The road to hell is paved with good intentions. This adage holds when it comes to implementing organisational diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Many companies start their D&I efforts with great intentions but a poor understanding of what it takes to create a truly diverse and inclusive company culture. Without proper preparation, full understanding, and strategic planning, a vast number of well-meaning D&I initiatives prove ineffective and fail within the first or the second year.
Many organisations develop diversity and inclusion initiatives to comply with corporate governance and self-regulation. As a result, D&I efforts are often poorly funded and are disconnected from the broader business strategy.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution on how to perfectly implement organisational diversity and inclusion strategies. However, there are mistakes that you must avoid to increase the chances of success.
Let’s explore four of the most common blunders your organisation might be making that hinder the success of diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Mistake #1- You Misunderstand Diversity and Inclusion and Are Afraid to Take Action
The biggest mistake is inaction—mainly due to not fully understanding D&I and the fear of doing it wrong or upsetting the status quo.
Many organisations are hesitant to acknowledge that they have a problem with D&I. Such companies often use phrases such as “Our hiring process is based on merit,” or “We’ve always done it this way,”—ignoring the immense benefits that come with a heterogeneous workforce and an inclusive corporate culture.
In addition, some companies might latch onto the claim that there’s a lack of readily available talent in underrepresented groups. Such attitudes oversimplify the problem and only ensure that those groups will continue being underrepresented in certain workplaces.
Adopting diversity and inclusion doesn’t mean sidelining a certain demographic in favour of creating another. Merit operates on the assumption that there’s no bias—hence the best person wins.
However, organisations operate in societies where prejudices are rife. Focusing on merit only means that you’re rewarding individuals with accumulated privilege—supporting further bias and discrimination.
Expert tip: Don’t be afraid to implement D&I initiatives. The case for diversity and inclusion is well-researched and documented. Organisations that score highly on diversity and inclusion are more profitable than their more homogenous counterparts. While recruiting diverse individuals into your teams and creating an inclusive work environment is bound to have its challenges, it pays off in the long run.
“Some companies latch onto the claim that there’s a lack of readily available talent in underrepresented groups. Such attitudes oversimplify the problem and only ensure that those groups will continue being underrepresented in certain workplaces”
Mistake #2- You Pretend Differences Don’t Exist and Treat Everyone Equally
Many people are uncomfortable acknowledging differences between individuals. In the workplace, leaders and team members may adopt equality instead of equity—with the assumption that the best way to end discrimination is by treating individuals as equally as possible.
At face value, treating everyone equally may sound like a great idea. However, pretending that differences don’t exist means that you also won’t provide the support that certain demographics of your workforce need to thrive.
Embracing diversity isn’t enough if you’re not going to provide equitable support. Your diverse hires, who joined the organisation enthusiastically after being promised an inclusive work environment can quickly get disenchanted and decamp.
Expert tip: Business leaders embracing D&I must realise that each member of their diverse teams has a different set of needs. Instead of providing everyone with the same resources, truly inclusive organisations provide individual employees with the resources and opportunities specific to their needs—enabling them to achieve the same level of success as their colleagues. For businesses, the success of D&I must include an equitable environment that embraces differences instead of pretending that they don’t exist.
“At face value, treating everyone equally may sound like a great idea. However, pretending that differences don’t exist means that you also won’t provide the support that certain demographics of your workforce need to thrive.”
Mistake #3- You’ve Made Diversity and Inclusion an HR-Exclusive Initiative
In many organisations, diversity and inclusion initiatives are housed under HR. In that docket, the focus can remain on recruitment and boosting diversity numbers in the company. Even worse, there’s the risk of D&I initiatives being considered tangential in the organisation’s overall growth strategy.
When D&I efforts are disconnected from the wider company, they’re seen as cost centres rather than profit centres geared towards building a stronger workforce to boost growth in the marketplace. In addition, non-HR staff are likely to consider D&I as not being part of their job.
While it’s OK for HR to be at the helm, each department in an organisation must actively implement D&I in its operations. It’s particularly important to have buy-in from the company’s C-suite.
According to a study by Deloitte, the behaviours of leaders can drive up to 70% of the difference between the proportion of employees who feel highly included and the proportion of those who do not. The study found that inclusive leaders led to a 17% increase in team performance, a 20% increase in decision-making quality, and a 29% increase in team collaboration.
However, D&I doesn’t stop with organisational leadership. Diversity and inclusion must be implemented and supported organisation-wide to become part of its culture. For that reason, it’s advisable to train and deploy change leaders at every level of an organisation.
Expert tip: Encourage and promote buy-in of D&I initiatives at every level of the organisation—from the CEO down to interns. While HR might be key in recruiting diverse individuals, it’s everyone’s responsibility in the organisation to promote equity, inclusion, and belonging.
Mistake #4- You Dismiss the Importance of Diversity and Inclusion Training
Despite acknowledging the importance of diversity and inclusion, many business leaders claim to be too busy to take any steps to implement D&I in their organisations. And, sadly, some assume that simply adding D&I as a company value will do the trick.
To fully reap the benefits of a diverse workforce, you have to provide your staff with D&I training. Specialised D&I training helps raise organisational awareness regarding diversity and inclusion—helping individual employees empathise with their colleagues. It also equips your staff with the skills they need to contribute to making their departments more inclusive.
Expert tip: Invest in diversity and inclusion training for all members of your organisation. Explain to the team why the training is important for the business and how it will benefit them individually. Encourage members of the team to participate in the training voluntarily. For success, D&I shouldn’t be a one-off training. Organisations must build programs for ongoing learning to create and sustain diversity and inclusion.
Get Off on the Right Foot…
At Cedar Africa Group, the centre for Prosci® and change management in East Africa, we understand that when an organisation is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion initiatives, the entire team flourishes.
Not only can we help you meet your D&I recruitment goals, but we’re also dedicated to providing training that will prepare you and your team for change—including the change that centres on diversity and inclusion.
Contact us today and learn how our team of experts can help you achieve success.