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6 Steps For Diversity— Strategies To Sustainably Improve Equity And Inclusion

David Law

Sat, 12 Mar, 2022


David Law

  • Reading Time:
    ~ 5 minutes

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Verna Myers-  International Inclusion Strategist

In 2022, inclusion is the name of the game. It’s no secret that, when it comes to profits, diverse companies dramatically outperform their less diverse counterparts.

In leadership, this marked advantage goes for both gender diversity (an outperformance rate of 25%) and ethnic diversity (rising to 36%). Diverse teams are also patently better at reflecting the composition and needs of an increasingly global demographic.

What’s more, 80% of Australian talent says that diversity and inclusion are crucial when choosing a new workplace. Looking the other way in the face of the social justice reckoning of the last few years is, in short, not tolerable.

And yet, 43% of Australian professionals say that their employer doesn’t seek diversity in hiring. Even worse: almost half of them state that they don’t feel free to embrace their full identity at work.

The problem— if your organisation isn’t invested in diverse and inclusive practices, you’re not only missing out on profits. You’re also incurring long-term losses: according to the Harvard Business Review, employees that feel included show a 56% improvement in performance, lower turnover and sick days, and a 167% higher likelihood to be a company ambassador.

By neglecting to update its diversity and inclusion (D&I) approach, a company could also be driving away the fresh talent that’s crucial to reaching the next level.

So how do you promote diversity and make sure your organisation spearheads the change towards equity and inclusion? These are our 6 solutions to embed these key values into your hiring practices.

3 Short-Term Solutions To Boost Diversity

It’s never too late to transform your hiring practices— but it’s always better to start today. After implementation, you can integrate these immediately applicable D&I strategies into a long-term plan. 

1. Take your career requirements outside the box.

Limiting the talent pool for a role to ‘traditional’ applicants (read: a specialised university degree, internships, and a similar job) means missing out on unique talent opportunities. Not everyone’s career looks the same— and this is especially relevant when it comes to applicants from diverse backgrounds and minority groups.

In Australia, women make up only 28% of IT workers, a much lower number than the 45% average across all professional industries. As a result, if you only look for talent with a previous IT job, you’re bound to find low female representation. Instead, you could open up the search to candidates with different degrees (eg., a physician) but transferable skills and relevant roles.

Broadening your outlook to consider candidates without a conventional education will also bring in more diversity. You can start by sourcing candidates among tech students instead of professionals, as ethnic and gender diversity is higher in learning spaces.

But university might be out of reach for individuals from underrepresented groups, so looking for candidates from coding boot camps (such as Coder Academy or General Assembly) will provide a more diverse pool.

2. Be active in the community.

Your company needs to rise to the challenge of recruiting and serving candidates from minority groups. This depends heavily on you understanding their experiences and needs.

A solid method to deepen your knowledge of your candidates is being active in their communities. Supporting local community organisations gives you perspective and a constant presence.

Attending local events focused on minority groups (such as networking events or training programmes) will also open pathways to connect with new, relevant talent.

If you have the resources, backing your employees as they speak at an event, becoming a sponsor, or even hosting your own event can deliver results. It’s worth noting that sponsors often get access to attendees’ CVs and have the chance to network in real-time.

3. Refine your referrals.

Referral systems can be very effective at recruiting high-performing talent. Research shows that referred candidates are 4 times more likely to get hired than those sourced through other channels. 45% of these hires stay for over 4 years.

The problem with referrals: people tend to recommend professionals who are similar to them. Unchecked, this could result in less diversity in your team, instead of more.

The key to a referral system supportive of your D&I goals is to emphasise inclusive values. Some companies even offer premium incentives to employees who referred a new hire from a minority group.

In the long term, implementing a D&I hiring strategy in the higher leadership levels promotes better referrals on all levels.

3 Long-Term Strategies For Sustainable Equity And Inclusion

Our three short-term diversity solutions are a good way to get your foot in the door. But to walk the talk, your company needs to drive long-term transformation in the hiring process.

True equity and inclusion go beyond diversity— the representation and coexistence of differences. They’re about building pathways for individuals to access opportunities fairly and empowering them to achieve their full potential.

These strategic approaches to acquisition require commitment and action from leadership as well as careful planning and time to mature. However, they’re the key to unlocking inclusion and equity— and, as a result, to skyrocketing performance and innovation.

1. Start with an open culture.

The Harvard Business Review showed that the most impactful way you can empower your team to strive towards inclusion is to foster a culture of learning. 

This kind of organisational culture prioritises flexibility, innovation, and being open to new ideas. Empowering talent to explore unique perspectives and take (some) risks is crucial to giving everyone access to the decision-making process.

Making learning a top culture value isn’t quick or easy, but it leads to seeking out fresh perspectives and new voices. The hiring process should be geared towards finding curious, independently motivated talent.

To be effective, a learning culture needs to be modelled from the top down. Leadership needs to commit to being open to ideas and feedback as well as to systematically reward innovation. Likewise, the team should be encouraged to participate in designing processes to facilitate learning.

2. Create a deeply inclusive environment.

As long as talent from an underrepresented group is considered a ‘diversity hire’, there’s no true inclusion. Depending on the organisation, anyone who doesn’t look like a white, cisgender man might be considered ‘diverse.’

The idea of a ‘diversity hire’ is harmful in itself.: it makes an individual into an ‘other’ and diminishes the importance of their work and ideas. It’s a mindset that disempowers those who don’t belong to the majority in gender, race, sexual orientation, age, or education. In turn, this robs the company of valuable contributions and innovation.

Decisive and consistent action is the only way to nip this harmful attitude in the bud:

  • Language: don’t say ‘diverse’ when referring to a person. Instead, use the identifiers they prefer (non-binary, black, aboriginal, etc.) and make sure everyone in the team knows them. This shows respect for your employees and emphasises their unique value.
  • Ask your talent: on that note, listen to your employees’ identifiers for self-description, even if they don’t match up with broader or ‘official’ categories. There’s more depth to a person’s identity than just ‘POC.’
  • Educate: ensuring your team (and especially your leaders) are aware of systemic gender and racial inequalities is the foundation for inclusive decisions.
  • Reinforce: for inclusion to be a top value in decision-making and everyday life, it needs to be present everywhere, at every point of an employee’s journey. It needs to be talked about openly.

3. Create paths for growth.

While women make up about 50.5% of employees in Australia, they only fill 32.5% of management roles and 18.3% of CEOs. This points to a clear imbalance: there aren’t enough clear, accessible pathways for junior talent to grow.

Instead of putting all your effort into recruiting new talent based on D&I, prioritise building up your existing employees from underrepresented groups.

Start by tracking who gets promoted and when (at Fulcrum, we subscribe to LinkedIn Insights, which is a great tool for evaluation). Then, use your data to course-correct. Set actionable goals to build a talent fast-track for groups that are underrepresented in the higher levels.

Provide extra training to develop focused and transferable skills, tangibly reward initiative, and create more accessible steps (like feeder roles) in strategic points of the company.

Then, ensure the information on this growth ladder is known and available to your junior employees. Your talent needs to understand their options and how you’re willing to help them achieve their potential.

Diversity and inclusion practices aren’t a quick fix. Developing a culture and system that empowers individuals, prioritises learning, and drives profitable innovation takes time and know-how.

But making your company a safe space for talent from all backgrounds to thrive is always worth it. You’ll be rewarded with better retention, performance, and adaptability to underpin sustainable success.

At Fulcrum, we specialise in embedding strategic, diverse, and inclusive acquisition practices to drive your success. Write to us today to start your organisation’s journey towards sustainable growth.

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