Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Diversity is on the tip of everyone’s tongues right now. The interesting thing about diversity is people generally give it attention at the 11th hour when missteps and poor practices have already done damage. If some new regulation calls for diversity and inclusion training , diversity mascots  experts are dusted off and asked to provide just-in-time training to show compliance.

As HR practitioners and more importantly business owners, we must all agree that a just-in-time or post-incident training is not a solution to ensuring that we foster inclusive workplaces. Whereas we have been trying to mitigate the instances of intolerance, harassment and exclusion in the workplace – we now have events and circumstances outside of the organization forcing us to have more timely discussions with staff.

The volume is turned up on racial and bigoted rhetoric. Politics are all the buzz as we move towards nominating candidates for the presidential race in the U.S. Through it all, tensions are high online and off. Do you think for a second none of this has the potential of spilling into your workplace?

If you think not, you’re not watching closely enough. More than ever, your employees need to know where you stand and how you expect them to conduct themselves. Times of controversy call for compassion, understanding and real-time diversity conversations.

Here are some tips for implementing these conversations:

1) Be timely and consistent in communicating. It doesn’t matter whether you are addressing concerns internally or externally- you will need to be timely and consistent. Waiting too long to address diversity issues of the moment- can elicit trust issues and undermine your ability to authentically connect with your staff.

2) Make it clear where you stand and what you expect of your employees. I once worked for an organization that allowed the confederate flag to be hung in the offices of leaders. Just a short twenty years ago, this same organization had employees hanging nooses in the offices of African-American employees. To date, it isn’t abundantly clear that they support a diverse workforce and it isn’t implied because it says so on their webpage.  I share this to drive home the fact that you have to walk the talk. Diversity and Inclusion is not just a policy or beautifully-written EEO statement. Diversity should be a part of your organization’s moral fiber. Your employees deserve to know where you stand and what will and will not be tolerated.

3) Keep it simple. Keep it real. Have you ever taken stock of the gestures and faces your employees make before you or any other leader starts speaking in a training or meeting? Employees are like your customers in many ways. They hate contrived messages. It pains them to watch you squirm through a conversation on race knowing that you don’t even believe the words coming out of your own mouth. Keep your message simple and be real. You have to trust that you have fully-grown adults working for you- that are capable of engaging in open dialogue on diversity, inclusion and other difficult topics.

It is our legacy in HR to create policy, procedure and programs. With pressures for businesses to show and prove their dedication to social causes – it is very clear that HR and the business have stock in managing the moral reputation of the company. Using these tips are just the beginning to the effort you need to put into a sound diversity and inclusion strategy.

In my latest “Ask Czarina Live”, I talked about what happened to MAC Cosmetics when they let a diversity debacle go too far. Check it out below.

Have questions about how to take this one step further? Contact me. I’ll answer you in a future “Ask Czarina” video.

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