Having practical knowledge of both effective and unsuccessful diversity practices helps women identify which organizations do, and do not, deploy their programs properly. When searching for a job, looking for a better career path or determining where the best opportunities for promotion exist, women can help themselves by knowing about a company’s diversity policies. You can use this knowledge as a guide to benefit future decisions related to your career.
This article is the last installment of a 3-part series covering diversity practices companies implement which either deliver on, or fall short of, achieving their desired outcomes. Today’s post covers effective diversity practices that serve to benefit companies and women employees.
Some diversity practices work “as advertised.” That is, they produce results that move the needle forward on achieving greater diversity. Through experimentation, testing, and evaluation, several organizations have identified which practices are the most effective. By improving everything from productivity to innovation, diversity creates a tailwind of support which propels more women’s careers. Please take the following set of best diversity practices into consideration when planning your career:
Practices That Gain Managers to “Buy-In”
A number of companies are now applying sensible practices to effectively guide managers and employees to exercise the right types of human responses and behaviors. These are incorporated into work activities connected to, but not always labeled as, diversity programs. We have categorized them based upon the following attributes: empathy and involvement of managers; shared responsibility and equal exposure create mutual alignment; and modified transparency paired with accountability.
I.) Involvement Leads to Empathy
As a company, when what you say and what you do, or how you act, are misaligned you create confusion and chaos. Your managers will judge any diversity policies delivered this way as hypocritical. Effective managers also never want to send mixed signals (i.e., disguised as contradictions or lip service) about diversity to their people.
In all such cases, the internal conflict between beliefs and behaviors creates what is known as cognitive and emotional dissonance. It’s natural for the human in all of us to resolve dissonance, or conflicts such as these, thus relieving the stress it creates.
The best diversity programs often start out with high-level support of the executive team. They are introduced as a way to produce higher standards of organizational excellence. At this stage, diversity initiatives come from strategy, vision and strong beliefs. They may have executive-level commitment, but they have not been internalized by the workforce. Operations, activities and behaviors needed to effectively deliver on diversity programs follow after the announcement of strategic initiatives.
Without execution there is no foundational support. Because of this, it’s likely that recently-announced diversity initiatives have created varying degrees of dissonance, or inconsistent behaviors. This initial state – where actions don’t match ideals in managers and employees – is common. Therefore, it is up to companies to alleviate these conflicts by changing either the beliefs or the behaviors associated with diversity initiatives they practice.
There are two activities companies use to align beliefs with behaviors. These practices, which are not known as diversity per se, start out as involvement and lead to more empathy in managers. They are as follows:
– College Recruitment
It is estimated that 15%, or less, of U.S. companies currently have college recruitment programs. There are even fewer which target gender diversity and focus on recruitment of women candidates. Research suggests that managers who volunteer to be part of campus recruitment believe they can have an impact on diversity. The thinking among managers is, “Why wouldn’t I want to be part of developing a pool of diversified talent?” The reason college recruitment works as a diversity practice is because it mobilizes managers. They want to get, and remain, actively involved. In fact, when managers are invited to participate in interviews, they willingly volunteer to become part of all recruitment teams.
College recruitment programs are a backdoor solution to achieving greater diversity. Because they are expressed as campus recruitment, managers “buy in” on diversity without fully realizing the long-term benefits they have created. All they know, starting out, is that they are determined to recruit strong candidates from underrepresented groups. College recruitment accomplishes two outcomes: 1) It builds a pipeline of high-potential candidates for managers/companies and, in the process, furthers diversity; 2) By getting managers involved it creates empathy and commitment, thus it reduces biases. Over time, actions and beliefs are aligned and managers see themselves as part of the solution to create greater diversity within the companies they work for.
– Mentorship & Sponsorship
Mentoring is another program that creates more empathy among managers. A mentorship program serves corporations well by developing leaders and improving diversity.
The involvement of managers can vary as both individual-level and group-level mentoring can serve this purpose. In all situations, when “buy in” is achieved, managers start to believe more in the program and its recipients. Participating managers empathize more with mentoring candidates they work with and develop a growth mindset that mentees deserve more career opportunities for new assignments and promotional advancement. Direct involvement of managers with diversity hires also helps to expose, and preemptively correct, existing biases.
