11 June, 2021

Using Recognition to Anchor Pride in Workplace Diversity

The conversation around diversity and inclusion (D&I or Diversity, Equity and Inclusion- DEI) has matured over the years to reflect its’ importance, not just from a humanitarian perspective but also from a business one. For example- Companies with the highest levels of diversity outperform companies with less diversity by 36%, and the former also benefit from increased levels of innovation, improved brand reputation and higher talent retention. However, having a diverse workforce and the positive impacts that come with it are yet to be fully realized- most companies globally still lack women and other marginalized groups in senior executive and leadership positions. Additionally, 61 percent employees in the above mentioned McKinsey study don’t believe their organizations are inclusive despite a higher rating on diversity. This means two things- the first is that advocacy for D&I has still not reached places of power and is still not considered a business priority. Secondly, even while the mechanical aspects of recruiting and retaining people from diverse backgrounds has made headway, it still results in tokenism or even the backfiring of diversity initiatives. What is needed is a cultural overhaul from the top to ingrain not just an inclusive, but an equitable culture in the organization. One unique mechanism through which you can celebrate and promote diversity in your workforce is through the organization’s employee R&R program. This blog covers the various ways in which an employee rewards program can strengthen diversity in a meaningful way.

  • Recognizing behavior that promotes diversity

Making diversity part of the recognition framework is essential to not just offer a one-time opportunity at the entry stage, but to enable diverse groups to be visible and get promoted for further career growth. This can mean rewarding employees for participating in company D&I programs or recognizing managers who make a conscious effort to recruit and keep engaged a diverse team. Another powerful way for companies to benefit from diverse contextual knowledge is recognizing employees for offering unique solutions born out of their differential experiences.

  • Fair Performance Assessment

Having a transparent performance management system that focuses on merit and a broad range of KPIs, including teamwork and inclusive behavior, will give a strong message to employees by tying D&I with compensation. Moreover, the more transparent and meritorious the appraisal process in a firm gets, the higher the chances of everyone playing on a level field.

  • D&I Forums

Dialogue leads to empowerment and having digital discussion forums to keep minority groups and their allies connected in the hybrid work era can help in increased engagement and continued progress in D&I goals. Moreover, social collaboration walls can be used by the C-suite to publicly lend their support and show solidarity with their employees’ unique backgrounds.

  • Celebrating Diversity

Having organization-wide celebrations on days like Women’s Day or Pride Month is a great way to reinforce the softer aspect of diversity. In no way does this mean that social media posts or rainbow logos are enough. However, firms can use these opportunities to show employees how much they value their presence through letters from the management, physical gifts to employees’ homes or digital badges/ecards celebrating landmark events.

  • Social Listening

Using ‘social listening’ in the form of pulse surveys and polls can help organizations do an analysis of employee sentiment amongst the target audience and measure the impact of their D&I initiatives.

The problem with tokenism in D&I is that it eats into workplace culture. It silences and ultimately, disengages traditionally marginalized groups through systemic or unconscious bias. For women, persons with disabilities or those belonging to the LGBTQI+ community to thrive at work, organizations need to put in the effort to create an enabling environment where barriers like social prejudice, economic status and stereotyping are combatted actively. As this Harvard Business Review article eloquently states, organizations need to reframe their business objectives to allow human dignity and equality to be as important, if not more, than short-term fiscal goals.