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Treating Diversity in Business as a Workplace Safety Program

Diversity in the workplace has taken center stage as minorities rise up to claim their rightful seat at the table. We recently discussed how the insurance industry is handling systemic racism and workplace diversity in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and the need for more African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and women of color to hold key executive and management positions.

Since then, we came upon a couple of articles that proposed looking at diversity not simply as an HR issue but as you would workplace safety, with a complete program in place for training, communication, and accountability. One global research analyst and HR expert says, “If you had a series of accidents in your company (resulting in lawsuits and fatalities), you would create a systemic program of work redesign, communications, training, metrics, and rewards.” He argues that just as with failures in safety (which may result in the death or serious injury of an employee or customer), violations regarding diversity should be treated in the same way – they should not be tolerated. On the flip side, acts of inclusion should be noted and rewarded.

C-Suite Buy-In Critical to Diversity, Inclusion

In practical terms, getting to a more diverse workplace isn’t simply about putting a minority in the position of Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) who champions the company’s cause for a fairer and more just playing field. It takes communication and getting to the heart of what is on people’s minds so that real change can happen. While training increases awareness and sensitivity, it doesn’t change behavior because people are all biased in some way, based on upbringing and personal experiences.

“It takes process to change bias and that means changing and implementing processes top to bottom. End-to-end diversity, inclusion, and fairness in the company must be covered by a wide set of issues including recruiting, promotion, pay, team behavior, senior leadership, and day-to-day personal interactions.”  All of this must have complete buy-in from the company’s CEO and the entire C-suite supported by financial investment for a diversity program to truly be successful – just as with any safety program in an organization.

Look at Analytics

Examine hiring patterns, pay practices, and promotion patterns by manager or business unit to really see the impact of bias and how diverse your staff really is. There are off-the-shelf products such as Workday and SAP SuccessFactors that can help you pinpoint problem areas and make necessary changes.

How diverse and inclusive is your company? What changes are you implementing in your organization to bring about lasting, real changes to support equity? As an industry, we are an integral part of our diverse communities and should reflect them in our own organizations. In valuing and including differences, companies can build winning, diverse cultures that attract, engage, develop, and retain top talent.