The plain truth is that most workplaces in the United States have not been set up to be diverse and inclusive. For decades, the default image of a business person has been a certain archetype (white, male, married to a woman, neurotypical…the list goes on), and it takes intentional and persistent effort to dismantle those norms.
The fact that the vast majority of CEOs and C-suite executives are white males has nothing to do with talent or business success (in fact, studies have found that diverse leadership teams tend to achieve much better results than homogenous teams). Instead, it has everything to do with the current system, and how it is designed to favor this narrow demographic. For example, when hiring directors are unaware of a person’s gender, women are much more likely to be hired (the likelihood of getting hired jumped from 25 to 46 percent in one study).
But hiring practices are a small sliver of the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues many workplaces face. Even if an organization intentionally hires diverse talent, there may be no systems or protocols in place to effectively develop, include, and support that talent.
Meaningful DEI work cannot take place during a single “lunch and learn.” In many cases, deeper work, including personalized consulting, is necessary. Here are 6 signs your workplace could benefit from partnering with a qualified DEI consultant.
1. A Comprehensive Plan Doesn't Exist
True DEI work isn’t slapdash or temporary; it is intentional and persistent. It also touches all aspects of the business (from the mission statement to the hiring process to the leadership’s inclusivity and equity practices). This type of plan can not be developed in an afternoon or downloaded from a website. It must be personalized to fit your organization’s unique situation. A skilled DEI consultant will be able to help company leadership develop a plan that makes sense and is designed to endure for the long-term (unlike quick training sessions, which may or may not have a lasting impact).
2. The Leadership is Noticeably Homogenous
While workplaces are becoming increasingly diverse, company leadership has been slow to follow the trend. As of May of this year, only six CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are Black (which, amazingly, is a record number). Women fare only slightly better with 44 CEOs heading Fortune 500 organizations (or 8.8 percent of leaders).
And this trend is apparent at lower levels as well (for example, women of color make up only 4 percent of C-suite leaders).
If your company’s leadership is largely homogenous, they may be implementing (or maintaining) biased practices without even knowing it. Oftentimes, major change starts with an organization’s leadership, so it’s important for them to be advocates of DEI practices (even if they’re not part of a minority group).
3. You're Unable to Attract Diverse Talent
Take a good hard look at your job listings and hiring practices. Do your job posts include gendered language (businessman, workmanship, etc.)? Do they list strict job requirements that are actually optional (women are less likely to apply for a position unless they meet every single requirement, while men will typically apply if they meet at least 60 percent of the requirements). Is your hiring team diverse? Are candidates hired because the interviewer had a “good feeling about them” (an indication of similarity bias), or because they are truly the most qualified?
These are all problematic practices that should be addressed by a DEI professional.
4. You're Unable to Retain Diverse Talent
Incorporating inclusive hiring practices is a good step, but the work doesn’t end there. An organization must be intentional about inclusivity and offer equal opportunities to all team members. Oftentimes, biases are subtle and may not be recognized by those in the majority. It’s a good idea to bring in an outside perspective to identify potential stumbling blocks for diverse team members.
5. The Workplace Doesn't Understand or Include Updated Language
Language matters. If your company is befuddled by modern terminology or is uncertain of the meaning of certain terms, it pays to have an expert explain them. Don’t rely on diverse team members to interpret these terms! It’s not their job to be an ambassador for their entire race/ethnicity/gender/sexual orientation/etc.
6. Employees are Dissatisfied (or, worse, there's been an incident)
It may seem obvious, but if your workplace has been experiencing a high level of dissatisfaction from diverse employees, there’s a problem. To determine satisfaction levels, it’s a good idea to regularly collect feedback. Your DEI consultant will know how to interpret the feedback and create a plan to move forward.
Worse, if the company has experienced a blatant incident of harassment or discrimination, you need a DEI consultant yesterday! Don’t delay in seeking out a qualified DEI professional.