How Do You Make Sure Your Culture Truly Values Diversity?

Diversity is such a hot topic right now, as has been for some time. Although its roots run much deeper than just in HR, I believe we can still contribute to helping solve, or lessen, some of the impact.

I recently heard about a company that was placing strong emphasis on increasing diversity among its new hires. Great, right? However, the retention of these new diverse employees was very poor. Why was this happening, you might ask? Well, if I were to speculate, I would guess that the organizational culture wasn’t quite up to speed with these new values of diversity. This most definitely doesn’t mean the organization should stop these efforts, but it does suggest the importance of authenticity. If you go out to market with a message that is mostly aspirational and your culture hasn’t caught up to it yet, your new hires might enter into some form of culture shock and choose to “opt-out” of your organization entirely. As my colleague, Tony Coe, discussed in his blog, “Changing Your Corporate Culture in 4 Steps,” it’s important to have these aspirational components grounded in who you are, not just who you want to be.

So how does an organization fix this? The solution will be different for each corporate culture, and I certainly don’t claim to have all of the answers. But I believe HR can make contributions and progress toward a broader culture of valuing diversity.

We know from IBM’s own model that successful culture change should include communication of the vision, behavior modification, recognition and reward, and sharing success stories. So, if I can make a suggestion, let’s keep talking about diversity.  We are often scared to speak frankly about it because diversity such a sensitive topic, but there’s value in these conversations—especially if you keep an open mind and are willing to listen, learn and change from it.

We also know that when new behaviors and thought processes are demonstrated at the highest levels, it trickles down and makes an impact on the organization as a whole (hint: ensure your leadership team is diverse). Communicate this value, and recognize and reward the people who demonstrate these behaviors.

Track the organization’s progress to success. Pinterest  announced in July 2015 that in its effort to increase diversity in the technology industry, they are publicly sharing their goals to hold themselves accountable. Although not every organization would be willing to go public with this information, I find it very honorable and inspiring.

What else can organizations do to help create a culture that values diversity? Assign new hire diversity sponsors to help with inclusion? Provide hiring managers with diversity training? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.