By Jackie Glenn, Glenn Diversity Inclusion & HR Solutions
As Nebraska’s Silicon Prairie joins the ranks of our nation’s top tech destinations, the concept of building diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace is proving to be increasingly valuable. Written from the standpoint of a 30-year strategist in the DEI field, my previous article explored the changing landscape of the Midwest’s technology industry and the advantages that come with making diversity a priority. As an extension of that post, we will continue to delve into a number of measures that companies can embrace in order to achieve DEI. We left things off by sharing Step 1: Educate from Top Down. The key takeaway from the first step is the greatest impact and the furthest strides come when executives at the top understand the benefits of an inclusive environment, and also fully support the efforts to achieve it. Now let’s take a look at the next steps companies in the Silicon Prairie can take towards building diversity in the workplace.
Step 2: Ask the Expert
Having worked in the DEI space for over 30 years, not everyone is properly skilled or knowledgeable to do this work. The role should not be filled based on one’s demographic identity or interest, but by someone who truly has a background and experience in the technology sector. That’s where the experts like myself come in. A DEI expert is equipped with the skills to provide an objective, unbiased perspective into your organization. We are trained to lead and navigate courageous conversations with staff at all levels, and help to develop a DEI strategy.
Step 3: Audit Your Environment
Once you have an expert at your side, the first action should always be to conduct an organizational audit. In doing this, you will learn key information about the company’s culture and DEI focus. This should be conducted internally and externally by an independent consultant to ensure confidentiality and that a wide sample is captured that is inclusive of employees, clients, and partners. This pyramid chart goes more in depth on the different dimensions of diversity.
Step 4: Less Is More
Too often I have seen overzealous leaders implement multiple employee resource groups, culture days, and weekly potlucks that end in burnout and low participation. It’s great that diversity is now a priority in many companies. However, going overboard can backfire. It can also cause momentum to dry up and leave companies right where they started. Instead, choose one or two focus areas. For example, if your company is heavily male-dominated, direct your attention to empowering women. A few intentional actions lead to greater results.
Step 5: Endure Discomfort to Become Comfortable
The word “diversity” often causes people to clam up. Acknowledging this word and the dialogue that comes with it is a discomfort that must be faced to foster an inclusive culture, where everyone can thrive and learn. This requires engaging in courageous conversations. Why are company metrics the way they are? Is there low diversity? How are employees recruited? These and other questions can trigger discomfort, nevertheless, they MUST be asked. Transparency is a huge step in the right direction.
Whether you are actively seeking to advance your company by creating an inclusive workplace, or just beginning to explore the idea, it is my hope that these steps prove helpful. I am always eager to shine a light on the significance of the DEI space and the many benefits it has to offer. If I can only leave you with one takeaway, remember this — diversity is a business imperative, not a social nicety.
Jackie Glenn is a best-selling author, speaker, 30-year veteran in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space, as well as the former Chief Diversity Officer and VP of Global Diversity for a Fortune 500 company. She is currently the owner of Glenn Diversity Inclusion & HR Solutions, a boutique consulting company that offers consulting services, curricula, and content that effectively evolves corporate cultures.