I have found that many of the most effective diversity and inclusion strategies for recruiting, retaining and advancing talent reside inside an organization. Last month, I was hired to guide and advise an executive team on strategies to create more diversity at various levels of the organization, with a focus on women. Even with incentives and a focus to hire and advance more women, they struggled to find the talent inside or outside their organization.
Sure, there are tons of studies, white papers and lists for leaders to increase diversity, but they are often difficult to apply or implement without understanding the organization’s culture. When this problem arises, I often suggest starting with 20-minute discussions with specific groups of people within the organization.
In this particular situation, after 10 interviews and 25 pages of notes, a list of action-based activities emerged that could be prioritized and assigned to various departments to increase their momentum around gender diversity.
Some of the more notable insights gained were that employees appreciated being asked their opinion and offered notable advice. The research effort also found that career paths were often unknown and open positions were not uniformly distributed in the organization. Finally, it was learned that most men were unsure how to recruit or sponsor women within the organization effectively.
After being reassured that their insight would be rolled up into a summary with no callouts, people were willing to freely share their perspective and guidance. A cross-section of employees provided a number of recommendations. Here are a few that were scrubbed from the summative report and ultimately grouped into three main categories: retention, advancement and recruitment.
- Isolation — Many women worked as individual contributors or on the factory floor. They were not part of a larger employee initiative and often did not feel part of a team. Many were interested in exploring other departments and roles. Suggestion : Quarterly meetups to create more community and rotation programs.
- Education — Many shared their concerns with their hiring skills. There was no formal training to hire or support diverse talent. Suggestion : Host trainings or discussions on how to engage and support diverse talent.
- Uniforms — The uniforms were originally selected for men. Although unisex, women think the uniforms look sloppy and are too lightweight. Suggestion : Look into updated uniforms with some flexibility and comfort.
- Job Descriptions — The template provided was long and mechanical, with little ability to highlight transferable skills or the positive impact of the products. Suggestion : Update the format and take into account all the research on writing a gender-friendly description.
Through my work, I find many best practices that would be of great value to an organization are buried or all but forgotten. Sometimes it’s just about extracting the data in a new way that allows organizations to discover these untapped secrets and gain their desired impact.
JJ DiGeronimo is president at Tech Savvy Women