Diversity, equity and inclusion have been in the corporate vernacular for decades. But efforts to meaningfully address these issues have often been unsuccessful — to the detriment of both organizations and their employees.
A study from Citigroup found that since 2000, the U.S. lost $16 trillion in gross domestic product because of discrimination against Black Americans. That economic impact, combined with the collective push from employees to more effectively confront inequalities in the workplace, has oganizations ramping up their commitment to making a real change.
At Cornerstone we’re focused on providing organizations with the tools they need to create positive experiences for all employees over the course of their career journey. Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) in the workplace is a major piece of that — and it means we’re often in conversation about ongoing challenges and how to move the needle from intention to meaningful action.
Leading conversations about DEIB
To continue this work, we devoted Season 3 of Cornerstone’s HR Labs podcast to DEIB. We identified high-priority topics like pay equity, microaggressions and belonging, and sat down with DEIB experts to listen and learn. All six episodes are now available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.
We asked our hosts Jeff Miller, chief learning officer and vice president of organizational effectiveness at Cornerstone and Duane La Bom, chief diversity officer at Cornerstone, to hear their reflections on the season.
Cornerstone Editors: What really stood out to you this season? What was one of your biggest takeaways from all of these conversations?
Jeff Miller: There were so many different voices in this podcast season and so many ways to look at this — from Torin Ellis who brings a really unique perspective about unconscious bias to Frida Polli who looked at this from a quantitative metrics perspective. Bringing relevant, diverse voices to a conversation is a best practice of what we should be doing at work to embrace multiple perspectives in the same environment.
CE: What was one of the most memorable conversations for you?
Duane La Bom: I remember during some points in my conversation with Dr. Don Tomascovik-Devey about involving white men and middle managers, thinking, I wish I could get a copy of the recording right now and not have to wait for it to go live! He said some things that were really powerful.
DLB: He said something about blame and guilt: About how we sometimes make managers, middle managers, white men either feel as if we’re blaming them personally for systemic injustice. We’re making them feel guilty for things that they believe are out of their control. But rather than assigning blame, we should help them understand how they can and should be part of the solution. We can’t get where we’re trying to go unless they’re part of the process. In order for us to be successful, we need them to be engaged and play a role.
CE: What do you hope HR leaders walk away with after listening to this season of HR Labs? What were some of the most important takeaways for continuing this work?
DL: I hope HR organizations realize that this work is more than just an extra responsibility to hand to one of your HR business partners. Especially when you start getting into mid-sized companies with thousands of employees, there are so many components that go into DEIB. What we did in six episodes just scratched the surface. There are multiple different focus areas we could’ve selected — and none are better or worse.
A lot of organizations don’t really give diversity programs the resources necessary to be successful — they give them enough resources to check a box to say they’re doing something. I’m hoping the topics we did talk about made those organizations realize, “We need to hire someone who has expertise in this area.” Or that it helps them build a business case to show the value of DEI as part of a strategy that aligns with their culture, their values and who they want to be.
JM: We need to look at fair practices — the starting place is with pay equity. And as we talk about equal pay, it’s broadening the conversation. I look forward to the day when organizations are just talking about equity rather than pay equity for women or pay equity for underrepresented populations. As we look at companies like pymetrics, I would love to see organizations leverage data to make better decisions.
CE: What do you see as the biggest priority for organizations in terms of advancing DEIB initiatives today?
DLB: Two things: the first is inclusive leadership. Every organization in North America is trying to create a more inclusive environment, but they're not teaching managers how to do that. They’re just saying, “Be more inclusive.” Anyone can say that, but you really need to examine what that looks like from a day-to-day perspective.
The second is allyship. Being an ally is critically important in this work. So helping people understand what it means to be an ally and how to show up as an ally. Sometimes allies feel as if they’re supposed to have all the answers, and it’s the exact opposite. When you’re coaching someone or mentoring them, it’s good for you to have a lot of answers because you have experience when you’re helping someone. But an ally is supposed to listen, learn and leverage their strengths and privilege to help when it makes sense. They’re calling attention to the person they’re advocating for, not themselves.
