INCORPORATING DIVERSITY INTO YOUR HIRING PRACTICES IS A SMART MOVE. HERE’S WHAT TO DO NEXT.
Countless studies have shown that diversity is good for business. Having a diverse mix of employees leads to a better understanding of your customers and prospects, better creativity, and higher profits. Prioritizing diversity in your hiring practices is a great first step, but it’s also important to think through what happens after the hire. For guidance, we turned to Michele Lanza, a diversity, equality and inclusion specialist. Michele drew on her more than two decades of human resources experience to launch WorkWider, a career and recruitment platform she created to support underrepresented communities, including BIPOC, LGBTQ, veterans, people with disabilities and neuro-differences, women and those over age 50. Here, she answers our D&I questions.
Connecticut Innovations: Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Michele. Let’s dive right in. Most of us have an idea of what diversity is, but perhaps not inclusion. Can you explain the difference?
Michele Lanza: Diversity and inclusion go hand in hand. Many organizations leap into hiring underrepresented talent as a way to address a lack of diversity in their organization, but hiring diverse talent is just one step. Companies also need to build and foster cultures of inclusion—those composed of varying races, cultures, genders, ages, etc., and, equally if not more important, cultures where everyone feels valued, recognized and heard—where all employees feel welcome to show up and be their full selves. Companies can hire underrepresented talent, but if those new hires are joining an organization that is not inclusive, they won’t stay long.
CI: That makes sense. Can you tell us what companies that have inclusive cultures are doing right?
ML: Companies that are getting it right are focusing on their cultures. They are working to ensure that underrepresented employees feel included, that they have the ability to share their perspectives and ideas, and that they have a seat at the table where decisions are being made.
CI: How do you hold inclusive meetings? Are there ground rules?
ML: Personally, I have been working hard to make sure I, as a leader, am building a culture of belonging in my workplace. That includes making some changes to how I run meetings. Here are a few things I’ve implemented that have gone a long way:
- When new people join a meeting, we all introduce ourselves, including our pronouns.
- We take turns taking notes. It shouldn’t always be the most junior person that gets this job. This allows for more equal participation at all levels.
- I give everyone the opportunity to speak. Extroverts can fill up space, so I work hard to make sure the introverts have the opportunity to share as well.
- I try really hard to not speak over people, though that’s still a work in progress. This gives people with different styles the ability to contribute at their own pace.
CI: These are all great ideas . . . speaking over people is something many of us struggle with. Building off of that: Is meeting moderation a skill anyone can learn?
ML: Yes. Like any skill, meeting moderation needs to be learned, and it takes practice. For some, it comes easily; others have to work harder. One of the most important skills for running inclusive meetings is for moderators to learn to recognize their own biases and address them.
CI: Studies show that women and others belonging to minority groups are often interrupted during meetings. How should meeting leaders tackle interruptions?
ML: There are certainly polite and diplomatic ways to conduct meetings where interruptions can be discouraged by simply “giving the floor” to someone who is speaking to complete what they wish to say. Simply saying, “I don’t think X had the opportunity to finish their thoughts. I’d like to hear the rest of what they have to say,” can go a long way toward making everyone respect whoever’s turn it is to speak. Additionally, meeting moderators should make a conscious effort to call on people who have not had the opportunity to speak. This ensures that everyone has an opportunity to share.
CI: Are there different considerations for D&I when you’re hosting a conference or other event?
ML: When hosting people from outside of your organization, it is important to understand beforehand who will be attending. Thinking through how to build an inclusive environment is critical. Is the facility wheelchair accessible? Are there gender-neutral bathrooms on site? Is there a prayer room? These are just a few examples of things to consider when trying to build a conference that is inclusive.
CI: Now that many of us are remote, are there different considerations for addressing inclusion during virtual meetings?
ML: Moving forward, many companies will have to rise to the challenge of having a mix of onsite and remote workers. Navigating this new environment can be tricky. Many of the same tools used for in-person meetings also apply to virtual ones. However, the new norm we find ourselves in has also made us more aware of individual people’s needs. Factors to consider include childcare issues, time of meeting and learning to be OK with interruptions. Not everyone on your team may have a quiet or private place to take a meeting. I think we are all getting used to kids, cats, dogs and family members unexpectedly joining meetings.
CI: Any other tips for entrepreneurs who want to be more inclusive?
ML: Entrepreneurs need to know that the business case for diversity and inclusion has never been stronger. Organizations with inclusive cultures are more innovative, are more agile, have better business outcomes, are more likely to be high performing and are more likely to meet or exceed financial targets. Companies that want to be more inclusive can start by using online resources like WorkWider. I created the platform as a way to promote more diversity, inclusion and equity across all industries. Entrepreneurs would be best served by discovering our vast pool of top talent across a wider range of groups like BIPOC candidates, veterans, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, neuro-differences, women and people over 50.
CI: Thanks for sharing your expertise with our readers, Michele. Almost everything you recommend can be implemented immediately, which is always a plus. We appreciate your time, and your efforts around D&I.
ML: My pleasure.