By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

Before we get into the topic, let’s look at a few statistics:

  • Diverse and inclusive corporations are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors. (McKinsey)
  • They are 70% more likely to capture new markets. (HBR)
  • Their teams are 87% better at decision-making. (People Management)
  • These teams generate 19% higher revenue. (BCG)

These numbers indicate that having a diverse and inclusive workforce is beneficial to any company. Especially where it matters, i.e., performance. These companies seem to perform better, generate higher revenue, and can understand the demands of newer markets. But the real impact runs even deeper. If one assesses the very makeup of the modern-day workforce, you’ll understand what we mean. Whichever country you’re in, there’s an increase of minorities equipped with degrees who are entering the workforce. There are more diverse workforce free of gender and race, than ever before, playing pivotal roles in their companies. But although so much progress is being made, it will take a significant amount of time to undo the practices and mindsets of old.

DE&I programs are uprooting old mindsets by removing subconscious biases while hiring, such as race or ethnicity-based biases, sexism, and other archaic prejudices. Instead, it replaces them with more useful and modern philosophies and tools, making way for a huge number of benefits. 

DE&I improves Employee Productivity and Performance

Research shows that employees are 60% as productive as they could be in their workplace. Some of the factors that contribute to this are: lack of sense of belonging, workplace stress, lack of recognition, and toxic workplace behavior. 

Studies show that work-related stress affects minorities in particular. There are many reasons for this, such as different levels of education attained and poor treatment by management. A good DE&I program would help sensitize both management and employees, and help them learn how to interact with employees in a more inclusive way. It would also help minority employees feel more comfortable in their environment and more included and accepted, leading to a boost in employee productivity by almost a 40%!

DE&I helps identify, attract and retain Top Talent

DE&I initiatives help in creating authentic connections with existing employees, who can then recommend other qualified individuals to fill vacant positions. Such recommendations help find the right fit, both in terms of skills and organizational culture. It’s also helpful in retaining employees. Employees who feel they are undervalued, treated poorly, and have fewer growth opportunities are the most likely to leave a company. In the US, numerous studies show that white males are more likely to get a promotion than their colored and/or female counterparts. Therefore, a DE&I program will help build long-lasting bonds among employees, and help management understand their needs better while aiding in breaking the glass ceiling for many.

DE&I improves and maintains better Employee Engagement

If you want your employees to be engaged, they must feel like they’re a part of the organization well and truly. Engaged employees perform better, are more likely to stay longer, and are ready to contribute to the companies they work in. Engaged employees are the backbone of a blooming company culture. Great company culture is essential in attracting the top-most talent in any industry. 

DE&I programs co-function with a robust  Peer Coaching system

The above can only be achieved if your DE&I program is combined with peer coaching. Issues about ethnicity, gender, race, religion, or any other controversial topic are extremely sensitive leaving a lot of room for misunderstandings. It’s only through peer coaching – where one establishes trust, takes time and makes effort to understand others’ dreams and challenges, and acts as a support system – that DE&I initiatives can make a real and tangible impact.

With Peer Coaching, employees assess themselves and others, which helps the company understand what measures need to be taken to elevate certain employees while creating a culture of feedback. Since it helps confront biases on a more humane level and is less mechanical than having a boss talking down to subordinates, Peer coaching is bound to bring in long-term behavioral changes. 

Another benefit of peer coaching is its model of establishing track results-based performance metrics hence giving the organizations a  realistic way to assess learner’s performance and engagement. There is also engagement analytics that can be used to track employee growth hence making it a better way to assess the results of your initiatives with tangible data. Most importantly, peer coaching builds a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion that every organization needs to evolve from simply being an office, into a second family for every employee. That’s the real impact.

If you’re ready to transform your office into a safe space for every employee by breaking through the past and empowering the future workforce, let’s connect to discuss how our AI-enabled peer coaching platform can help you!

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

Having a diverse workforce is essential in today’s corporate environment. But it’s not as easy as just deciding to make inclusive hires. A Forbes study indicated that a majority of corporate diversity programs haven’t yielded desired results. Around 75% of conventional diversity and inclusion programs have been failing consistently. Thus, it’s essential one must also carefully plan and execute a good DEA program. But how? How do we fight our subconscious biases? How can we create a plan that suits everyone? 

Possibly, there are two major problems with current DEI programs.

Problem 1: They are inauthentic

An article in the Economist stated that 12 of the most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from Human Resources, and I’m here to organize a diversity workshop.”!!

Jokes aside, the statement points towards a general distrust of HR diversity initiatives. According to a study in the Harvard Business Review, companies struggle mainly with finding out what the inclusivity problems are. They found that managers are pushed by a fondness for taking action and finding solutions without understanding the actual issues. Their DEI programs are usually reactionary measures introduced after a specific incident or event. That comes across as inauthentic. 