JM: This is one step. This is where we get to recommit ourselves to DEIB. We’re finally seeing organizations being more human than we ever really have before. We’ve left the whole Mad Men era where it was all ties and suits and white men. Now it’s about committing to bringing more perspectives in and saying, “your perspective is valid.” We’re closer now to where we need to be, but we’re just getting started.
Want to keep learning? Explore our products, customer stories, and the latest industry insights.
Taking A Company-Wide Approach to Learning & Development
There’s a lot of coordination that goes into a company’s learning and development programming, from identifying skills gaps and creating engaging content to scaling initiatives company-wide. And because there’s so much complex planning involved, organizations can sometimes get caught up in the details, and overlook how L&D fits into broader organizational goals. A recent survey—titled "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change"—from Cornerstone People Research Lab (CPRL) and the Human Capital Institute (HCI) found that only 55% of organizations believe their L&D programs are well-aligned with their company’s overarching strategy. But CPRL and HCI’s survey reveals two logical ways to overcome this challenge. First, there’s a need for L&D executives to participate in strategic conversations around organizational goals to ensure that L&D planning aligns with broader business plans. And second, it’s important to share responsibility for learning effectiveness. If facilitating continuous learning is a part of everyone’s role, it becomes easier to integrate it organization-wide. Promote Cross-Departmental Collaboration and Responsibility To better align L&D efforts with overarching business goals, learning executives have to participate in strategic conversations about organizational direction. For instance, when business leaders gather to discuss goals and KPIs for the coming year or quarter, HR and L&D leaders should be involved in those conversations. And the opposite is also true: Business leaders need to help direct the learning outcomes framed against those goals. According to the "Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey from CPRL and HCI, only about half (51%) of learning leaders report being involved in these discussions. During these business planning discussions, it’s important to establish accountability, especially among people managers. CPRL and HCI found 67% of people managers report being involved in the creation of content, but only 47% are involved in the accountability for the results. By holding more people accountable to the success of L&D programs, it can be easier for a company to spot pitfalls or opportunities for improvement. It creates shared goals for measuring effectiveness, and establishes a process for making changes. For example, by getting people managers involved in L&D initiatives, L&D leaders can work with them to get a better understanding of a specific team’s skill gaps or what reskilling or new skilling solutions will work best for them. All leaders in an organization, in fact, should be eager to participate and own their team’s newskilling, reskilling or upskilling efforts. Ask a people manager in the IT department to reiterate the importance of learning to their team, and track the amount of time their employees spend on learning content. This approach will not only create a shared commitment to continuous learning, but can also help leaders outside of L&D and HR get a better idea of what content or formats work best for their teams and recommend adjustments accordingly. Continuous Learning Is Everyone’s Responsibility Aligning overarching business plans and strategy with learning and development efforts can improve each’s efficacy. The more cross-departmental collaboration that exists, the more information that HR and L&D leaders have about their workforce and its needs, strengths and weaknesses. And with more accountability, all stakeholders in an organization can become more involved in ensuring the successful partnership between L&D and a company’s overall strategy. To learn more about the findings from Cornerstone’s "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey and its recommendations for using cross-departmental collaboration and accountability to help with L&D efforts, click here to download and read the full report.
