2020 has been a wake-up call for leaders and companies on many levels. From a global pandemic to protests across our country fighting systemic racism, it’s been a year like none other, and we’re only in the second half.

As companies look for more tangible approaches to support initiatives to combat discrimination in all forms, many organizations realize that the foundational steps they have taken to invest in diversity programs are not enough. Despite the best intentions of leaders and teams, efforts to create a diverse and inclusive culture often fall short.

To discuss steps to advance diversity and inclusion, I talked with Latesha Byrd, CEO of Byrd Consulting, Eric Hutcherson, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer of Universal Music Group, and Michele Meyer-Shipp, Chief People and Culture Officer of the Major League Baseball (MLB). 

Based on our conversation, here are actions leaders and teams can take to achieve diversity and inclusion results: 

Change Requires Discomfort and Commitment

Diversity requires more than a statement, updated policy, or social media post. “Companies have released public statements that they commit to Diversity and Inclusion, yet there is still a lack of Black employees and employees of color in leadership roles and not a solid commitment to improving the experience of these employees,” says Byrd.

Significant change involves commitment and discomfort. Hutcherson shares: “I often see organizations stand in place because they don’t have more diversity. I would challenge you to not stand in place because you don’t have more. After all, more will come when you show a commitment. That’s where the real power comes from.”

Amplify Accountability

As leaders, our instincts around how to improve diversity are often wrong. It takes commitment, accountability, and action to create change.

Diversity programs often have minimal impact because they lack specific, actionable leadership initiatives. Leaders need to hold themselves and their teams accountable for creating a diverse and inclusive work environment, including reviewing existing helpful and harmful workplace culture and practices and reimagining them to fix what’s broken.

“If it’s just a program, a policy, or an initiative, it will live or die with whoever cares about it,” Hutcherson advises. “The place to start is to care. Most leadership teams don’t have a full suite of diversity. Don’t use that as a reason to wait.”

Measure Progress and Pain Points

Analyze and evaluate the workforce and then measure progress and pain points. “Companies should adequately track the recruitment, retention, and advancement of employees of color,” recommends Byrd. “Putting necessary effort and time in reviewing metrics and continuing the conversation on ways to improve these measures.”

Break Down Silos and Bias

Raise awareness of behaviors that contribute to or impede a productive work environment. Microaggressions – either conscious or unconscious – happen. Biases can be unintentional and intentional but often goes unnoticed and derail progress.

Provide employees opportunities to work with different colleagues, which breaks down subcultures and dissipates instances where productivity can bias. Create belonging experiences to break down silos and improve collaboration. “Find common ground – start the conversation, gain some common understanding about what D&I means to the people on the team, discuss differences and similarities, and explain how there is power in the differences,” advises Meyer-Shipp. 

Seek and amplify voices across the organization where unique views are celebrated, not excluded. “The key is to facilitate courageous conversations across differences/silos, set common ground rules for the discussion and lead the conversation by example–perhaps facilitate a sample conversation across differences that folks can role model,” explains Meyer-Shipp.

Eliminate Culture Fit

Don’t gravitate towards the familiar. Hiring culture fit can perpetuate rather than challenge our biases. Instead of culture fit, seek culture adds. “Be careful using words such as ‘Culture fit’ which can lend to affinity bias, the tendency to gravitate toward people similar to us in appearance, beliefs, and background,” says Byrd. 

Assess hiring and promotion practices to strengthen efforts to reach diverse pipelines of talent. “Companies should increase efforts to diversify their talent pool, and diversifying selection hiring committees and ensuring that candidates are evaluated fairly across the board,” recommends Byrd.

Activate Reverse Mentoring

Advocate for intentional learning and development opportunities to bolster inclusion. “Provide sponsorship opportunities and career mapping to employees. Studies show that Black employees are not sponsored at the same levels of their white counterparts, and adequate sponsorship is crucial to advancement,” says Byrd.

Pair mentors to strengthen onboarding, development, engagement, and retention of diverse employees. Reverse mentoring is a powerful way to activate new ideas, opportunities, and perspectives: “Reverse mentoring is a great way to open lines of communication and build relationships between employees that may have otherwise maintained limited interaction,” shared Byrd. “It helps people see what they can’t see from the viewpoint of someone different from them,”  explains Meyer-Shipp.

Take Action

Ultimately, companies and leaders need to transform their organizations and cultures – to move from activity to belief. To create a culture of belonging, diversity must be an embedded part of your business, behaviors, and values.

Originally published on Glassdoor.com


  • Tammy Perkins

    Chief People Officer

    Chief People Officer, HR Leader, @Inc featured, @glassdoor, @thrive, @huffpost @fastcompany & @adweek contributor, fashion lover, handbag aficionado, mom, wife & dachshund lover