What D&I Strategies Look Like at AT&T and Other Firms

We all know that diversity and inclusion (D&I) is important, whether we frame it as a moral, ethical, competitive, or bottom-line issue. We want to build inclusive workplaces, but it’s hard to know where to start. No matter your organization’s size, you can get the ball rolling by first understanding how inclusive your culture is right now. This is a topic of focus in Dice’s 2018 Diversity and Inclusion Report.

Obviously, large, well-heeled companies have more resources to structure their programs, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for the rest of us. In fact, some smaller companies have seen great success. Let’s discuss the D&I tactics used for organizations on both ends of the spectrum.

Improving the Dialogue

For smaller companies, D&I strategies are less reliant on big programs and facilitators – rather, they’re about taking small, cost-effective steps to show employees that company leadership cares and values inclusion. In that same vein, inclusion should be an active part of the onboarding process. Discuss what it means and how it looks for your organization and your talent acquisition teams. Be up-front and powerful about inclusion, making sure every new employee knows why it matters and what it looks like.

As Jennifer Kim, Lever’s former Head of Employee Experience & Development notes here:

Start a “guys jar.” Take a page from the Bay Area startup npm’s book, implement a “Guys jar” for a friendly reminder against unnecessarily gendered language in the office. Whenever someone at npm accidentally genders something gender-neutral, they put a dollar in the jar. When they reach $50, they donate the money to a charity.

Lever also has a Slack channel called “inclusion” where employees share D&I articles and news. By making the conversations about D&I more present – and having a norm for actively discussing it in the workplace – ­­­employees naturally get more involved. Here’s a screencap:

The Society of Women Engineers created “Knowledge Cards,” which feature provocative questions, stories and data points around D&I topics. This can prove helpful for smaller shops that don’t know how to initiate the conversation around inclusion.

You could also try a “Round Robin” technique in meetings, similar to the “Socratic Method” in college. Essentially, everyone in the meeting must contribute to the discussion, and employees can choose to either participate/add or pass. This method allows everyone to have a voice, as opposed to letting the loud majority dominate group discussions.

Consider hosting some “fun” activities during work hours, since working parents might not be able to attend a happy hour. If that’s where the real employee bonding happens, you’re not as inclusive as you think.

Creating Employee Resource Groups

AT&T focuses their initiatives around having “a true culture of inclusion where every voice matters.” The company has spent a decade creating both employee resource groups (ERGs) and employee networks (ENs). ENs prioritize cross-functional diversity, but are more informal and centered on business development issues, while ERGs are nonprofit groups that can provide support and mentoring opportunities for women, veterans, persons with disabilities, etc.

Support groups like these give individual employees the opportunity to feel heard, while also letting employees outside of these groups learn more about those unlike them. For example, according to Forbes, some 85 percent of women in companies with affinity groups believe ERGs are beneficial to their careers and personal lives; in addition, 70 percent said ERGs had played a part in creating policy changes at work.

Cynthia Marshall, the SVP of HR and Chief Diversity Officer for AT&T, noted: “We have people that come in and want to know more about different cultures, so they’ll join that particular ERG and expand their knowledge.”

Leaning on Technology

Other companies lean on technology to ensure that the widest cross-section of employees is positively impacted by the company’s diversity efforts. Bayer and BASF, for example, use e-learning modules and talent dashboards to ensure that employees across the globe can receive ongoing education and contribute to company-wide D&I discussions.

Johnson & Johnson implemented a D&I program recently, but wanted initiatives to be “culturally appropriate” for each region. With the help of technology, the company combined efforts for Europe and the U.S., and hosted a live video conference on topics of diversity, inclusion, mutual perceptions and respect. Over 100 attendees agreed that it was “the most valuable training” they had ever experienced.

These ideas speak to training, which is tremendously important for inclusivity. Since “inclusion” can be something of a “suitcase word” (with many different definitions for different people), you need training programs that identify exactly what it means to the decision-makers, to the company and to various regions. Training is the backbone of successful inclusion work.

The Bottom Line

Only about 12 percent of companies are truly inclusive, but that can be fixed by incorporating a series of small, purposeful steps around your company’s language, use of technology, learning tools, social resources and onboarding methods.

What kinds of successful inclusion efforts have you seen in other organizations?

Noel Cocca is the founder and CEO of RecruitingDaily and its merry band of rabble-rousers. He aims to produce at the sweet spot between content and actual awareness by creating great work for living, breathing human beings in recruiting and hiring. He works to ease problems, both large and small, from startups to enterprises.

 

 

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