DEI Initiatives are only as good as the changes they drive.
Great DEI initiatives have a measurable and sustainable impact on employee retention, engagement, satisfaction, productivity, and growth as well as the revenue, profits, product output, and other critical business objectives that those happy, productive employees drive.
The key to great, impactful diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) initiatives is to fill it with actionable, measurable activities each with a budget, timeline, and priority.
Welcome back to this multi-part series sharing ideas for actionable, measurable actions to fuel impactful DEI initiatives.
In part 1 of this series, we dove into actionable ideas for driving DEIB in Talent Attraction and Talent Acquisition. In part 2, we explored ideas for employee engagement and culture. In part 3, we walked through actionable ideas for equitable and inclusive pay and compensation. In part 4 we explored actionable ideas for talent management & career progression.
In this part (part 5), we will explore actions to drive DEIB in…
Building a future workforce
The goal of building a future workforce is to fix a lack of diversity of roles or disciplines at the source by investing in the future generations feeding your future candidate pools and employees.
This could be a great priority for your organization if after all the efforts to increase the candidate pool, there just isn’t a strong representation of one or more demographics for specific positions or roles. Common signs that there may be a problem are lack of diversity in entry level positions or lack of diversity in the candidate pool itself (either those applying or those that you are targeting). Or perhaps you are finding strong competition to employ specific demographics (which is an indication that everyone is fighting over the very few to met diversity goals).
For example: If you have engaged a wide range of sources, removed as many barriers as possible, have strong, inclusive practices, and you still see a complete lack of one or more demographics, it could be that there really isn’t enough representation of that demographic within the discipline or location.
When building a future workforce, there are multiple areas to consider. Here are a few actionable DEIB ideas for each:
Internships / Apprenticeships
“Must have experience.” It’s a common requirement for a wide range of positions in a wide range of industries, including entry level. For professionals transitioning into roles for the first time from academic, military, or other disciplines, this barrier catches them in a chicken-egg problem (they can’t get the experience without the job and they can’t get the job without the experience). This is where internships (short engagements where people can experience and practice a new job) and apprenticeships (longer term engagements where individuals get immersive on-the-job training that transition into a full-time position) come in. Internships and apprenticeships allow the next generation of professionals to break into their disciplines and get the experience they need for their first jobs. Using these internships and/or apprenticeships to drive diversity by making them as accessible and equitable as possible, will ensure that those next generations of employees have strong demographic representation. If your organization has or is planning to have internships and/or apprenticeship programs, consider prioritizing activities to increase diversity, inclusion, and equity for those programs. For example:
Establish an inclusive application process for the internship program (using the same techniques as building an inclusive hiring program). Establish clear requirements devoid of unnecessary barriers or preferences, communicate the programs using a range of outlets and formats to a wide range of sources, and build relationships with a range of potential candidate pools including those who cater to the under-represented. Include the ‘what’, ‘why this is valuable’, and ‘what happens next’ in the communication to ensure equity in understanding the true value of the opportunity.
Provide competitive pay for your interns. Internships have traditionally been seen as an extension of the learning process so are sometimes unpaid or under-paid. However, this makes these critical opportunities difficult, if not impossible, for those with financial obligations that require income (such as lower socioeconomic classes, those working off academic debt, and those with dependents). This challenge impacts some demographics more than others. To ensure true equity in opportunity, pay interns competitively so that a wider range of people can afford to partake in these critical opportunities.
Engaging future generations
Before becoming an employee in a discipline or role, before joining the candidate pool, before taking the academic and/or experience steps necessary to reach for a discipline, our future workforce needs to know about the profession and want to pursue it. Children who are unaware of professions as they take steps in their own path or who are unaware of what steps to take, will not become part of that profession’s future workforce. Unfortunately, this often means that missing demographics remain missing as knowledge of the profession is not passed to the future generations. If the missing demographics for your required professions is generational, consider actions to introduce future generations to those professions. For example:
Participate in community and/or school career days. Engage with local schools and communities to educate children on the possibilities of the professions you employ. Cover the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ for pursuing those professions. Also cover basic information such as salary ranges, lifestyle, and future opportunities so children and their families have a greater understanding of the true and personal benefits of their future professions.
Open your ‘doors’ to the community. As with many things in life, if possible, ‘showing’ can be so much more powerful than ‘telling’. Invite the community to visit your facilities and/or offices. Engage them with insightful and appropriate activities so they can experience first-hand what it is to do what your organization does. Allow for families to ask questions, explore options, and get to know the people behind the brands so when the next generation thinks about where they want to work, your brand is top of mind.
Even if individuals have every potential, desire, and ability to become the professional that you want to employ, it still could be out of reach. For those professions that require education through academics, vocational, or specific training programs, the cost of that education could make the profession out of reach. This is especially impactful to lower socioeconomic classes which effects certain demographics over others. For those who can’t afford the education, removing the financial barrier is the difference between a dream and a future employee. If your organization has the funding to invest in the future workforce, consider actions around increasing diversity and accessibility through scholarships. For example:
Introduce partial or full scholarships that make a true financial difference. Partner with specific educational institutions that feed your professions. Understand what is require to make a true financial impact for students – including cost of that education, available financial aid, potential financial partners in providing scholarships, etc. Design a scholarship program that provides enough financial help that it removes the barrier for those educations. For example, providing a $5,000 scholarship to a $30,000/year education will not increase accessibility for those with financial barriers. Providing a $5,000 scholarship to a $10,000 certification program where the educational institution provides $5,000 in grants to those who financially qualify, will remove the barrier.
Use a highly accessible and well communicated application process. Communicate the scholarship to those that would benefit, including what is available, for what purpose, and through what means. Lay out the requirements and steps to apply for the scholarship. Make the application process as accessible as possible so that those, for example, who don’t have easy access to technology, and those who are only available during non-business hours, are able to apply to the programs. Include a method for those applying to ask questions and/or seek help, as they may not have gone through an application process before.
And there’s more…
If your organization requires more diversity at higher ranking or higher demand positions, consider using fellowship programs.
And, if your organization is looking to establish deeper ties with the community and more closely and actively cultivate future talent, consider camp and education programs.
And, if your organization wants to increase the chances that those who are in educational or experience programs successfully complete those programs and join your organization, consider mentor/champion programs.
And this is only the beginning. There are actionable steps to increase DEI in talent engagement and talent acquisition, Employee Engagement and Culture, pay & compensation, talent management & career progression, and philanthropy. All of which can greatly impact the health of your organization and workforce – but those are topics for other blogs.
You can do it, we can help
Building a DEI initiative full of actionable, measurable content takes a bit more work, but has so much more return than just good intentions and some awareness training. It is the difference between wishing things would change and driving change. You can do it, we can help.
If you need help getting started or you need a guide to help identify all that potential opportunity so you can start populating an actionable DEI plan, we’ve got you covered. We, at career.place, offer everything from friendly advice to a deep dive DEI strategy workshop to explore all the exciting corners of what’s possible. Contact us today. We’d love to hear from you.