More and more businesses recognize the importance of building diversity, equity, and inclusion into their company models, decisions, and practices. This is not some fad or trend of the times. This is real systemic change that is taking root and shifting perspectives and cultural norms in an exciting and thought-provoking way. One of the most significant areas that equity is being explored is in the workplace. Equal employment opportunity is the concept that everyone in the workplace should receive fair and equitable treatment when they are being considered for a position and in employment decisions. This treatment spans the cycle of employment processes and practices from hiring, promotion, compensation, and termination at all levels company-wide.
Your company may have made the commitment to equal opportunity and advancement, and that is a great first step! But an equal opportunity statement is only words on paper and does not always guarantee equal treatment in hiring and employment practices. Equal employment opportunity can be disguised and pushed under the rug if there is no action taken to enact change across the organization. Without taking the action, you will continue to attract the same type of applicants for jobs.
Here are some actionable steps you can take to explore, be proactive and encourage equal employment opportunity in your organization.
One of the best ways to begin and keep the momentum going is to always be learning. Get into the conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion through masterminds, courses, and training. Look for organizations to collaborate with and share in this important conversation. Education and awareness which come from doing your research are essential to show genuine support and care for diversity, equity, and inclusion. One of the most important educational elements of research is bias awareness. Doing research also means researching your company and your employees to get to know them, their backgrounds, and motivations. Conducting company surveys is a great tool that can help you gather much data and insights. The Implicit Association Test is a good example of a tool that has been used to discover potential prejudices that lurk beneath your awareness.
Reflect on the current state of your organization. Learn about your people, who you have working for you now, where there may be gaps. It is critical to have leadership buy-in and to ensure that it is a part of the leadership agenda to ensure there is equal employment opportunity. It starts with setting the right tone at the top and then evaluating the processes to ensure that it happens — training around biases, diverse interview panels, and slates. It is also helpful to look back to previous hiring decisions and processes and conduct internal assessments on those specific practices and a broader diversity impact analysis for other company programs. Conduct an audit on selection criteria to ensure that you do not disproportionately exclude protected groups unless the criteria are valid predictors of successful job performance and meet the employer’s business needs. Additionally, assess whether employment decisions are based on objective criteria rather than stereotypes or biases.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion practices must be reflected upon regularly and revised as needed. Previous hiring and promotion practices may need to be revised along with other strategies that can be tweaked as more data is gathered. Monitor compensation and evaluation practices for patterns of potential discrimination and ensure that performance appraisals are based on job performance and are accurate across evaluators and roles. If you want to attract more diversity to your teams and within your organization, you should revise your hiring process and go beyond what you had previously. Look for new networks, community groups, and diversity affinity job boards to advertise to more a diverse candidate pool.
Education is the key. You need to educate your team on the role they play in creating a workforce that is discrimination-free. The most effective way to do that is through interactive online training and workplace compliance courses. Create policies in accordance with the EEO standards, help employees understand their responsibility, build employee resource groups or a safe space for raising complaints of discrimination, and deploy refresher training at fixed intervals to ensure the knowledge is applied. Often it is front-line, mid-line to senior managers that can help to minimize workplace discrimination incidents. Thus, they should be trained extensively on workplace discrimination policies and procedures, so they can effectively provide support to those impacted.
What milestones have you reached? What changes have you observed? Keep track of metrics and your success and make sure you recognize your wins! Recognize and celebrate leaders who are building more inclusive teams, recognize employees that are leading change when it comes to creating a more inclusive culture! This can help encourage continued company and industry buy-in. Not only is this motivating for your company internally, but it is also an opportunity to show others externally that you are committed, and you are making a difference. Every accomplishment is a stepping-stone to build on to create the change you can be proud of. As more organizations stand up for and promote equal employment opportunity, this creates a shift toward employing a more diverse workforce and brings many positive implications for departments, teams, and overall organizational creativity and productivity.