Managers who have a “buy in” mindset believe, “Any mentor I sponsor has earned more opportunities.” They then start to act by internalizing, “How can I facilitate and help them realize their potential to advance?” The more involved managers become, the more they behave consistently with believing in the benefits of mentoring programs and they work to ensure their success.
Even though mentorship programs operate under a different name, they have the added benefit of improving diversity. Mentoring boosts diversity in all levels of managerial ranks. By some estimates, mentoring programs increase representation of women by an average of 20%.
It is a situation similar to college recruitment, where gender diversity realizes benefits as a by-product of an initiative known by another name.
II.) Shared Responsibility and Equal Exposure Create Mutual Alignment
Working side-by-side toward a common goal bonds participants as a unit when members see themselves operating “among equals”.
The military, which is the largest diversity employer in the world, has proven that the right type of organization, exposure and contact between members of a group can reduce biases. And, when you eliminate biases you open the door to bring in greater diversity. Public and private sector companies can’t easily replicate the success of diversity achieved in the military. The purpose, formation of units, and training environment of the military is both highly specific and often unique. However, there are two areas where companies have been successful replicating diversity in the military. By: 1) forming self-managed teams, and; 2) cross-training team members.
Many professionals in companies today work in group and collaborative team settings. Team members in both organizational constructs are interdependent and their tasks are interrelated; but, as a self-managed team, they operate with some level(s) of independence and autonomy. Workers can be cross-trained and develop a variety of job skills related to assigned tasks. The overall team that’s assembled performs a defined set of work activities that is viewed as a continuous, end-to-end project. Members see how their interdependencies contribute to the success of an entire project and take collective responsibility for its outcome.
While self-managed teams and cross-training methods do not fit in every company, or work application, they do expose members of the team to each other and create alignment toward a common goal and successful outcome. Because of this either one or both activities can be used to lower bias and improve diversity.
III.) Modified Transparency Paired With Accountability
Any number of studies have shown how the right type of transparency can create the right type of accountability. Transparencies draw out, and upon, public disclosure of information and make people accountable to uphold higher standards of diversity connected to it. However, as with grievance systems*, transparency should be done for the right reasons. Transparency should not target a scapegoat manager to publicly berate, and blame, him or her. Transparency, in this context, should be used as a means to improve diversity.
Whenever something is important, such as diversity, it should be measured. However, random and improperly designed measures of diversity can misinterpreted, misconstrued and can be used subjective. Information pertaining to diversity can also be highly sensitive. This is especially true for companies who employ thousands of independently-minded workers who have various backgrounds and various opinions of their own. No manager wants judge based upon this level of responsibility.
Because of this companies with diversity initiatives either have, or hire, Diversity Managers. Diversity is the responsibility and charge of this relatively new type of manager. Once the goals of diversity are well-aligned with strategic direction, DMs can work with other managers achieve greater diversity. They mainly do so by moving diversity from strategic imperative to practical implementation. DMs design and execute measures of diversity and are in the best position to access, and assign, accountability based upon appropriate levels of transparency.
Some levels of accountability are important to achieving greater diversity. Research shows, people are less likely to act upon their biases when they think they will have to justify or explain their decisions. The mere existence of DMs can literally change the dynamics of communication between company managers and their workers. When an employee is hired arbitrarily, a DM can responsibly question reasons for the hiring. When advancement is based upon merit, a DM can validate the promotion decision.
In this post, we have outlined three categories of effective diversity practices which benefit companies and women’s careers. Previously, we covered several practices companies use which fall short of achieving more diversity. With the completion of this post, we have finished a 3-part series covering effective, modified and common diversity practices. For easy access and more convenience, we have listed all articles in this series below.
We will continue to cover other diversity practices, such as task forces and social responsibility, in future posts. We value your feedback and any comments you care to provide. Please ask us questions, or provide us with suggestions, associated with this series of posts by leaving a reply below.