Three tips for building diverse teams:

  • Top diversity executives from WW, LinkedIn and the Seattle Seahawks count empathy-led, self-probing leadership as key to building inclusive teams.
  • Equipping managers with concrete skills, such as identifying bias, is also critical to a DEI strategy.
  • And creating safe spaces that encourage “courageous conversations” makes employees feel valued and heard, which contributes to worker retention.

The Black Lives Matter movement, racial injustice and the pandemic have thrust systemic inequities into the national spotlight, nudging a newfound urgency in the business community to confront the chronic lack of diversity in the workplace, from new hires to the C-suite.

Indeed, 64% of entry-level positions are held by white workers, according to HR consultancy Mercer, while Black professionals can claim just 3.2% of the senior leadership roles at large companies, despite accounting for more than 12% of the U.S. population, LinkedIn research revealed.

But signs of palpable change are emerging. Businesses are starting to rethink recruiting practices with an eye toward equity, just as Fortune 500 companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks move to tie executive bonuses to meeting diversity goals.

Here, diversity leads from WW (formerly Weight Watchers), LinkedIn and the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks share tactical, practical and empathy-led tips to building inclusive teams, from integrating diversity initiatives throughout the employee lifecycle to looking inward as a leader, to examine “what you are doing to create safe spaces.”

 Headshot of Monika Pierce, head of inclusion and diversity, WW.
Monika Pierce, head of inclusion and diversity, WW. — WW

WW head of inclusion and diversity Monika Pierce: Nix biased language, like swapping ‘maternity leave’ for ‘parental leave’

Numerous studies have proven that the most successful teams are also diverse teams — those that find the right person for the position by expanding who they connect with and where they source their candidates.

This means stepping out of the box and rethinking your standard talent pipeline such as new and different schools and recruiting partners, or revisiting job descriptions and desired candidate profiles for exclusive or overtly biased language.

Examples of this [questionable] language could be overtly biased or even unsuspecting, such as, but not limited to, saying you offer ‘maternity leave, versus ‘parental leave’; listing ‘native English speaker’ as opposed to ‘fluent in…’; or asking for excessive experience or education beyond the true requirement for entry-level positions.

It’s also important to remember that diversity means not only finding talent that can bring a diverse background and experience, but also perspective, skill set and education.

[More here on building diverse teams.]

 Headshot of LinkedIn's Rosanna Durruthy.
Rosanna Durruthy, chief diversity officer, LinkedIn. — LinkedIn

LinkedIn chief diversity officer Rosanna Durruthy: Foster inclusivity throughout the employee lifecycle

When people from diverse backgrounds and cultures work together, we all succeed. Companies must evolve not only the way they hire but also ensure they’re retaining and promoting employees by building programs centered on a culture of belonging across the employee lifecycle. A key piece of this is up-leveling the people managers within your organization to ensure they are equipped with skills to be inclusive leaders, to understand and confront bias, and to actively create a culture of belonging and inclusivity.

At LinkedIn, we’ve been doubling down on our efforts to develop best-in-class people managers by defining what inclusive leadership looks like for every manager and by creating live, virtual courses to continue ongoing learning opportunities.

[Read here on the DEI terms every business should know.]

 Karen Wilkins-Mickey, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, Seattle Seahawks.
Karen Wilkins-Mickey, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, Seattle Seahawks. — Seattle Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion Karen Wilkins-Mickey: Create truly ‘safe spaces’ as a leader by looking within

It is important when cultivating a diverse team to make sure to create safe spaces where everyone can feel a sense of belonging and has the opportunity to engage in courageous conversations. Without a sense of safety to bring your true authentic and best self to work, you can’t truly thrive in your surroundings.

In my opinion, relationships that go beyond the surface offer the opportunity to amplify the richness of the diversity of your team. Everyone wants to belong and everyone wants to feel valued and appreciated. So, knowing what drives your employees will help to encourage, grow and nurture your team and the diversity that lies within, resulting in high performance, value and retention and a place where people can see themselves grow to and through, versus just growing and leaving. Retention is the key.

Creating a safe space is easier said than done because first you have to look within and think about what you are doing to create safety as a leader. Do you give space and grace to your team when outside factors could be contributing to their work performance? Do you have open dialogue with your team? Do you focus first on person or first on the project they are doing? Do you give space to your team when things may be happening in their life, outside of work? Finally, do you practice care and empathy? Practice these tips with intention and put them to action, thoughtfully. Make the necessary shifts that will create a workplace for all.

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Published April 20, 2021