If you’re working on diversity initiatives in the workplace you know it’s equally inspiring and frustrating. Research shows that companies with diverse talent pools achieve greater innovations, more productivity and higher profitability. So companies are spending hundreds of millions on diversity programs, yet getting very little return on their investment. Diversity numbers have increased only a percent or two—and in some cases, diversity is decreasing. As Google, Uber and Starbucks know, it only takes a leaked internal memo, a Medium blog or a YouTube video going viral to show the world the worst. For every two steps forward, we take a step back.
Scandals aside, why is there so little progress being made in recruiting and retaining diverse talent? If diversity is a focus, if talented people are holding dedicated diversity and inclusion roles, if the budget is being applied, why aren’t we seeing positive effects?
It comes down to two things: The Leaky Funnel and corporate culture.
The Leaky Funnel is a concept that explains how bias (conscious and unconscious) affects diverse candidates at three key points in their career: when being recruited, when navigating team dynamics and when in the promotion process. To drive positive change, organizations need to bring daylight to each of these areas, with structured processes and mini-interventions when things go wrong. We’ll share tips on each of these below.
Corporate culture, particularly an organization’s ability to accept, appreciate and admire diversity, is a bigger shift because complex human behavior and legacy tactics have already shaped the politics and power structure. Shifting from the status quo rocks the boat: some people will have to take a step back to let others ahead.
Leaders can’t just change their organizational culture. Cultures evolve, there’s no top down or bottom up magic to apply. Luckily, there are some good habits and cultural competencies that companies can promote so today’s employees can adopt to start the shift towards embracing diversity. We share some of these below too.