Article · 6 minute read

Supporting Better Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) Outcomes Through Build Activity

By Katie Herridge 15th August 2022

Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”
Verna Myers – Inclusion Strategist, Cultural Innovator, Thought Leader, and Social Commentator.  

In our previous article ‘Supporting Better DE&I Outcomes Through Hire Activity’, we looked at ways to help organizations hire diverse talent. Better hiring practices will help bring a more diverse range of people into an organization. However, it’s the employees’ experience once they have joined that will maintain strong diversity levels, whilst creating equity and inclusion.

DE&I in the workplace

Diversity is a fact. We are all different in one way or another. Equity in the workplace is about ensuring that all people are given the same opportunities, rights and status, regardless of differences. Inclusion is demonstrating that people are truly valued for who they are. There is very little point in embracing and respecting differences at the hire stage without also recognizing that equity and inclusion must be a part of everyday work. 

Turning intent into action

Equity is protected by the law. In the UK, The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination in the workplace. In the USA, the VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees and job applicants from employment discrimination based on race, religion, sex and national origin. Human Resources should ensure that organizational policies reflect the relevant laws, but is this enough? True inclusivity is about what we all do and the actions we take to make all employees feel valued.

Top tips for better DE&I in development
Onboard for inclusion

Onboarding is your new employee’s first step into your organization. How well your onboarding strategy reflects DE&I will affect early retention and shape views on how inclusive your organization really is.

  • Does your onboarding strategy feel inclusive?

  • Does it reflect different cultures, genders, ages, accessibility needs, etc?

  • What representation is there of others similar/different to them?

Take some time to talk to new starters and find out what they think of your onboarding process. This is especially relevant in organizations who have recently moved to a more hybrid style of work. Onboarding reports generated from a new starter’s hiring data can be a useful way to focus on individual strengths and challenge areas, ensuring a fair and equal start to work.   

Build a culture of inclusivity

Many organizations like to talk about their ‘Oneness’, a culture that brings together teams and individuals for a common purpose across work areas and geographies. However, within this ‘Oneness’, individuals need to learn to applaud rather than hide away from individual differences and the things that make us all unique.

  • Do your employees understand what allyship is?

  • Do you regularly encourage your employees to educate themselves about systemic inequality?

  • Do you encourage a culture of conscious and intentional listening?

A culture of allyship can be created by implementing formal training programs or perhaps look to utilize those who are naturally championing diversity within your organization. Finding time to schedule in sessions for all employees based around the concept of allyship can be a useful way to highlight how a culture of inclusivity should behave.  

Ensure equal growth

Learning and development should be a key part of any organization’s retention and growth strategy. Ensuring opportunities for growth are available equally and based on someone’s future potential must be central to DE&I. Unfortunately, in reality this is often not the case.   

  • Are you making decisions based on what someone has done in the past or what they have the potential to achieve in the future?

  • How are you selecting employees for growth programs, particularly those classed as high potential with a route through to senior leadership?

  • Are you selecting talent based on objective data or manager ratings?

Manager ratings can be subject to multiple forms of bias and can result in the right people not being identified for development at the right time. 

To increase DE&I, decision making should be supported by objective data. Take time to identify the behaviors that will determine success by getting a clear understanding of what good look likes for success in your organization. Decision-makers can then utilize data from tools such and Wave-i from Wave Professional Styles. This helps to ensure that decisions are fair and inclusive, and that there is a focus on what someone has the potential to achieve in their future.     

We recently worked with large global IT brand on a large-scale development project. The client found that some of the best employees in the program would not have been selected if the decision had been based on manager ratings alone.  

Help managers provide consistent development

Keeping development consistent across team members regardless of individual differences can be hard.  Managers may find that they build rapport more easily with certain team members over others, or that they provide more development advice to team members who are confident to ask for feedback.

Managers need to be trained to be able to provide feedback to others and given clarity over what performance review requirements entail.  

  • Are you providing training for managers on how to give consistent feedback for all?

  • How can you best assist managers to develop their teams fairly?

In a similar way, as we recommend helping hiring managers ensure consistency of interviews through the use of structured interview guides, we can help team managers provide structured development for their own team members through the use of Wave Development or Wave Coaching Reports.

Requiring no formal training, but available with Business User Guides to support managers, the reports allow for development needs to be easily diagnosed. Actionable advice is provided around how to build strengths and manage limitations. Equality is maintained by providing consistent feedback and development tips for all focused on the behaviors that matter most. 

Don’t let decreased visibility mean decreased opportunity

The need to add objective assessment data into decisions involving promotion and development is emphasized by the current trend for more hybrid styles of work. 

Managers of hybrid teams are now tasked with trying to fully understand and appreciate individual differences when communication is largely limited to virtual conversations. It is understandable then why proximity bias may occur. The person a manager is likely to ‘know’ and ‘trust’ to do a good job can easily become the person they physically see in the office. 

From a DE&I perspective, employers need to be aware that an organization-wide flexible hybrid policy may see disproportionate split of groups choosing to spend time in the office.

LinkedIn data has shown that Gen Z are less likely to apply for roles that are fully remote. WTW’s own data shows that 18-40 year olds are also the age range most likely to feel disconnected by working remotely.   

  • How are you making sure that people who work from home more frequently are still presented with the same opportunities for development?

  • Can you look to facilitate coaching/development programs which all employees attend online?

Take time to monitor the balance of in-office versus remote employees who are engaged with your development programs. If you have a balance of attendees in-office/at home, look to run development programs in a virtual format, ensuring that the technology you are using works and that the content is as impactful and engaging as it can be for those who are not attending in person. 

Assessment reports such as the Wave Coaching Report and Wave Development Report can be easily used to provide feedback in a virtual set up.  

Understand working styles

It is important for team members to understand each other and gain an understanding of similarities and differences. This is of particular importance where there are new team members or where members of the team work remotely. From a DE&I perspective, knowing each other’s working style can help to build understanding.  

When we work with teams to help them understand and perform better together, we often start by looking at the team’s Work Roles data. Individuals are encouraged to understand their own ‘preferred’ and ‘least preferred’ roles. They will explore what this means in relation to their needs and how they are likely to behave and perform at work.

As part of our team workshops, individuals also learn to understand how to work with others who are similar or different to them. For example, if you are working with a team member who shows a clear preference for the ‘Optimist’ work role, others can learn to encourage them to share their positive perspective to counter-balance negative views and direct their enthusiasm towards challenging goals.

The conversations that are sparked from looking at overall team data can build both an understanding and appreciation of individual differences. This effectively enhances how people collaborate together across boundaries. 

Utilize positive psychology approaches

Creating an environment for employees where they can have positive experiences at work is critical to creating a thriving organization. Jobs structured solely against the needs of the organization can create a sense of loss of individual differences. 

  • Have you looked for where an individual’s unique differences can be encompassed into the role?

  • Can the timings of the day, adaptations to the structure or working environment help an individual to perform?

Take time to get to know what will work best from an individual’s perspective. For example, neurodiverse employees may need adaptations to the structure, environment or even the timings of their working day in order to optimize their work, and for it to be a positive, rewarding experience for them.  

Supporting DE&I through Build activity

With the right strategies in place, organizations can use their Build activity to positively support DE&I. Creating a culture of equal growth, building inclusivity through allyship, encouraging a real understanding of individual differences and utilizing objective assessment data is fundamental to achieving this.

Find Out More

For help and advice ensuring that your development activity is best supporting DE&I, get in touch today.