by Diane Thurston — December 02, 2019

There is plenty of data to support the positive impact of diverse talent – ethnic, gender, generational, LGBTQ+, cognitive, etc. – on companies’ financial success. Additionally, nothing has a bigger impact on your bottom line than the retention and productivity of your talent. Whether your immediate corporate focus is cost savings, brand building, workforce efficiency, or winning the war for talent, true worker engagement is a critical part of your equation.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I) is not just about publishing a policy but rather enacting change in behavior and practice throughout your company. It must be aligned with your strategy, your brand, and your culture in a genuine way. From hiring practices through daily team collaboration, it plays an important part and is now expected as a standard cultural component in every company.

Understanding the interconnectedness of equity, diversity, and inclusion, is paramount to your success here, to truly move the needle and weave it into the fabric of your culture. For example, diversity without inclusion can have a negative effect overall: if diverse hires do not feel a sense of belonging and do not see others like them succeeding and being treated equitably, their tenure will be shorter, and the company will lose its investment and progress against diversity goals – now with the added hurdle of employee skepticism.

The other critical ingredient for success? Taking a holistic approach. Considering all dimensions of a transformational change in this area significantly improves the likelihood of cultural change and measurable progress. Aspects such as leadership’s ability to lead diverse teams and promote inclusivity, use of collaborative technologies and spaces, and tailored and equitable recognition, drive adoption from multiple angles. Holistic Future of Work considerations across human, machine, physical and digital aspects of your initiatives can ensure the impact of your transformational change.

Other tips to keep in mind:

Do your homework. Don’t guess about your company’s culture or organizational sentiment about ED&I. Do the research, leveraging a cross-section of the organization: departments, geographies, levels, etc. Some of the most eye-opening moments of ED&I work come during current state assessments and (anonymous) surveys of your workforce. Check your methodology so you get fans and skeptics, experienced and inexperienced ED&I perspectives. Dig in to understand your culture through tailored workshops, forums, etc., and create an environment that makes it okay to share without having exactly the right words. Then use the best of your culture to drive success and adoption of ED&I initiatives.

Roadmap with perspective. When planning and prioritizing your efforts, consider initiatives beyond ED&I that compete for resources’ attention and time. Bring in outside help if you are resource constrained or if politics will limit your company’s ability to drive realistic planning and progress.

Make every investment count. Commit to a clear vision, then make it real through ownership, sponsorship, and budget. One of the most common ED&I failures is underfunding; this is challenging work that cannot be made real in employees’ spare time. Select key initiatives with high visibility and likelihood of success to demonstrate commitment and early progress. Then maintain a level of ED&I awareness through ongoing communications and by making it a standard topic for operational meetings, management scorecards, etc. Don’t let your investments die on the vine.

Having considered impacts across all dimensions of your company and the interconnectedness of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, you’re ready to prioritize and move forward with confidence that your investments will pay off and your efforts will make a real difference.

Go forth and move that needle.