They forget to engage their employees in effective two-way communication. They don’t take the necessary steps to educate the relevant people on measures being undertaken by the organization. To make genuine programs that will create a long-lasting impact on the learners, initiatives must center themselves around thorough research. While this may take time and resources to conduct in the short term, it will save the organization money, time, and energy in the long run. Evidence suggests that organizations constantly invest heavily in diversity training but with little results. 

Problem 2: They create a sense of inferiority

Normally, learners feel that they’re being lectured to. Studies show that ‘training’ and ‘coaching’ are terms that employees don’t like. They imply mandatory and remedial programs, which rob learners of a sense of freedom and instill a feeling of failure on some level. Instead, programs must make employees feel they are being presented an opportunity to grow with equity. Programs must focus on teaching behavioral and critical skills which will nurture inclusion and collaboration. It’s time for organizations to create a holistic approach that doesn’t make learners feel like they’re being spoken down to.

Why 75% of conventional diversity and inclusion programs have been failing consistently? 

Let’s take a look at some of the major DEI obstacles – 

Unconscious Bias

Many companies want to make DEI training voluntary exercises, and not compulsory programs. Doing so has shown improvement in employee participation in such programs. Consecutively, as per a study, there was an increase of 9 to 13% in black and Hispanic men and Asian-American men and women in top management roles. One factor to consider is that there are more benefits of such training for those who already show advanced skill competencies. Employees with low-skill competencies may feel alienated, as they may not be suitable to give training. In such a case, individuals with high competency levels will evolve into role models for other organizational members. If low-skill employees fail to evaluate competency in diversity, they will grow into accepting their errors. 

Gender Bias

A huge majority of men accept that teams with a healthy representation of women can perform better. But there is a lack of awareness amongst one-third of men. They are unresponsive to the challenges faced by women leaders. 28% don’t agree that women are more prone to difficulties when it comes to top management roles, despite having equal skills and qualifications.

Racial Biases

A surprising number of people aren’t aware that they have racial and ethnic biases. These are the people most resistant to DEI programs based on racial discrimination. There has to be a shift in this mindset, and the responsibility for such lies on leaders and managers. They must raise awareness by using psychologically protected spaces to create safe listening experiences. That will increase empathy as well. 

Manager-focused Training 

Most organizations have diversity training programs for their managers. But that’s very counterproductive. It breeds resentment and reflects poor diversity. It is important to have consistent leadership support for employing minorities. It has to be followed through with a plan to ensure inclusivity in key decision-making promotions and promotions to executive levels. 

Peer Coaching – The Magic Bullet 

The sure-shot way to overcome these two challenges in the form of peer coaching. Yes, I’d mentioned that employees don’t like the word ‘coaching’ – but ‘peer coaching’ is different. The processes themselves vary greatly, despite the two being used interchangeably. Conventional coaching creates a one-way mode of communication, from coach to learner. But peer coaching is a process where everyone involved learns and grows. It’s mutually beneficial, confidential, and structured. The process helps identify and measure skill gaps without making anyone feel uncomfortable. 

Peer coaching also helps create realistic benchmarks. Using these, one can quantify the success of each measure. Peer coaching mitigates the negative impact of learning and development programs. 

  • Using a comprehensive framework, peer coaching helps in changing behaviors through skill exchange. It can address all the DEI goals. Organizations that used peer coaching were more successful at navigating change when compared to competitors. 
  • Peer coaching helps create awareness and eliminate subconscious biases on gender. It helps create a culture of inclusion for women where they are systematically and actively included in succession plans. Peer coaching can be supplemented with women’s leadership development programs to build conviction.
  • To tackle the racial biases, the solid antiracist organizational culture and top leaders’ behavioral changes need to be guided by peer coaching. All these aspects together can help in augmenting individual attitudes and institutional policies.    
  • Peer coaching initiatives can be molded to be effective for different levels of organizational leadership. It can help leaders assess both personal biases and general biases that hinder inclusivity implementation. Inclusive work cultures empower employees with opportunities and the space to present contradicting views. They also encourage questioning deep-rooted mindsets without a threat to their sense of relevance. Peer coaching helps break hierarchical barriers. It enables teams with cultural or other generic differences to collaborate on projects that proliferate cross-cultural competence.

Robust peer coaching initiatives are effective methods for enabling diversity and inclusion. Both external and internal intervention coaching delivers forward-thinking inclusion tools that combat discriminatory behaviors. 

Download this whitepaper on ‘Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Should Be A Business Imperative’ – it discusses in detail the deficiency in diversity and inclusion efforts, how a shift in mindset can reshape the future of the workplace, and how comprehensive and discerning coaching programs are critical in creating a cornerstone for a collective understanding of DE&I.

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

Diversity has been a hot topic over the past years in the enterprise community. A diverse workplace, now, is not a fleeting trend but a key to get higher revenues, capture new markets, and drive meaningful innovation. However, diversity is more than just a buzzword. It is meant to motivate corporations to provide an equitable and inclusive environment to their employees. It is a strategic initiative that has to tackle the systemic barriers and microaggressions that disenfranchise certain groups that hope to create a more equitable workplace. 

