Diversifying Our Workspaces: Action Plans and Follow-Through

Updated: Jun 17, 2020

Blog by Yardayna Ben-Simon, SFive Contributing Writer

In light of the recent events conveying police brutality and the underlying embedded institutional racism, many employees and employers are taking a deeper look into their companies and workspaces. Employees may be asking -- Is my company diverse enough, and if not, why? What can we do to make it better? CEO’s may be wondering -- what are the next steps to foster change for my company? While these questions are overwhelming, they need solutions.

The data we've looked at reveals that the majority of workplaces do lack diversity. Outside of the data, our team has heard anecdotes from employees in a variety of these spaces: underrepresentation of People of Color on the managerial level, uncomfortable Diversity and Inclusion (D & I) workshops, disproportionately positive treatment of HQ employees versus those onsite, toxic workplace cultures, insensitive party planning, and lack of follow-through for action plans.

If companies want to make changes that impact, they must “show” rather than “tell”. Anyone can say they want to improve their workspace and diversify their teams; but what they do, their action items following through their plans, is what matters. Companies need to identify their needs, compose action plans, and follow through.

Getting Started

A constructive way to identify problematic areas with respect to D & I is through a company culture audit, as discussed in our previous blog post by Ayla Langer. Here, Langer rehearses the goals and outcomes of company culture audits: using survey and interview data to identify trends within the workplace, and eventually curating company quarterly roadmaps in order to set goals for measurable outcomes. Company culture audits are a great way to begin navigating the D & I of a company because it considers the experiences and opinions of employees. However, there are other ways to diversify a company’s team on every level: the hiring process.

The Hiring Process

We have all heard stories on how hiring managers use their implicit biases against potential recruits; hiring a person with a “White” sounding name instead of a person with a “Black” sounding name; being impressed by an applicant’s high test-scores and service trips, while overlooking the privilege that lies behind those aspects of the resume. Overall, these implicit biases hinder companies from diversifying their teams. Here are a few steps managers can take to ensure a more holistic hiring process:

  • Consider using proper and inclusive vocabulary in the job descriptions, i.e. “they” instead of “he” or “she”; this would attract a wider range of applicants.

  • There should be a diverse group of interviewers in order to limit potential implicit biases against candidates.

  • Recruit from a wide range of companies and universities, especially those that advocate for underrepresented communities.

  • Aim to diversify teams at all levels of a company; this is especially important for the student housing industry, where there are some inequities and limitations at the HQ versus the onsite levels.

Hiring is the first “behind the scenes” step to diversifying a company on all levels. But a company’s social media and marketing strategies also speak to their intentions for the company.

Marketing Campaigns

Photos and language hold power in marketing. Analyzing your company’s marketing strategies and tweaking them to be more inclusive is another targeted way to improve D & I in a company. Here are a few ways to strategize your marketing campaigns to be more inclusive and thoughtful of diverse populations:

  • Focus inward. Does your business resemble the communities you are catering to? Is it staying true to your company’s values? As mentioned, culture audits and enhancing your hiring process are ways to ensure equity on all levels.

  • Ensure your marketing content accurately reflects cultural norms and traditions in a respectful way.

  • Tell lots of diverse stories. said it best, “It’s hard to tell a story that everyone can relate to, in which everyone feels included or represented. The alternative, of course, is to tell lots of different stories so there’s something for everyone. Brands with a D&I focus traditionally do this by weaving diversity into a variety of stories and campaigns.”

D & I Committees

D & I Committees must be implemented and available with workshops and resources. This committee is necessary for consistent and adequate company engagement with the topic of diversity. The Committee should be formed by experts on the topic; if CEO’s and managers don’t feel equipped to lead these sessions, those familiar with the topic should spearhead the initiative and seek out experts in the industry to help refine their group. Team members can get involved with the D & I Committee though attending quarterly workshops, participating in surveys, engaging with provided resources, and overall viewing D & I as an initiative to better the company. Surveys and culture audits would efficiently track the progress and effectiveness of D & I, and companies can make changes as needed. Overall, through effective education, programming, and engagement, D & I should instill in employees a feeling of “wanting” rather than “needing” to diversify their company.

Again, companies must “show” rather than “tell.” If companies conduct culture audits, follow through on the data and implement solutions to fix the problems; if teams on all levels lack diversity, then recruit and interview a diverse group of candidates; if marketing campaigns cater to a limited consumer base, commit to conducting deeper market research and diversifying the photos and language used. Make D & I in the workplace a commitment that employees on all levels want to achieve, so they can be a part of the wave of change.

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