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Apr 18, 2022

If you hang around long enough, you’ll see a lot of old trends pop up again. It’s like the old line that says “everything old is new again.” In other words, very little is really new because we’re dealing with things that have all happened before.

That’s how I feel about today’s big focus on diversity & inclusion (DE&I).

Back in my newspaper editor days I was waist-deep in diversity and inclusion. I did a lot of recruiting back then, and I was always attending something like the National Association of Black Journalists conference, or the Asian American Journalists annual meeting, or the conference of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. I even attended an annual event for the Native American Journalists Association, held in Kamloops, British Columbia, a quirky little town I really enjoyed and hope to see again.

I attended all these conferences multiple times over multiple years, and other than getting to visit a lot of interesting places like Kamloops, British Columbia; Honolulu; and San Juan, Puerto Rico, I was at those events for one reason and only one reason – to recruit minority journalists to come join the newspaper I worked for.

In other words, the push for more diversity & inclusion in the workplace isn’t new – it’s just bigger, louder, and more focused than it was in 1980s and 90s when I was really engaged in it.

What ‘Best in Class’ companies do around diversity 

What brings all this to mind is research from Fuel50, an AI talent marketplace technology company, that looked at best practices in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). The research “identified organizations that represented the top 15% of (the) sample in terms of having above industry average representation of both females and employees of diverse backgrounds.”

These “DE&I Best in Class” organizations had a lot in common, but I was interested in the section that looked into how DE&I Best in Class organizations operate when it comes to diversity and their workforce.

According to the research, the best in class DE&I organizations “seemed to have similar strategic people priorities compared to other organizations, but were investing differentially in mentoring programs, stretch assignments and project enablement (gigs) particularly for their diverse populations.”

OK, I’m intrigued. So here’s what they prioritize:

  1. Leadership
  2. The Future of Work
  3. Employee Experience 
  4. Employee Reskilling 
  5. Internal Mobility

And here’s what they invest in:

  • Mentorship;
  • Project Participation (Gigs & Stretch Assignments).

The Fuel50 analysis also added this:

“All in all, there are many compelling reasons why organizations should focus their efforts on diversity, equity, and inclusion, such as improved financial returns, agility, innovation, performance, and better business outcomes. With the prevalence of remote work, organizations can now cast a wider geographic net for prospective employees and prioritize diversity in a way that wouldn’t previously have been possible. In other words, there has never been a better time for your organization to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Diversity in the workforce is critical – now more than ever 

Here’s my take:

Back in my newspaper editor days, I worked for a couple of large companies that owned a lot of newspapers. One of them had a philosophy that always resonated with me: that you can’t really cover the community unless you have a staff that represents the diversity that exists in your community.

THAT’S why I spent so much time and company expense traveling to all those journalism conferences, trying to recruit promising reporters and editors to join my newspaper.

It also reminds me of an interview I did a couple of years ago with Dan Shapero, then VP and now COO at LinkedIn. He said something that falls in the category of timeless wisdom that resonates even more now than when I talked with him in 2018. He said:

“I think that there’s a recognition in the world more than ever that companies win or lose on their people. We are starting to use not just people, but teams, because it’s not just who the people are, but how they come together… That’s created a flurry of innovation in the talent space, with recruiting being one part, but also in learning and development, and employee engagement, insights and analytics – and diversity.”

So yes, we really do win or lose on our people, and diversity needs to be a big part of that. I thought it was incredibly important back when I was spending so much time hunting for talented AND diverse people back in the 1980s and 90s. But if anything, it’s even more important now. The timely Fuel50 research makes this perfectly clear, because “there has never been a better time for your organization to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Dan Shapero said one more thing about diversity that resonated with me when we talked. It’s this:

“Where we [LinkedIn] can help is when you’re searching for candidates. We want to make sure that the people you’re getting back are representative of the population. “

Yes, having a workforce that represents the diversity that exists in your population or community is incredibly important — now more than ever. My wish for this year is that a lot more organizations push themselves and do more to make that happen.

And as I learned when recruiting diverse candidates all those years ago, we’ll all be better off if they do.

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