Building a diverse workforce requires more than a traditional approach

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Over the last several years employers have become more aware of the need for greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace. But the means of getting there are still unclear. Too often, employers tend to stick to traditional programs and promotion guidelines that may not work for today’s employees.

Individual companies will sometimes release diversity and inclusion reports. Uber, for example, which has come under fire for its lack of diversity, released a report in July that included the company’s new effort to tie executive bonuses to diversity efforts.

Namely, an HR technology platform, takes the notion of a diversity report a step further, looking across 1,300 companies to shed light on where midsize businesses are succeeding with diversity and equality efforts and areas for improvement.

Lorna Hagen, chief people officer at Namely, spoke with Employee Benefit News about its second annual diversity and inclusion report and what employers can learn from it.

Why did Namely decided to dig into diversity on a more comprehensive level?
It all starts with our mission to build a better workplace. That includes so many conversations that weren’t happening 10, 15 and especially 20 years ago. While we’ve been talking about diversity and inclusion for a long time, the needle is starting to move because the conversations that are happening now are very different. You’ve got Me Too and a lot more movement around the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. So for us it’s important to take a look at what the data says. We want to see if people’s actions are mirroring their words. Our goal is to put this out there and have a broader conversation around the future of work and creating better workplaces.

What did you learn from the data in regards to gender and minority discrimination?
We broke it up into several different findings and we were really thinking about gender parity, inclusivity, equal pay. We wanted to know whose job is it to really own diversity and inclusion and then how do you think about the development of minority populations in your organization? We’re seeing a couple of different things. For example, certain industries definitely have more gender parity than others — primarily in media, financial services, real estate and professional services. There is still work to be done in technology. Healthcare and transportation are especially lacking in parity when it comes to gender.

What can employers do to make changes?
There are several different steps organizations can take. There is this idea of being very intentional around recruiting and an organization’s development and promotion practices. Our report is saying you need to broaden the talent pool intentionally and seek out the folks that you want to see at your organization. You have to address inherent bias and you have to set up the right programs and partnerships.

At Namely, for example, we reviewed all of our contracts with third party recruiting agencies and respectfully said hey, we have to go back to the drawing board. We have very specific goals around what we want for diversity and inclusion at our organization and we need you to be a partner with us in that. We said our slate needs to be different, the pools where you recruit from need to be different than where we’ve seen them traditionally.

What did the data tell you about the pay gap?
We still see minorities underrepresented in leadership, but over represented in the smaller salary bands. What we also see is that with more women and minorities at the top in leadership roles, pay equity was greater. This goes back to that first consideration, are you setting up the right programs in your organization? How do you start thinking about and designing programs to suit your population as opposed to using the programs that have worked for people in the past? It’s [identifying] your population to build the right programs.

What do inclusive benefits look like from a cost perspective?
When you think about it in the context of other costs and other benefits, then it becomes a more neutral conversation versus a political or ideological one. The cost of providing inclusive benefits to your employees is essentially negligible for medium and large companies. Those costs are very proportional to the cost of coverage for diabetes, asthma and congestive heart failure. We’re really encouraging folks to look at the data and consider how they can really walk the talk around inclusivity.

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Workplace culture Workplace management Diversity and equality Workforce management Employee engagement Employee relations