To foster diversity, equity and inclusion, build a culture of belonging

It is one thing for companies to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion but another to truly put those words into practice and build an organization where people can come together and work collaboratively, feeling that everybody is treated equitably and fairly, regardless of their background.

Companies must ensure they have different perspectives around the table. This means going to new places to find talent from diverse backgrounds—if a business just recruits from a small base, it’s missing a lot of underrepresented talent. Technology companies need to actively work to overcome the systemic barriers that prevent people from diverse backgrounds from enjoying the opportunity to work in what is a rich economy of innovation. It also requires conviction within a business to divert resources and encourage employees to spend their time doing these things.

Companies should prioritize building a culture that ensures people feel they can be their authentic selves, have a connection to that purpose, and believe their voices are valued. Creating this sense of purpose leads into the practical elements of inclusion that all companies should implement—for example, making sure that pay and promotion practices are fair, recruiting practices are free of bias, and the company is reducing microaggressions in the workplace. The inevitable result should be that people from different backgrounds feel a much stronger long-term connection to the company, which improves employee retention and productivity.

Continuously fostering a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion requires participation from leadership. If company founders or CEOs take the lead on diversity and inclusion and speak in an authentic voice about why it is important to the company’s collective success and identity, they can move not just resources but also hearts and minds. Leaders also need to clearly articulate the business imperative, which helps align those people who may not necessarily see the moral imperative as clearly as others.

Leaders should continuously take the pulse of their companies to ensure people from different backgrounds are feeling that sense of belonging. If some groups say their voices are less valued, this can be addressed head-on through the formation of small, bottom-up organizations within the company for people with shared experiences to collaborate, communicate, build communities, and advocate for their needs. Each employee has experience they can use to advise how companies should be creating the diverse and inclusive culture we are talking about.

Companies can demonstrate their commitment to an inclusive culture by speaking out on the wider societal issues that are aligned to their core values, purpose, and mission. Articulating those concerns will show employees that the company genuinely believes in what it says about diversity, equity and inclusion.