When Pursuing a More Diverse Workplace, Are You Putting First Things First?

Dozens of companies have reacted to recent events by pledging to increase diversity (women and minorities) in their workforce. It’s not the first time we’ve heard those words, seen companies ramp up their hiring efforts or watched as good intentions fail to deliver results. In many cases, these companies have not put first things first.

While serving in an executive diversity leader role at a FORTUNE 500 company, I led a business-unit wide study to determine why the many efforts put forth to diversify the workforce had fallen short of expectations. The company had ramped up their relationships with historically black colleges, pursued greater diversity in their internship programs and committed to seeking more diverse candidates through their recruiting efforts. Those efforts were effective and although the number of diverse hires increased the overall workplace demographics did not significantly change. Why? Because although a huge effort was put on bringing in more diverse employees, little effort was placed on reshaping the work culture to be more equitable and inclusive. So after a period of time, diverse employees were leaving the company at a rate equal to or faster than they were being hired because they didn’t feel respected, valued or heard. In their words, they “didn’t feel like they belonged.” 

The lesson to be learned is simple. Before you implement programs and initiatives to bring in a cadre of diverse employees, make sure your leaders, your processes and your culture foster a fair, engaging, equitable and inclusive environment. This will not only support your efforts to increase diversity in your workplace, but will create a better work environment for all employees

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