HRD Roundtable Report: Closing the Loop Between Diversity, Inclusion, and Employee Retention
Closing the Loop Between Diversity, Inclusion, and Employee Retention
Having a successful DE&I programme isn’t just about a balance in your (though of course that’s part of it!). The experience once someone moves from candidate to employee also needs to line demographics up. Recent trends like the Great Resignation and quiet quitting, have only shown how organizations need to pay extra attention to ensure they are building inclusive cultures that encourage their employees with diverse background to want to stay.
In partnership with Workday Peakon and facilitated by Janine Dennis, author, speaker and Chief Innovations Officer at Talent Think Innovations, this discussion with senior HR leaders was conducted under Chatham House Rules. This report will contain the key discussion areas and all participants will be anonymized.
Ground Rules for Respectful Discussions
This roundtable operated under the guidance of the following rules, which would also support these kinds of conversations in the workplace. As follows:
Importantly, we should all try to function under the assumption that everyone is coming to the conversation under good intentions and extend forgiveness for mistakes.
This report will use a few acronyms for diversity work, inclusive of Diversity Equity Inclusivity Belonging and Justice.
The summer of 2020 following the death of George Floyd was a watershed moment for several of the organizations around the table, regardless of the maturity of their DEIBJ policies up to that point.
The group heard from one people leader in the travel industry, whose business was heavily impacted by Covid-19 precautions but did their best to engage with their staff in a thoughtful way throughout. Their approach was driven by authenticity – they acknowledged and were open about how their leadership team is almost entirely white, male and privileged, and that therefore they don’t know what it’s like to be a marginalized frontline worker, particularly during a global pandemic.
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Data was central to developing a fuller picture of the work that needed doing. Government regulations means that some information was already collected, but C-level support was key to boosting engagement numbers. DE&I questions were added to other engagement surveys beyond the standard equity survey, so that comparisons could be drawn between the different data sets. Alongside quantitative data, listening to lived experience is also vital to building a comprehensive view. Running confidential sessions with external facilitators is a good way to encourage open sharing.
Support in development was raised as a hotspot for attrition – employees with marginalized identities being less likely to stay and advance their career. One participant shared their commitment to 1 on 1 exit interviews, and the ongoing theme of career advancement, due to lack of support, access or exposure. Building clear career path opportunities and supporting through active mechanisms like mentor or sponsorship can make a strong impact.
How can we build DE&I into each part of the hiring process? Again, data plays a key role here. Via which routes are applicants applying? What are the overall demographics, and how do they change as we move through the process? Is there any one stage where a group of people tend to drop off? Is the weighting for each stage fair? Are the salaries offered on par across candidates? During the interview stages, are the interviewers or panels diverse themselves? Sometimes this means bringing in people from other parts of the business but is valuable as it can have an impact both ways – in encouraging the candidate by being able to see representation within the organization and tackling unconscious biases.
Transformation is a journey, but it is also important not to promise too much too quickly, without the means to back it up. One participant shared a setback on their journey; having made a big commitment to change, some employees felt harm when the business couldn’t yet live up to the new expectations they had set. The organization was too early in the process to support the needs of those employees and had to work to bring that trust back.
How do we create spaces that are safe for sharing? The group discussed the idea of ‘safe spaces’ and ‘brave spaces’ – inspired by the poem by Micky ScottBey Jones – and that although usually the intention is there, it is impossible to guarantee people a fully safe space. We are all human and cannot control how others will respond. A ‘brave space’ is creating the space that is needed at the time, to share experiences and concerns, with the understanding that individuals will still need to take care.
Throughout the roundtable, members of the group expressed how they felt responsible and guilty for poor feedback or lack of results. They also shared times when they felt un-empowered by the rest of their leadership team or CEO to make real impact, sometimes compounded by the fact they themselves come from marginalized backgrounds. However, creating a more inclusive workforce isn’t the work of any one person or function within the business. It is a process that everyone is working through. Perfection can’t be the aim as it is too unforgiving.
The ‘justice’ part of DEIBJ isn’t something that many organizations are comfortable with yet. Close to the height of the George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests, although justice was at the forefront, it was also very emotionally heavy and charged for a lot of people, including for black and brown colleagues. Justice is an important facet however, and several in the group expressed a desire to work towards incorporating it into their approach.
Other ideas to explore further:
Janine’s final thoughts
Tackling DEIBJ is not just work for the world of work it should be a personal call to action. We cheapen the value of this work when we see it as merely programmatic or a rush to create superficial data points. In speaking of data, let us not forget that it is critical but never the full story. The reality is we can slice and dice data to tell whatever story we want to tell, and many organizations have in an effort to skirt the real work. DEIBJ initiatives exist because we have failed specific groups of humans intentionally and maliciously. To completely quantify the damage that has been done to marginalized groups and continues until this day won’t be found in your latest survey results. It is imperative that you are dedicated to continually educating yourself on the true history and purpose of racism. Be actionable about studying systems and structures of oppression globally. This is where the work gets tough, but shouldn’t it be? To try to make this work easy is to cheapen it which in turn causes more harm. I am encouraging each of you to challenge yourself to unpack your own world views and how that informs not only how you show up in the world, but how you lead your organizations going forward. Lastly, remember that this is likely work that will carry on long beyond our generation. Take solace in knowing you are doing your best with what you know and the resources you have. This work won’t ever be perfect, but it can have a meaningful impact on marginalized communities and our trajectory as a human family.