*Editor's note: Download our full Diversity and Inclusion Handbook for more than 70 pages of tangible strategies to help you cultivate diversity and inclusion on your team.
We believe passionately that diverse and inclusive companies make for more innovative, engaged, and happy teams, and we speak with forward-thinking talent leaders all the time who feel the same. We’re writing this series on how to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace because people are ready for the next level of discourse around diversity and inclusion; one aimed at actual solutions. In it, you’ll find tactical advice, beneficial resources, and examples of what companies are doing today to make real progress in diversity and inclusion. Read our series introduction to see what we cover throughout the series.
If you’ve followed along in our series thus far, you’ve considered why inclusion must come before diversity, learned about fair hiring practices, appreciated the impact of an equitable compensation policy, and more.
In this final installment of our series, we’re sharing radical ideas for creating diverse, inclusive, transparent, and fair organizations. These ideas require the next level of commitment, are rarely comfortable, and ultimately permeate how your company is run (or even where you set up shop).
It might be hard to imagine this new world today, but if we continue our momentum and push our companies to the next level, change will come faster than expected. At Lever, we’ve only just begun exploring the ideas below. Some of them stem from the greater diversity and inclusion community and those who are leading by example: our source for constant learning and inspiration. I look forward to the day when these ideas, as far out as they may seem, are embraced in the mainstream.
1. Move your company to a location with more diversity
If a diversity of candidates aren’t coming to you, you can literally move to them. Slack chose Toronto for its newest office expansion, citing the diversity of the city and growing beyond Silicon Valley among the primary considerations. According to then Director of Engineering Leslie Miley, they were also considering expanding into areas in U.S. that one might not expect for a Valley startup, like Detroit, Richmond, and Nashville. It’s a smart move that more companies should consider; intense competition is clustered in a handful of tech hubs, while talent and potential is everywhere.
2. Consider how to make your product or service inclusive
Most conversations around diversity and inclusion pertain to employees, but there are also countless opportunities to provide more inclusive products or services for your customers. At Lever, for example, we’ve made product decisions aimed at reducing bias in the hiring process, including the ability to hide other interviewers’ feedback until you’ve completed your own, to minimize groupthink. It’s also about what we don’t do. For instance, we often receive feature requests around showing Linkedin photos in candidate profiles. Given that applicants’ photos can lead to more discrimination in the hiring process, we’ve turned down the request many times, explaining our stance each time.
Not all products relate so obviously to diversity and inclusion as Lever’s hiring software. If you’re not sure about how yours does, dedicate time to thinking about it. A U.K.-based business in the hospitality industry recently hosted an evening just for people with learning difficulties, and plans to make it a monthly event. If they can find ways to become more inclusive, you can too. The answer may not come immediately, but keep considerations for diversity and inclusion top of mind, and eventually you’ll find the right opportunity.
Not incorporating diversity and inclusion in your product development can have dire consequences. When the first air-bag deployment systems were tested, only dummies modeled after men were used. As a result, women and children were estimated to be 47% more likely to be injured in accidents. Today, there is facial recognition software that cannot identify black faces.
The next generation of technological tools can either reinforce existing biases or help break them down. What will your product do?
3. Build diversity and inclusion into your decision framework
A common shortcoming for well-intentioned companies is siloed effort in diversity and inclusion. Decisions are made in one sphere, and if the results disproportionately affect certain groups of people, they’re dealt with in retrospect, if at all.
Instead, what if we automatically baked diversity and inclusion into the way we make decisions, or our “decision frameworks,” in the same way that every company unfailingly does with cost? The goal for creating a framework shouldn’t be to reach consensus for every important decision, but to ensure that a range of perspectives are taken into account in order to arrive at the best answer. Without deliberately designed decision-making frameworks, the loudest voices in the room may end up dominating conversations, as opposed to the best ideas.
Adjusting our frameworks wouldn’t mean that diversity and inclusion should determine, or even influence, every decision, but that it’s a component that merits weighing. By integrating diversity and inclusion into decisions like where to open new offices (as Slack did), selecting a company healthcare plan, or even choosing a brand color scale that caters to the visually impaired, companies can more proactively and organically live their commitment to it.
For more on creating a decision framework, read “Square Defangs Difficult Decisions with this System — Here’s How”.
4. Put your full-time diversity and inclusion team out of a job
Despite companies dedicating headcount to full-time diversity and inclusion at an increasing rate, there’s actually quite a bit of debate in the community about whether that’s wise.
Diversity and inclusion at Lever started in the grassroots, and I believe that this is one of the key reasons Lever has been successful at building an inclusive culture so far. It was championed by multiple passionate employees and spread organically throughout Lever. The focus for our diversity and inclusion “task force” was more about harnessing the existing energy of our employees and turning it into viable action, rather than creating energy around diversity and inclusion.
As the team grew rapidly, however, it took more work to harness that energy, and we decided to put headcount towards executing and scaling our original strategy. But similar to the way the CEO of eShares says that hiring is not a consequence of success, but rather, hiring means we failed to execute and need help – a dedicated diversity and inclusion role at Lever is a sign that as an organization, we have something to fix.
I'd like to get to a place where a diversity and inclusion leader is redundant. Where inclusion is entwined so much in the fabric of the organization that having a separate role doesn't make sense. The full-time leaders and task forces we see today are great initial steps to kick start a company transition, but ideally, if everything goes well, they put themselves out of a job – as many other types of roles do.
5. Evaluate people manager performance on inclusion
The question, then, is who to transition the work to? The best answer is people managers. People managers are the leaders on the front-lines, responsible for the engagement of their employees. And achieving full employee engagement is just another way of talking about inclusion; how can you expect full productivity from employees who don’t feel comfortable or included at work? It seems natural that people managers should own the inclusiveness of their teams and that their performance be measured by it.
The first step to this is making sure it's articulated during people manager training that this is something they own, and defining how it will be measured. As people managers become adept at owning the inclusion and diversity of their teams, the interim diversity and inclusion leader would own less and become more like a consultant – doing research, giving workshops, and advising people managers on how to improve.
This transition will never happen, though, if we think and act as if the diversity and inclusion leader is a permanent position.
The next level of diversity and inclusion means removing it from its silo and fundamentally baking it into the way we hire, what we value culturally, how decisions are made, and how we evaluate our leaders. We will get there when we all embrace diversity and inclusion as our responsibility.
Thank you following along in our series. If you found the content valuable, download our Diversity & Inclusion Handbook. You'll find even more insights - including those from diversity leaders at Lyft, Shopify, Yelp, and Affirm.