Create a sustainable inclusion process that can grow and innovate in today’s climate, as well as in tomorrow’s reality, by keeping these three factors in mind.
—By Daniel Perez
When business leaders demand overnight results on diversity initiatives, or seem to believe a one-time event means they have forever ticked the box on inclusion, what can a diversity and inclusion professional do? Faced with limited funding, limited time and limited bandwidth at all levels, it can feel like a perpetual uphill battle.
One solution is to focus on processes that are sustainable and adaptable to upcoming business challenges in the medium and long term. While no one can predict the future with 100 percent accuracy, resilient and robust practises with an eye on tomorrow can help break business leaders out of results-now and one-off mindsets while continuing to make progress on diversity goals.
To build those practises (and stay sane along the way), consider the following three key steps toward more sustainable inclusion processes.
Mind the Bandwidth of the Core Team
In a deep dive on diversity practises in Canada, consulting firm Deloitte found that most of the work is done by volunteers. Organizations are often operating without a full dedicated staff of diversity professionals, leaving key tasks to be completed by executive sponsors, leaders within target populations or line managers who have been assigned to be diversity champions on top of their existing responsibilities.
Knowing this, and likely living in the day-to-day challenges of the situation, diversity and inclusion professionals looking to build sustainable systems should be extremely mindful of the bandwidth of the core team. Layering on responsibilities, meetings, and appearances at events can add up to burnout for key volunteers and diversity champions, destroying years of cultivated goodwill and progress.
Long-term success in the diversity space means making inclusion a natural, painless part of the organization’s growth and operations.
Yes, it is tough to do everything one knows is possible for the organization in any given year. Yet care of participants in the diversity effort and a repeated demonstration of thoughtfulness around how diversity and inclusion meshes with other organizational goals and responsibility helps build a culture where everyone understands that diversity and inclusion is a long-term, far-sighted, and not-going-away part of the company.
An added benefit? Volunteers who are less overloaded have more time to think about long-range issues and innovate fresh solutions. Though it may feel like activities are being curtailed in the short term by setting bandwidth limits, the long-term results of better engagement and better quality ideas from the team can outweigh any temporary “setbacks” with the workload.
Keep Relevant Paperwork to a Minimum
Canada’s diversity and inclusion environment ranks highly on the international scale for having a compliance-minded inclusion culture, notes Deloitte. This manifests in a number of ways throughout the space, but a big pain point is documentation, reporting and compliance paperwork.
It does not feel like a strategic advance to have a discussion about filling out forms. One hopes, too, that in both the medium and long term many of these forms drop away as benchmarks are met. In the meantime, being conscious of the volunteer nature of the space and the reporting needed, wherever it is possible to do, reduce, reuse, or eliminate paperwork!
If it helps, consider this initiative as an intentionally chosen battle. Long-term success in the diversity space means making inclusion a natural, painless part of the organization’s growth and operations. Streamlining reporting or automating it where possible, and then building it into key milestones rather than having a separate “ask” of the extended managerial team, means that diversity and inclusion is viewed as less of a “chore” and more as an integrated part of the ongoing work.
Celebrate Progress Loudly and as Often as Possible
A final step toward a more sustainable diversity and inclusion process is to celebrate progress loudly and as often as possible. If that sounds like something already being done, think carefully about how success in diversity is being celebrated at YOUR firm.
Are diversity milestones only discussed in annual reviews? Have awards earned garnered an internal “back pat” memo and little more? Can anyone outside of the executive team articulate the company’s progress on diversity metrics over the last five years, or explain progress planned for the next five years? And, beyond the workforce, can anyone in the general customer base speak to diversity and inclusion at the firm?
As an example of an approach to take, consider Teck, one of Canada’s largest resource firms. Its website displays not only current numbers, but also how those numbers have changed over the last five years. Milestones are defined and clearly marked for all to see, and goals are celebrated in a way that makes it clear internal and external stakeholders are aware of and bought into the diversity plan.
Publicly, the company also clearly articulates its diversity and inclusion vision for the firm moving forward. This is something also being done by PepsiCo Canada, which takes a very upbeat and forward-looking tone as it celebrates diversity milestones and future plans. In this way, diversity and inclusion moves out of the shadows, making it clear that this is a priority for these companies and opening a dialogue that will keep the diversity process sustainable in the long term.
An added bonus? Metrics that are celebrated are viewed as more important by staff, notes Deloitte. Each additional celebration, public recommitment, or internal reward ceremony reminds employees that this is a metric that matters, helping sustain the inclusion process and ingrain it into the company’s natural culture.
Creating a sustainable and innovative diversity and inclusion process does not necessarily require a complex approach. Instead, focus on these three foundational blocks of bandwidth management, simplified reporting and frequent celebrations. In this way, it is possible to create systems that support and adapt to the company’s realities while delivering on diversity support goals both today and in the future.