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As movements like #MeToo, Time’s Up, and Black Lives Matter highlight social inequality in the workplace and outside of it, leaders in business are in a position to reexamine their own organizations’ practices. An uptick in job postings for roles in the diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) space shows that organizations are responding to what’s happening in the world and operationalizing it at their own organizations. But every organization is at its own unique starting point—and it can be difficult to know how to begin or move forward.

In an effort to help organizations shape their paths, our team at Cornerstone recently hosted a webinar, “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion in Talent Management,” during which we shared recommendations for making improvements to DE&I in the workplace. To start, fostering diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging involves working to mitigate areas of unconscious or implicit bias in recruiting, performance management, learning and development and compensation. 

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And wherever our starting place is today, our end goal should be the same: to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace. Here’s how we begin together.

Understand the Facets of Identity

For diversity, equity and inclusion to exist, biases must be identified and eliminated. Perhaps the most commonly considered areas of potential bias are race, gender, and sexual orientation—but identity is expansive. We have to remember that people are complex. Not only do we all have multiple facets of our identities, but our interactions with those around us also shape how we view and interact with the world.

Intersectionality, therefore, is a crucial concept to understand. In her work, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color” Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw explains it well. She writes that no individual has a singular identity—no one is simply a white man or Black woman or lesbian or straight—but rather a composite of various facets of identity.

Facets of identity include: age, national origin, race, sexual orientation, religion, disability, gender, education, work role/experience, personality, customs, geographic location, functional discipline, languages used, values, communication style, work style, learning style, economic status, family situation, military experience, philosophical perspective. 

When any of these identities are left out in representation or treated differently, there’s potential for bias, discrimation and other issues. But having representation across various identity intersections creates diversity and ensures a healthy, inclusive workplace.

Rewrite Job Descriptions To Encourage Diverse Applicants

Once you’ve understood and identified the importance of mulit-faceted identities, it’s time to diversify your talent pool and broaden the scope of candidates. That requires examining your existing job descriptions closely: Does each description reflect the actual day-to-day responsibilities of the person in that position? Are there unnecessary “requirements” listed that may prove a barrier to candidates who will be able to do the job, and well? Rank responsibilities in order of what is done the most, and think about any unnecessary requirements in the job description, removing them. 

And consider this: A white man will likely apply for a job even if he does not meet every listed qualification, while women and people of color often shy away from job descriptions that list qualifications they do not have. Remove implicit barriers—in language and requirements—to encourage a more diverse candidate pool to apply. For example: if a job description includes the phrase, “masters degree preferred,” but a masters degree is not required for someone to perform the role adequately, consider removing it. If you don’t really truly need a masters degree to do the role, you may be inadvertently excluding groups of potential candidates.

Try using tools like Textio and Gender Decoder to identify and remove implicit barriers in language; and, expand search efforts by finding targeted job boards and connecting with affinity groups like Out in Tech, AfroTech and Techqueria

Recruiting Is Only the First Step For Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion

Efforts to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging may start with recruiting a diverse pool of candidates, but should not stop there. Incorporate DE&I practices into career development, especially in the areas of succession planning, internal talent mobility systems, training and development opportunities, and performance management. Ensure evaluations do not include subtle biases, and train managers to recognize and mitigate bias. 

The best way to mitigate bias is through continuous performance management. Collect as much data as possible—not from a single manager, but from teammates or individuals working with an employee on a project—to be used for performance assessment. Work to evaluate employees fairly, and offer the right access to training opportunities, mentors and sponsorship. Data-driven decision-making can overrule bias. And, finally, be sure to set up pay equity task forces to look at disparities in pay. All of these efforts combined can lead to more engaged and productive employees. 

Overwhelmingly, data tells us that a diverse, equitable, inclusive environment translates directly to more engaged employees, which research tells us translates directly to more productive employees. At the end of the day, this translates to greater customer satisfaction, higher revenues, and increased sustainability for organizations. DE&I isn’t just the right thing to do from an ethical standpoint, it’s good for business.

For more insights, access the full webinar, “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Talent Management” here.