A guide to supporting inclusion at 6 critical employee milestones
Many organizations are collecting data to understand where they are when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Here’s how to apply those insights to build inclusive workplace practices and support the employee experience.
Each touchpoint along the employee journey presents opportunities to reinforce your organization’s mission to be diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Here’s how to deliver on your DEI initiatives at the moments that matter most to your employees.
What is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion – frequently referred to as DEI – is the umbrella term for the programs, policies, strategies, and practices that execute a company’s mission to create and sustain a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.
A culture of equity and inclusion is not only critical to the success of diversity efforts, but creating an equitable and inclusive workplace also promotes a positive employee experience.
Where to foster inclusion in the employee journey
From the moment someone looks at your careers page to the moment they leave your organization, everything that the employee learns, does, sees, and feels contributes to their employee experience. Yet, at any point in the employee journey, experience gaps between different employee groups can be found.
There is rarely a single point in the employee journey that creates inequity. It’s often the cumulative impact of bias and systemic inequity over many moments that create significant gaps in experience.
Here are six touchpoints along the employee journey with opportunities to be more inclusive:
Touchpoint #1: Candidate experience
Many companies target a diverse talent pipeline to create a representative workforce. Understanding the candidate experience for both successful and unsuccessful candidates during the hiring process is critical to your DEI talent strategy and will guide changes that need to be made to programs and practices.
Try this: Your interview processes could be a reason diverse candidates don't get through the door. Improve your process with rubric-based questioning to guard against affinity and minimize confirmation bias.
Touchpoint #2: Onboarding
The goal of onboarding is to set new employees up for success. Yet, coming from an underrepresented or marginalized background can shape the onboarding experience – and ultimately, the success of diverse talent at your organization.
Making changes to the way different people are on-boarded into your organization is critical to ensure everyone has equal opportunity to thrive. To better understand and support new employees, start by including items that measure inclusion and belonging in your onboarding survey, such as:
- I feel as if I belong at this company.
- I can be myself at work.
- I believe everyone can succeed at this company to their full potential here, no matter who they are (e.g. all genders, race, cultural backgrounds, etc).
Try this: As part of the onboarding process, make employees aware of – and explain how they can opt into – the employee resource groups that elevate the roles of the underrepresented (either as a member or as an ally). And if you have a program for unconscious bias, onboarding would be a good opportunity to land it.
Touchpoint #3: Parental leave
Another opportunity to be inclusive in the workplace is to expand any parameters around your parental leave program. Parental leave should offer the same benefits to all parents, regardless of gender and sexual orientation. Let employees, including those who are adoptive parents, designate caregiver status. If your organization offers a tiered parental leave program, let your employees designate their role; don’t make assumptions.
“At a policy level, make sure your organization does not perpetuate bias for gender, age, sexuality, life circumstance etc. One common area of bias is that of parental leave,” says Farren Roper, Global Lead for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Qualtrics.
Remember to also foster a culture that embraces parental leave. Hidden biases and pressures for fathers to return to work, for example, create a prejudiced workplace culture that undermines your parental leave policy. Encourage and empower all employees to take time to bond with a new child.
Touchpoint #4: Promotions
Equitable workplaces make adjustments to ensure that all employees have fair and equal access to opportunities. To ensure equal outcomes for different groups of employees, promotions should be fairly distributed to all types of employees.
“Organizations must take a close look at what they’re doing internally and ask: ‘Who are we hiring?’, ‘Who are we promoting?’, and ‘Can we make sure we’re distributing opportunities more fairly?’”
“The organizations who take this as an opportunity to be more fair, equal, and more just – internally – will be the ones to make a difference.”
Touchpoint #5: Performance evaluation + career conversations
Separate from promotions, the performance management process presents opportunities for inclusivity. For example, leaders can leverage a performance review conversation to discuss an employee’s career aspirations, and then follow up by distributing development opportunities in a way that’s fair and equitable.
The employee evaluation itself also presents opportunities for inclusivity. An evaluation form formalizes the performance review process, working to ensure fair and consistent criteria and scoring, and establishing a two-way conversation about performance expectations and deliverables between an employee and his or her leader. 360-degree feedback reviews, a type of performance evaluation, support inclusive leadership behaviors by asking about manager effectiveness.
Always-on feedback mechanisms open up lines of communication and enable employees to share their experiences and contribute their ideas, as well.
Touchpoint #6: Employee exits
The loss of critical talent is something that many organizations grapple with. Exit surveys provide critical insights as to why some people may be leaving quicker or at higher rates than others. Looking at your exit feedback will help your organization see if there are recurring themes for different groups of employees.
Tips for building inclusive workplace practices
Through social norms and behaviors, a culture of workplace inclusion ensures all employees are given equal opportunity – and feel welcome – to participate and contribute.
Here are some tips for fostering inclusion in your workplace:
Collect experience data
Integrating HR operational data (O-data) with experience data (X-data) will help your organization apply a diversity and equity lens to all employee data. Common X-data points include:
- Candidate experience rating
- Employee engagement
- Intention to stay
- Feedback on organizational culture
- Performance review feedback
- Feedback on growth potential
- Feedback on career opportunities
- Exit feedback
- Onboarding experience
- Moments that matter, such a extended leave, parental leave, or role change
Set measurable targets – and hold yourself accountable
Now that you have the data, you can set benchmarks and metrics for the DEI goals you want to achieve. Whether for interviews, pass-through rates, or metrics around demographics of who you hire, organizations that set measurable targets will be more successful in fostering a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce.
“Make sure your DEI goals are not siloed to the HR department but that they’re a part of your company strategy. Inclusion is not the role of the DEI department or your employee resource groups. True inclusion only happens when everyone participates and it becomes an everyday practice,” says Farren Roper, Global Lead for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Qualtrics.
Look at your hiring practices
Consider your talent pipeline and the strategies your talent acquisition team uses to attract new employees. Be strategic about where you’re posting open positions. Go beyond homogeneous networks to tap into diverse talent pipelines you might have previously ignored and/or didn’t realize existed. “In tech, we often hire for culture fit,” says Judith. “Instead, we should hire for culture contribution. We need to think differently and ask ourselves: ‘What does this new hire bring to my team that I don’t already have; what skills, background, and perspectives?’"
Make DEI part of your company’s DNA
Just like your corporate values, put your company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion mission statement in writing and approach it with small steps.
“So often we search for the one big thing that will create significant change but real change requires many smaller adjustments, sustained over a long period of time,”
Open up lines of communication
Leadership roundtables, always-on feedback mechanisms, and communications platforms such as Slack enable employees to share their experiences and contribute their ideas.
Foster a culture where it's okay to speak up
We all have blind spots. Encourage employees to voice their thoughts and concerns to help move the organization forward.
DEI practices are relevant at all touchpoints along the employee journey, but it’s important to remember that the voice of underrepresented employees needs to be consciously sought out, or it will be hidden by the normative average. Work with your People Analytics and HR teams to embed questions or new practices within all touchpoints – and start closing the experience gaps for all of your employees.
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