4 Lessons Learned in Building a Successful Diversity & Inclusion Initiative

The ongoing challenges of addressing systemic inequalities in the workforce, combined with our move to a more digital world over the last year, have highlighted the importance of reinforcing a strong culture of diversity and inclusion in an organization. Closed systems struggle to adapt to change. Our world is changing fast, and we need a diverse team to positively address the challenges that await us. Further, if we are to achieve racial equity, we must proactively build diversity and inclusion into our thoughts and processes. It won’t happen otherwise. It’s an easy decision because it’s the right thing to do. The challenge is actually doing it right.

With daily interactions confined to video meetings, chats, and phone calls, it is crucial to create a workplace environment where employees feel like their voices are being heard and they belong. Cultivating an inclusive environment is not a static box to be checked. Rather, it requires a dynamic focus across all key stakeholders. Building diversity requires us to search for different, better avenues of engagement, challenging us to broaden our horizons and actively seek people that might not otherwise know opportunities exist here. Diversity also goes well beyond observable differences. Diversity is about all differences, and inclusiveness is about leveraging those differences. Research has shown that these differing perspectives lead to greater organizational success in terms of profitability, market share, and innovation.

During our 2020 CPE webinar series, we highlighted the importance of Building a Culture of Inclusion & Diversity, and have committed to a vision of diversity and inclusiveness via several initiatives targeted at carrying out this vision. Our path at Holtzman continues to evolve in this more remote world, but we have learned some valuable lessons along the way.

Here are some ways to effectively build a successful diversity and inclusion initiative that incorporates all aspects of your organization.

Leadership –

To develop an initiative for diversity and inclusion, we must first identify a clear vision of what an inclusive and diverse workplace means to your organization. Creating a top-level focus and strategy at the leadership team level sets the foundation of commitment for the initiative and allows you to set specific goals for the entire organization.

We began by identifying who we are today in terms of diversity and what we do to foster inclusion.  Then we asked ourselves who we would like to be in the future for our employees and our clients. Embedding diversity and inclusion efforts in firm management and having the leadership team set the stage for behavioral standards served as an example of our commitment to impact change.

The Team –

Educating and involving your internal team in executing an initiative is paramount to success. Our first step was to establish a Diversity Team comprised of volunteers across departments and levels. This leverages different perspectives within our team and affirms to all our commitment to change.

Additionally, we revisited our core values to ensure consistency with our diversity initiative efforts. The fact that our current values supported our initiative instilled a sense of pride and accountability across our firm.

  • For example, one of our key core values focuses on the importance of respect. Through the development of employee resource groups, such as our Women’s Initiative, we provide a space for our employee network to come together to feel a sense of belonging and support while also educating each other on our differences.
  • Another core value is giving back. As a firm, we highlight the importance of giving back by committing our support to non-profit and minority-owned businesses. We also participate in a firm-wide service day each year, which instills a sense of teamwork and commitment to the effort.
  • However, we also recognize that everyone is unique and would like to give back to their community in diverse ways. Therefore, we recently expanded our PTO policy to include an extra day for activism or volunteerism with an organization of their choice.
  • Additionally, we understand the impact of our individual voices of democracy and provide paid time for employees to cast their vote in federal and local elections.

We have always strived to have a learning mindset. That core value drove us to enhance our internal training regarding diversity. We want to ensure everyone in the firm understands our commitment to equity.

Future Employees –

While crafting your view of who you want to be as an organization, it is important to keep in mind your future employees as they are crucial in molding that vision. At Holtzman, one of our strategic goals is ensuring we are inclusive in our talent pool. When we took a hard look at our past processes, it was obvious we were not doing enough to search out great, diverse candidates. That needed to change. As part of our diversity initiative, we have expanded our recruiting efforts to attend career fairs, partner with affinity groups, speak in classes, and meet students from a diverse representation of universities, specifically HBCU’s. These are seed-planting steps. We know we need to establish credibility with new recruiting contacts and students, earning their trust. It is our goal to tend those seeds, hoping to grow excellent avenues of talent that will join our increasingly diverse team. This forward-looking vision for our future Holtzman team excites us all and supports increased employee productivity, engagement, and retention.

Customers –

Research demonstrates that diverse organizations are more innovative and more successful at decision-making, leading to a better customer experience and long-term relationships. For a deeper dive into this research, watch our webinar. Holtzman’s mission is to empower our team to provide exceptional service to clients in every phase of their growth. Plus, our customers are changing, and we need to change with them. By creating an environment that empowers and encourages our team to leverage our differences, we can achieve better solutions for our clients. We have made an intentional and focused effort on our commitment to diversity and inclusion to promote our mission and values.

Bringing It All Together

Considering your leadership, your team, your future employees, and your customers in your inclusion and diversity efforts is vital in helping you learn to leverage each other’s differences, leading to a more successful organization. As we at Holtzman continue to execute our vision for diversity and inclusion, we have set measurable goals and frequent check-ins on those goals, striving to put our best foot forward each day in driving change in our firm and our industry. It won’t happen overnight, but we have to think about it every day, effecting change as we go. Keep an eye out for upcoming stories from our team related to our ongoing diversity and inclusion commitment.

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