Are your diversity and inclusion interventions really working?

Are your diversity and inclusion interventions really working?

Businesses spend vast sums on diversity and inclusion (D&I) training and initiatives – but how can you ensure they produce meaningful change?

It starts with your approach, says Janet Walsh, Professor of Human Resources at Kings College London. Rather than rollout large, complex programmes, review what you’re doing – and do more of what works. Think about how you can frame your language positively and don’t forget about your internal teams – they could be some of the most effective resources.

Prof. Walsh was our keynote speaker at our most recent Engage forum, where we discussed The Science Behind D&I. Here are four of her top recommendations for ensuring your D&I interventions really make a difference.

1. More evaluation, less overload 

A few years back, Google invested millions of dollars in their diversity programmes, and while they saw a one percent increase in women in technical roles, there was no other reported diversity shift. Instead of introducing multiple programmes that can cause diversity fatigue for your employees, evaluate the ones you have and concentrate on what’s really working. It’s important to get internal buy-in across the organisation, fewer and stronger initiatives allow a focus of mind which is easier to get a consensus. And yes, this sort of evaluation can be difficult, but you’ll create more effective and cost-efficient initiatives in the long-run.

2. Internal task forces can make a real difference

Creating diversity task forces from across your business functions can be incredibly effective. They know your culture and you can create real accountability and measurable goals. According to Harvard Business Review, companies that put in place diversity task forces see, on average, 9–30% increases in the representation of women(albeit white) and of each minority group in management over the next five years.

3. Accentuate the positive

It’s very common to focus on what we’re lacking and how much we need to do, but rather than galvanise people, this messaging can make them feel overwhelmed and disheartened. Communicating Diversity and Inclusion in a positive way and as an opportunity for an organisation to grow and develop will be the most effective. So, focus on what you can do and what can be gained.

4. Voluntary not mandatory

You can’t eliminate all bias, and that’s ok. We all have bias, it is the quick way people make decisions in a complex world and it’s difficult to eradicate. Companies will often send leaders on compulsory unconscious-bias training. But this can have unintended consequences and some studies have shown that it can actually activate bias and reinforce stereotypes. What gets far better results is voluntary training and creating a pro-diversity climate within organisations.

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Our internal comms clients were all experiencing similar challenges as they navigated the impact of lockdowns across the world. To support them, and create a space for specialists to share, learn and debate, we launched the MSL Engage forum.

The forum is exclusively for senior comms specialists, so if you’d like to be included in upcoming forums, please contact jane.vanwyngaarden@mslgroup.com

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