Each month, Mercer brings together in-house experts, employee advocates and external thought leaders for an online discussion of the most pressing issues. The program is called #MercerChats and takes place entirely on Twitter, where individuals around the world engage with Mercer’s intellectual capital and other leading thought leadership to share insights and discuss the best solutions to help organizations thrive. Below is a summary of our May 2021 tweet chat, highlighting some of the key themes discussed and insights shared.
Every business is a people business. Whether you’re forging steel or selling software, your company is built on the people that make up your workforce. After a tumultuous 2020, most business leaders are acutely aware of this, having spent the last year transitioning their people to remote work and navigating social reforms both in and outside the workplace, but many are still grappling with what that means moving forward. How can employers show that they value and support their people, and how can they maintain access to top talent in the future of work?
These questions strike at the heart of the conversation on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), which has moved from marketing and HR straight to the C-suite. Employers are realizing that DEI is a business-critical component of their talent strategy, and this increased attention is prompting leaders to ask how their corporate culture can and should adapt to make way for a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce of the future.
As with any emerging field of HR and talent management, there’s a wide array of perspectives and ideas on how to best adopt and implement DEI principles in your workforce. To bring you some of these insights, we invited the world’s most prominent thought leaders to our #MercerChats tweet chat series to share their perspectives. Below are some of the highlights from our conversation.
The same principles that make for a successful DEI strategy (awareness, empathy) are, paradoxically, almost prerequisites to creating one. It’s almost as if employers who recognize the need for and value of DEI programs are halfway towards successfully implementing them. This may explain why some organizations have proven so adept at embracing DEI, while others can’t seem to wrap their heads around what it is they need to be doing.
So if understanding DEI is the first major step, our chat participants were right on point with major insights. First, Helene Li helped put each component of DEI into its own light, pulling away some of the mystery of this HR buzzword and paving the way for productive conversation. It’s important that leaders recognize that they need to promote diversity while fostering inclusion, per Melanie Mueller, all of which helps to develop equality in the workplace. To have one without the other could undermine the impact of your DEI program, as Norman Dreger shared, and threatens the positive impact that Cecilia Giordano described with a workplace where all stakeholders have a sense of belonging.
Diversity is getting an invite to the party, Inclusion is being invited to dance, Equity is having level playing field while dancing
Diversity without inclusion has no value – inclusion without diversity seems exclusive from the start – and equity is needed to give everyone the same opportunities and be inclusive in a diverse world.
Having a diverse workforce does not imply that everyone has access to the same opportunities (equity) or feels welcomed and valued (inclusion). Equity and Inclusion are about recognizing that privilege and barriers exist
An inclusive environment giving all stakeholders a sense of belonging, while providing systems that encourage them to share information and participate in decision-making.
Much to the chagrin of both employees and leaders, a modern DEI program can’t be bought or built overnight. Instead, it takes long-term commitment and incremental progress towards measurable goals and predetermined targets. While this may strike some as an over-engineered solution, it’s this sort of methodical approach that yields results, and in a way, it makes it easier for HR professionals and business leaders to bring about change.
To effectively build DEI into your organization, you need to build DEI into your workforce. Both Tamara McCleary and Antonio Vieria Santos were right to note that this begins with recruitment, where your teams should be conscious of and building for a more diverse future. But it extends to the entire career arc. As Amisha Gandhi shared, employers should find ways to allow for feedback and concerns on DEI from their workforce, and organizations should be open to what their people have to say. Walter Jennings noted that employers would be wise to consult their employees to see what areas are in need of attention, taking extra care to build support from middle and frontline people managers. These are the individuals best positioned to flag concerns and help build for DEI principles into the everyday operations of your business, and as Brian Kropp pointed out, their partnership will only become increasingly important in a hybrid world.
You need to consult & engage your employees. It's best practice and helps align your vision with theirs. Beware - middle managers are key. They can be champions or "layer of clay" that will outlast your best efforts. Build champions
To address the challenges with recruiting, developing, & retaining diverse talent. Make sure your recruitment teams are trained on empathy and diversity and the recruitment boards are diverse. People leave because they feel they don't have career opportunities
Antonio Vieria Santos
Companies can enhance workforce diversity by focusing on recruiting and RETAINING diverse talent. Organizations should look beyond the typical employee pools they usually do and focus on bringing in non-traditional talent.
Make inclusion a part of everything you do: from hiring to creating multiple ways to give feedback and safe space to have conversations. Most importantly, listen, learn and apply what you heard.
Biggest issue will be about the E in DE&I. How do you create equity in a hybrid world? e.g. we know managers are biased against remote workers, and that women are more likely to work remote than men. Without this focus, we will turn back the clock on the D and I.
If only it were so easy as hiring practices and policies. Chris Edmonds may have put it best during our conversation when he observed that building a strategy is always easier than implementing one, and the DEI space is no exception. There’s no finish line to an organization’s DEI journey, so in practice the only goal is to become more diverse, more equal, and more inclusive.
This can mean a lot of things. For one, it becomes incumbent upon the entire organization to buy into a culture of mutual respect and prioritize DEI principles. Mark Babbitt touched on this during our discussion, and Dr. Marcia F. Robinson expanded on it by introducing “a reputation for inclusivity”. This concept – the idea that your company could be known for DEI and attract like-minded talent – is the ultimate byproduct of a DEI program, as it means DEI principles have transcended HR manuals to become part of your culture. In doing so, this reputation can perpetuate your culture of inclusion and help to create an organization that, as Carrie Maslen put it, both employees and clients can believe in.
Building a strategy is easier than implementing one. Yes, a formal strategy communicates how important DEI is to the company. Senior leaders must listen, learn, and adapt policies, procedures, hiring, and leadership to embrace DEI.
S. Chris Edmonds
A quality company culture expects respect AND drives results. We can’t do one without the other. A focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion is a critical element of showing respect – to all people.
Build your reputation as an inclusive space, introduce yourself that way, demonstrate care in where you put your brand. Nurture relationships with sources. DEI must go beyond the marketing slicks and the DOH.
Dr. Marcia F. Robinson
Employees- as well as B2C and B2B customers -want to know what companies believe in & where companies stand on issues that matter to them.