It’s safe to assume that all businesses are aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion due to the positive impact they have on business growth, employee retention, and overall brand image. But sometimes, it’s challenging to know where to begin addressing these organizational challenges. Below, you’ll find five strategies that are essential to building a solid foundation that emphasizes diversity and inclusion.
- Understand your employer brand’s unique role in addressing diversity
When it comes to business, it can be very tempting to craft an immediate response to certain situations that are trending in the news or on social media in an effort to avoid appearing apathetic or oblivious. But there’s a problem with giving in to this temptation – this sense of urgency can cause errors in judgment and result in a shallow attempt to address the situation. Instead, businesses need to stop and think, “How can we organically respond to this situation while still upholding our business values, preventing the alienation of our audience, and ensuring that we aren’t responding simply because we have to?”
The key here is being genuine in your approach. No one likes receiving an apology if it’s not genuine, and this same thought process can be applied to addressing diversity and inclusion. This approach takes some more time, but it will allow you to respond thoughtfully while remaining authentic.
- Realize the importance of representation
Representation in simple terms means showing diversity, not just talking about it. When incorporating diversity and inclusion into your brand, you need to think, “How can we best show the diversity of our workforce and communicate this to our customers, potential employees, and the general public?” Showing diversity is also about giving a platform to people that are underrepresented so that their voices may be heard.
Releasing a corporate statement can be beneficial, but it’s vital to show that you stand behind your statement by following through with action. Businesses must also remember that representation is more than just gender and race. Both dominate our conversations about diversity and inclusion, especially in the United States, but these conversations also include ability/disability, age, appearance, nationality, sexuality, religion, and socioeconomic status, to name a few.
- Try not to be tone-deaf
One mistake many businesses make is trying to be diverse without having any self-awareness. At best, this can come off as trying too hard and being insensitive. At worst, it can come off as tone-deaf and offensive. For example, if Company A releases an advertisement with a celebrity that has a history of culturally appropriating a community that Company A claims to support, this comes off as tone-deaf on the business’ part. Likewise, if Company B has messaging about the importance of supporting a group of people, but doesn’t enact any company policy that would actually support this group of people that work for them, this is insensitive and disingenuous.
To prevent blunders like this, you should view everything through a diversity and inclusion lens that forces you to ask, “How would this be received by the X community if we were to say or do this?” Telling diverse stories and stories about diversity in your branding efforts that will resonate with your audience is the goal here.
However, the fear of offending a group of people or making a mistake shouldn’t hold you back; instead, it should make you think twice.
- Have specific goals for diversity and inclusion
Most, if not all, businesses have room for improvement when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Setting a diversity goal can be as straightforward as “We want to have x% of our workforce be representative of y community by the year z” and laying out a plan to work towards that goal.
Setting an inclusion goal is more nuanced. Because inclusion is all about asking people to dance rather than just inviting them to the party (as explained in my last post) setting inclusion goals requires businesses to think more about how to encourage employees to contribute their ideas for the betterment of the business, each other, and the community. This can include creating diversity-specific employee resource groups (ERGs), measuring employee engagement, and keeping track of employee retention based on your efforts.
- Utilize your current employees
A business’ employees are the most valuable resource and are capable of providing insights and perspectives that leadership may not have considered. Asking for employees’ opinions can shed light on areas where your business may be lagging behind. When doing this, it’s important to ensure that you create a culture where all employees feel safe to express their opinions, whether positive or negative. Employees also need to feel like their opinions are being heard and addressed.
Educating employees on diversity and inclusion is important, too, but you cannot force anyone to be an ally of diversity and inclusion. Just like you can’t force people to buy products they don’t want, you can’t force your employees to be champions of diversity and inclusion.
Like any other product, you need to create an environment where people want to learn and become more involved. To do this organically, a small group of leaders who are passionate about diversity and inclusion should take the lead and do the work to move the needle in the right direction. Through this process, other employees will recognize these changes and may want to become a part of the group that is making these changes happen.
The businesses that understand the importance of diversity and inclusion know that it isn’t enough to hire a diversity manager or diversity consultant, release a press statement, and call it a day. Real change moves more at the rate of an ocean liner, even though we wish it moved more like a speedboat. But if you incorporate these steps into your current marketing strategy, at least you’re heading in the right direction.