There’s been a tremendous amount of discussion recently regarding the need to accelerate diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs within companies.

And while there’s been extensive research conducted which points to the positive impact that diversity has on corporate innovation and business performance, there’s a general consensus among HMG Strategy’s Regional Advisory Board members that much more needs to be done by companies of various sizes and across industries.

“Many of the D&I programs have well-intentioned goals,” says Chandy Ghosh, Chief Operating Officer & GM for Emergency and 911 Services at Inteliquent. “However, when it comes to recruiting for positions, the bar is set at the ‘privileged’ high education and experience level. The point is to provide opportunities to those who have historically been left out due to circumstances like poverty. The goal should be to provide opportunities to youth in affected under-privileged communities by offering internships and on-the-job-training to help them become successful.”

Ghosh is an Advisory Board member for HMG Strategy’s 2020 HMG Live! Denver CIO Executives Leadership Summit on September 3.

Meanwhile, once a D&I candidate has been recruited at any level, “there is insufficient support in providing a voice for that person,” says Ghosh. “Studies have shown that a minimum of 3 D&I resources can create a voice that will be heard.” A critical aspect is to assign the hired candidate a mentor to help integrate into this `privileged’ world.

A good starting point for technology and business executives to contribute to D&I programs is by examining the diversity of their own personal and professional networks. “As a leader, I recommend asking yourself how diverse your professional network is,” says Margot Sharapova, CIO at Incitec Pivot Ltd. who is also an Advisory Board member for the Denver CIO Summit.

“If your LinkedIn contact list tends to be the same as looking in the mirror, consider how can you focus your networking to improve the situation. Some starting places include community colleges, the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers and Women in Technology (WITI). Since we’re often focused on more experienced technical talent, ask yourself how you can help build the pipeline, working with STEM-focused high schools and continuing technical education programs with non-traditional students. These academic organizations need our help to connect into the business community and would love their students to shadow for a day or have an internship in our businesses,” Sharapova adds.

To help create greater stickiness with D&I programs, Ghosh recommends that corporate leaders create visibility to all employees. This includes reporting at every level of the organization to illustrate the percentage of D&I employees in the ranks as well as measuring the goals and outcomes achieved for D&I hiring on a quarterly basis.

In addition, companies can also create incentives for employees who refer D&I recruits who accept positions.

There should also be greater awareness building with existing employees, advises Sharapova. “Otherwise, there’s a backlash where employees do not feel that the diverse hires or promotions are deserved. Part of awareness building is helping folks understand the power of diverse experiences and what does an inclusive environment look like and feel like to solve our most complex problems,” added Sharapova.

Guidance for Goal Setting

Many companies set targets for their diversity programs. To this end, Ghosh recommends outlining hiring goals that reflect the diversity of the company’s customer base and society make-up.

Organizational leaders should also take care in considering which metrics are applied as they will influence both executives and employees.

“Ultimately, metrics drive behaviors in most corporate environments,” says Sharapova. “Just like with any metric, you can have unintended consequences. So, care needs to be taken on which metric to use and what the target is.”

To further foster D&I programs, it’s extremely helpful to have diverse role models on the executive leadership team who can help attract D&I candidates, says Ghosh. For larger organizations, it’s valuable to have a Chief D&I Officer in place who can help to continually promote the company’s D&I efforts and move the program forward.

Meanwhile, companies that are committed to Diversity and Inclusion can and should be vocal on social media to speak out against incidences of social injustice “and simply doing the right thing,” recommends Ghosh.

Companies need to earn the trust of underprivileged communities by investing in programs and activities to uplift them, or “put your money where your mouth is,” says Ghosh. This will result in attracting more candidates.

It’s also important for leaders to reinforce diversity and inclusion through their own actions.

“Some years back, my leadership was trying to stabilize a program in crisis,” notes Sharapova. “The leader on point had to leave at 5 p.m. to pick up his children from daycare. The remaining leadership complained that they were staying late, and they were just there to help him.

I reminded folks that all of us had partners that did not work outside the home, except for him. Sometimes, it’s about speaking up and hopefully giving others the safety to express alternative points of view. Also, as an experienced executive, how many times have I said, `This isn’t my first rodeo’ or `Been there, done that?’ I continue to work on challenging my initial impressions and encourage those around me to do the same.”

To learn more about HMG Strategy’s 2020 HMG Live! Denver CIO Digital Summit, click here.

To discover how other CIOs and technology executives are approaching Diversity & Inclusion issues, register for our 2020 HMG Live! San Francisco CIO Executive Leadership Summit on July 23.

To view additional thought leadership on diversity, inclusion and other topics that are top-of-mind for CIOs and technology executives, visit HMG Strategy’s Digital Resource Center here.