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HR Labs, DEIB Edition: Don Tomaskovic-Devey on Engaging White Men in Diversity and Inclusion Strategies

Cornerstone Editors

We’re thrilled to announce the third season of HR Labs, a podcast that explores how to create a better employee experience for all of your people. This season is hosted by Cornerstone’s Chief Learning Officer and VP of Organizational Effectiveness Jeff Miller and Chief Diversity Officer Duane La Bom. Through conversations with change-makers, activists, executives and experts, they’ll explore strategies for taking diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives from intention to action. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.

As Chief Diversity Officer at Cornerstone, Duane La Bom has a deep expertise and understanding of not only what makes DEIB programs successful—but also some of the reasons they fail to truly drive change. And one of the most common deciding factors between DEIB success and failure, he says, is a company’s ability to engage white men and middle managers in the conversation and in the solution.

This week on HR Labs, Duane sat down with sociology professor Don Tomaskovic-Devey whose research focuses on the processes that generate workplace inequality. In this episode, Don shares his advice about engaging white men and middle managers in diversity and inclusion strategies.

Listen to the episode here: Apple — Spotify

Middle Managers and DEIB Strategies Today

Duane and Dr. Tomaskovic-Devey agree: The approach many companies take to DEIB often alienates managers—many of which are white men.

"A lot of firms use diversity training that spends a lot of time targeting managers as biased," Dr. Tomaskovic-Devey says. "Now, that blame may deserve to be there or it may not, but it will definitely produce a sense of being morally targeted without being given a tool."

Whether or not managers feel defensive, sometimes the way companies approach DEIB leaves managers without a clear understanding of whether, or how, to take part. For example, Dr. Tomaskovic-Devey says some research suggests that when managers hear their company has committed itself to DEIB, they assume it’s happened already, or that the responsibility for driving change lies elsewhere. And some companies also tend to take a legal stance to issues that arise around DEIB—which has the effect of removing the responsibility and accountability from the manager.

Middle Managers and White Men as Full Diversity Partners

Companies need to better engage managers in their diversity and inclusion strategy by encouraging them to view DEIB as they would any company project or effort.

"What you have is a disconnect between the people who you normally expect to drive change or products or innovation and the diversity and inclusion agenda," says Dr. Tomaskovic-Devey, "I think that it's really important that that becomes part of the normal job at the middle manager level."

Giving them the ability to track data, measure results, and try new approaches is also important, says Dr. Tomaskovic-Devey. "What we do need is to treat it more like we do other business practices. Hold people accountable and get the appropriate metrics."

Empowering Managers with Data to Drive Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

Once middle managers and white men are involved in the DEIB process, they can help drive real success, Dr. Tomaskovic-Devey says. One of the most important tools for managers is data and analytics about DEIB efforts—and that’s where companies like Pymetrics come in. Pymetrics uses neuroscience and AI to improve diversity in hiring.

"That's a firm I really have a lot of respect for," Dr. Tomaskovic-Devey says. Not only does the firm offer data tools for companies, but it’s also committed to driving DEI. "The tech industry has been under a lot of pressure for both lack of diversity and inclusiveness in its workplaces but also for producing tools that have internal biases to them. Pymetrics is a firm that's in this space that has explicitly worked to take the bias out of the algorithm."

Next time on HR Labs, Jeff Miller sits down with Pymetrics CEO Frida Polli to talk more about using data to drive impact in DEIB initiatives.

Subscribe to HR Labs and never miss a conversation about strategies for seeing real impact from your DEI&B efforts. To hear Jeff’s conversation with Frida Polli, check back in on March 31st. And, if you’re just joining us, check out previous episodes on unconscious bias, microaggressions and pay equity.

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