Organizations now know that diversity training is essential since:

  • The Millennials and Gen Z, the dominant workforce in the enterprise, are the most diverse generation in history 
  • 67% of job seekers consider diversity an important factor while considering employment opportunities 
  • Organizations with a diverse workforce are more likely to have financial returns above national industry medians 
  • Organizations with ethnically and culturally diverse boards are 43% more likely to show higher profits 

The Diversity Conundrum – Diversity Training Doesn’t Work 

While diversity training is essential to help individuals recognize unfair treatment in the workplace, most organizations hold an annual diversity training session that merely pays lip-service to equality, inclusion, and diversity. This traditional model of diversity training does not contribute towards an equitable workplace and can often be disappointing and even counter-productive. 

This is primarily because of two reasons. Firstly, most diversity training programs are focused on creating awareness about hidden prejudices and biases, usually towards women and ethnic minorities. However, raising awareness alone does not change people’s behavior. 

Secondly, unconscious bias becomes hard to address with a day-long session. It is almost impossible to retrain the brain not to fall prey to prejudices that have been socially reinforced throughout our lives. 

That most diversity programs don’t increase diversity is quite clear. You just have to look at diversity statistics for that. But why are diversity training programs failing? It is because, for diversity to work, it needs behavioral change. 

Change Ahead – Diversity Coaching Leads the Way 

Diversity initiatives need behavioral change 

Most diversity training programs assume that people act offensively because they know no better. While this is largely true, unlearning deeply ingrained behavioral patterns is difficult. As such, organizations have to create an environment that has a shared understanding of why certain things are offensive, and secondly, and more importantly, builds a shared understanding of which behaviors and comments fall outside the purview of acceptance. 

Providing clarity on unacceptable verbiage and penalties for transgressions is important. But it is more important to coach people to build empathy and sensitivity to new concepts of identity, fairness, responsibility, and intent. 

Creating such a work environment demands a shift in views and mindsets and can only be achieved through continuous learning. Coaching thus becomes the perfect pair for driving diversity in the organization to make sure behavioral change supports diversity in the workplace. 

Create an understanding of diversity 

Diversity training is supposed to address how different people are represented across the organization. Simply asking people to ‘tolerate differences’ does not fit today’s workplace, one that is defined by the global scope and lightning-fast communication. 

Given the complex narrative, organizations have to now focus on helping the entire workforce understand how a diversity of thought and different approaches bring in new ideas and perspectives. At the same time, they need to help employees understand that they need to embrace diversity and not merely ‘tolerate’ it. 

Diversity coaching helps organizations distill the concept of diversity into the employees such that it becomes a learned behavior. It helps everyone across the board understand that everyone across the organization is working towards a common goal and creates a common bond. Diversity coaching helps people understand that all employees are like soldiers charging up a hill – unless everyone moves forward together, the initiative fails

Battle the impact of learned behaviors

Organizations also should lean towards diversity coaching to create better-learned behaviors while unlearning older behaviors that do not support diversity and progressive thinking. 

A good example of learned behavior would be this statistic – “Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.” Women often tend to do so as they don’t view the hiring process as one where “…advocacy, relationships, or a creative approach to framing one’s expertise could overcome not having the skills and experiences outlined in the job qualifications.”  

Acting on these beliefs leads women to leave opportunities on the table. They also often tend to build small deltas in their professional and personal growth by limiting career options. 

Coaching helps bring a step-change in these beliefs that people live by and helps them realize their true potential. It gives them the tools, support, guidance, and network needed to succeed and helps organizations integrate diversity strategies, associated policies, and expected behaviors to align with the organizational goals. All these activities collectively impact the diversity matrix positively. 

Address the key diversity dimensions

Diversity is not unidimensional. It has multiple key dimensions and can be successfully implemented only when all these dimensions are covered to develop a path that ensures an improved arc of change. Achieving this through superficial, day-long training is an overarching, if not an unrealistic, goal. 

Organizations thus need to first identify all the key dimensions that play into diversity. For example, in addition to the hiring process, organizations need to assess the other areas that impact diversity – how are promotions conducted? Are all women employees getting the right kind of leadership coaching? How is the representation in the high-potential candidate pipeline and the leadership pipeline? How well are learning needs being met to create a pipeline of leaders who have the right technical and critical skills? Are we creating powerful networks that enable people to foster their growth path?

Identifying all dimensions that control diversity, all the traits that impact diversity, and all the behaviors that drive diversity have to factor in to make diversity programs successful. Organizations thus have to become more intentional in designing their diversity coaching programs. These programs should be data-driven, should connect the right coach to the right learner, and identify the right needs of individuals to create tailored programs that are measurable and impactful.

Connect with us to see how our AI-powered coaching platform can power your diversity programs. After all, many have a vision of what diversity programs should look like. But the difference between vision and hallucination is implementation.