HIRING PEOPLE who reflect the community at large is essential to building a diverse organization. It’s also just a start. Retaining a diverse workforce requires companies to foster an equitable, inclusive environment that openly promotes everyone’s needs, and provides mentoring, coaching, and other forms of ongoing support.
Indeed, failure to nurture an inclusive workplace culture is the biggest reason organizations struggle to realize their diverse employment ambitions, according to Patricia Pope, CEO and chief creative officer at Pope Consulting, an advisory firm headquartered in Cincinnati that helps organizations create inclusive cultures.
“Affirmative action became a thing over 50 years ago, and most organizations that we talk with today will say they’re still trying to get the numbers right, and they’re really struggling to get representation at the top,” she says. “What that really speaks to is the revolving door, which says it’s the culture [that’s to blame].”
Pope encourages companies to develop an internal network of “change agents” who promote inclusion throughout the daily course of business. When a co-worker is exhibiting inappropriate behavior, being called out by a change agent––a peer, rather than a superior––can send a powerful message. To fulfill this role, Pope says, change agents require advanced training that covers in-depth self-awareness, team-building, and skill development, with a focus on improving working relationships. In her model, change agents apply what they’ve learned for a period of 18 months, and “what they learn and practice for 18 months becomes a way of life.”
One of the ways in which Corey Kirkendoll cultivates inclusion is by having all new recruits conduct a DiSC assessment, a professional development exercise developed by educational materials publisher Wiley that’s designed to examine people’s behavioral traits.