July 07, 2020
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is vital to businesses that want to be profitable, robust and evolutionary. One of the benefits is improved and enhanced employee experience which in turn improves customer experience and business ROI. More importantly, a diverse and inclusive workplace is a sign that a business is an active part of the global community which includes people of all cultures, ethnicities, sexual orientations, socio-economic status, beliefs and values.
There have been advances in the fight against racism and prejudice but there remains a lot of work to do. According to a report from the Center for Talent Innovation, there are only four African American CEOs of all Fortune 500 companies and only 3.2% of senior-level managers are African American.
As prominent leaders have recognized, racism is systemic and institutional. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, was recently asked by Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill. at a U.S. House hearing if institutional racism was a contributing factor in why black communities have been affected more than white communities by COVID-19. “Obviously the African-American community has suffered from racism for a very, very long period of time and I cannot imagine that that has not contributed to the conditions that they find themselves in, economically and otherwise,” Fauci replied. “So the answer, Congressman, is yes.”
Business leaders can play a key role acknowledging racism and making diversity and inclusion core values of business.
Make Employee Experience a Priority
Business leaders are in a unique position to improve the quality of life for employees. By enriching the employee journey, from initially sourcing and recruiting each employee, taking them through the hiring and onboarding process, to the nitty gritty aspects of daily work, all the way through the retirement process, a leader is able to provide employees with growth opportunities, ongoing education, a sense of belonging, accomplishment, camaraderie, engagement and personal satisfaction.
“Employees want to be able to feel a strong sense of affiliation to their organizations and when it is more diverse and inclusive – enabling many voices to be heard -it helps them to stay connected to the organization,” said Richard Orbé-Austin, author and founder of Dynamic Transitions Psychological Consulting. “This sense of belonging increases employee satisfaction and the willingness to refer others to the company. They feel seen, valued, and heard, which are powerful motivators for the employee experience.” Dr. Orbé-Austin is a psychologist and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) expert, who consults with organizations about how to enhance the employee experience.
Employee experience is about empathy, understanding that employees are people with hopes, dreams, families and feelings. Empathy is not just a buzzword – it’s an important core business value. A 2019 report from BusinessSolver indicated that 82% of employees would consider leaving their job for a more empathetic organization. More importantly, from an ROI viewpoint, the report also said that 78% of employees would work longer hours for a more empathetic employer. Empathy makes leaders more effective, facilitates employee productivity, loyalty and engagement and ultimately affects the bottom line.
By focusing on employee experience, leaders are able to build a sense of trust and connection with employees. Employees want to feel recognized as individuals, that their talents, abilities and insights are welcomed and they are a valuable part of the company, not in spite of their differences but because of them. That is where diversity and inclusion can truly make a difference, but it needs to be across the board.
Dr. Erika Pryor of EPiC Career Network said employees will only feel truly empowered when they are supported in their efforts rather than hampered as typically happens. “Companies can support an inclusive culture by creating a work environment where women and [people of color] can work absent of hyper surveillance, microaggressions and constant questioning, among many other day-to-day challenges which are emotionally taxing and ultimately distracting time and energy from doing great work,” she said.