next, hold online focus or discussion groups to measure engagement and inclusion, making sure to guarantee the anonymity of participants. Without that promise, you won’t get candid results. If they’re done right, these focus groups will provide some truly helpful, actionable material: Measures of engagement and inclusion that can be cross-analyzed by demographics such as race, gender and age.

Dig deep and see what you find. You might, for example, discover that Latino employees register lowest on the engagement scale. What’s going on? Or you might note that women comprise 65% of your job candidates but just 42% of your employees. Is there something about the interview processes, the interviewer or the salary offers that is repelling female candidates?

Take another look at the four questions I posed earlier. Your company might not be living up to its ideals. Despite everyone’s best efforts, could unconscious bias be affecting who has access to opportunities, promotions and leadership?

Filmmaker and director Ava DuVernay said it perfectly: “When we are talking about diversity, it’s not a box to check. It is a reality that should be deeply felt and held and valued by all of us.”

It’s that simple—and that complex. If you don’t know where you are, it’s impossible to tell where you’re going. You don’t need to figure this out on your own—and in fact, we recommend that you don’t. Leveraging a third party not only provides an independent perspective but also helps you map out a strategy for improvement. An experienced people-analytics firm can create and deploy the assessments and advice you’ll need to transform your business into a truly inclusive workplace.

If you would like further information on how to measure diversity, equity and inclusion – please email us [email protected].