Why supporting neurodiversity is essential for any successful workforce today
When we think of diversity in the workforce, we typically think of it along the lines of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender. But focusing only on those four is its own sort of constraint. To truly create a successful and diverse workplace, you need to ensure you're also embracing neurodiversity too. Understanding neurodiversity In the late 1990s, a single mother in Australia named Judy Singer began studying Disability Studies at University of Technology Sydney. Her daughter had recently been diagnosed with what was then known as “Asperger’s Syndrome,” a form of autism spectrum disorder. As she read more and more about autism as part of her studies, Singer also suspected that her mother, and she herself, may have had some form of autism spectrum disorder. Singer describes crying as she realized that her mother, with whom she'd had a tumultuous relationship throughout her childhood, wasn’t purposefully cold or neurotic as she had thought. She just had a different kind of mind. In her honors thesis, Singer coined the term “neurodiversity.” For Singer, people with neurological differences like autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or dyslexia were a social class of their own and should be treated as such. If we are going to embrace diversity of race, gender, religion, sexuality, etc., then we must embrace a diversity of the mind. The following video is an excerpt from the "Neurodiversity" Grovo program, which is available in the Cornerstone Content Anytime Professional Skills subscription. Neurodiversity in today's workplace Recently, neurodiversity has become a trendy term in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging spaces. And many organizations are working to hire more neurodivergent people, as well as give them opportunities to thrive at work. That’s why, at Cornerstone, we recently produced a series of lessons on neurodiversity. If your organization hasn’t prioritized neurodiverse inclusion yet, here are some reasons why it both supports your people and organization. 1) Neurodivergent people are underemployed Neurodivergent people, especially people with autism, are widely under-employed, regardless of their competence. In the United States, 85% of college graduates with autism are unemployed. According to a 2006 study, individuals with ADHD have higher rates of unemployment than individuals without. However, there is no evidence that neurodivergent people are less competent or less intelligent than neurotypical people. Organizations are missing out on talented people. 2) Neurodivergent people are more common than you may think Neurodiversity manifests in many different ways. It can encompass autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Tourette syndrome, and many other conditions. And as scientists have learned more about what makes someone neurodivergent, they're identifying more and more people. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 160 children have some form of autism spectrum disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in every 162 children have Tourette Syndrome, and roughly 8 percent of children under 18 have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. And that's just children. How many adults, like Judy Singer's mother, have struggled their whole lives without a diagnosis? People who are neurodivergent are everywhere. Diverse organizations are stronger Diverse organizations and teams not only have better financial returns than less-diverse ones, but they also perform better. Having the different perspectives presented by people who are neurodivergent can help your team solve more difficult problems. Different perspectives and different ways of thinking lead to creativity and innovation.
Why Selecting a Leadership Development Program Is Way Too Complicated
Many organizations face a leadership gap and cannot find the talent needed to grow. We could blame the retiring baby boomer phenomenon, the free agent nation, or the lack of investment made in developing leaders. But since blame is a lazy man’s wage, I will not entertain that debate because there are too many options out there for developing leaders. There are many leadership development programs in the market. In minutes, with a simple Internet search or over coffee with your head of human resources, you can discover myriad high-quality leadership development programs that you could use in your organization to develop leaders. The problem is not finding a good program, but in choosing one. Answer the Right Questions So how does one choose? The problem we face in evaluating leadership development programs is that we get caught up in evaluating the content rather than asking a simple question, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Each organization is unique in how it answers this question. And that is where the secret lies. If an organization can select a program that matches the answer to the question above, the selected program will likely be the right one. After all, each leadership development program is very good in some way. It is not so important which one you select. It is important that you use the one you select. In other words, the key is to not let it become another un-opened binder on the bookshelves of your management team. Be An Effective Leader Let me give you an example: If an organization’s answer to the question above is, "We want our leaders to be proactive and focused on the things that drive results," your choices are narrowed down to only a few programs that would deliver on that answer. And if I had to pick one program that would deliver on that answer, without hesitation, I would choose, "The Effective Executive" by Peter F. Drucker. It is a classic, and all five of the behaviors of effective executives taught in the book remain vital skills that any leader should practice if he or she wants to be effective in his or her organization. In the book, Drucker teaches that effective executives: Know where their time goes Focus on contribution and results Build on strengths Concentrate on first things first Make effective decisions This is not a book review or a plug for "The Effective Executive," though I do believe if you had to choose one set of skills to teach your leadership, it would be the five from Drucker’s book. This is a challenge for every organization to simplify the selection of leadership development programs, and ask, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Answering this question clearly will help you choose the right program. After all, many programs are excellent. The secret to success is not in which program you choose, but that you get people to apply the program you choose. Photo: Can Stock