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3 top inclusion fails (and how to fix them)

Woman of color in front of audience

There have been unending discussion, countless initiatives and myriad tactics on how to achieve diversity and inclusion in corporate America. But, as the glacial pace of change proves, many of these efforts do not bring results.

There are three common reasons why organizations drop the ball and don’t move forward with D&I initiatives:

1. Analysis and data nullification

When the assessment is completed and data analyzed, leadership goes into denial about the results. Employees lose any trust or hope they developed when they participated in the assessment. Leadership places blame on employees for having a hidden agenda.

2. Short-cut solutions

Leadership believes a report’s findings and decides that hiring a member of one of the underrepresented groups is the answer. They conduct an executive search for the best and brightest and declare a solution found. There is no need and no time for any long-term strategy.

3. Diversity holding pattern

Executive leadership holds a strategy meeting, which results in good ideas or a long-term vision, but there is no process of accountability or steps to implement specific actions. Other than discussing the need for more diversity in the organization, there is no plan to change employee recruiting or retention methods.

If your company is serious about implementing a diversity or culture-change initiative, leaders must be responsible for creating a diverse candidate pool. In today’s competitive talent market, companies must be creative, go to where the candidates are and have a long enough lead-time to build a good selection of candidates.

Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Develop a list of schools that historically have large numbers of women, people with disabilities and people from different cultural, ethnic and racial backgrounds. Develop relationships with diversity related organizations (e.g., Black Student Union, Native American Students Organization, Asian-American Student Union, MECHA, LGBT organizations, etc.) and sponsor events. Send recruiting teams to those schools.
  • Begin to recruit from middle and high schools. Attend career days and come prepared to discuss the benefits of working for your organization and your industry.
  • Inform all employees about open positions and make it easy to apply. Be open to giving opportunities to people who are different than you. Become conscious of any biases you may have about other cultures, communication styles and decision-making processes.
  • Base your criteria for interviewing and hiring on qualifications — not just the college they graduated from or because you are comfortable with their religion, gender or sexual orientation. Have a diverse panel conduct interviews so that you can get other perspectives.
  • Alert suppliers and vendors that champion diversity to available positions and ask them for referrals.
  • Create processes to make people who are different from you feel welcome and included in your organization.

Ultimately, any inclusion strategy must be driven by executive leadership, not relegated to a separate HR-led program. D&I must be embedded into every system and process. Without direct leadership involvement, the most well-meaning D&I initiative supported by the most committed individuals will stall in place.

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Simma Lieberman is a diversity and inclusion and culture change consultant, speaker and coach and a frequent contributor to the Network of Executive Women.

Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.