By Dawn Fitch-Mitchell

 Without Humanity, Belonging and Process, sustainability of a corporation is questionable


Standards of Diversity and Inclusion should be immersed into the business’ core values, not a basic program checkmark.   Humanity and Belonging are now measurements with value.  If they are not fused into your business strategy, your organization you will be fighting an uphill battle to gain respect of future talent and leaders.  Millennials and minorities are committing to your brand and choosing employment opportunities based on your organization’s visibility of inclusion actions and acceptance of diversity beyond race.

Developing a diversity and inclusion strategy requires research and commitment.  Taking a step back to really understand and analyze the data and employee feedback of your organization is vital.  It’s the only way to develop an environment that your people can feel proud of and spread the word about being part of a truly empathetic and collaborative environment.

However, for true sustainability, to be attractive to all flavors of talent, your program must be on some next level.   Think about it, most work days are longer, colleagues get more time than family and who doesn’t want job security or to feel wanted by the team.  Therefore, we need to frame Diversity and Inclusion efforts around Humanity and Belonging. According to a  Gallup research poll  34% of U.S. employees were engaged, along with 16.5% who were “actively disengaged” — a ratio of two engaged workers for every actively disengaged one.  Is less than 50% engagement really a CEO’s goal?

Knowing that each person experiences work life differently and have a need to be a part of social groups, we should strive to provide the center need in Maslow’s hierarchy, a sense of belonging.  According to Maslow, humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance among their social groups, regardless whether these groups are larger or small.  For example, some large social groups may include clubs, co-workers, religious groups, professional organization and sports teams.

Being treated with respect and empathy, which supports humanity and belonging is not distinctive of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, age, abilities or sexual orientation.   Feeling like we belong is just a humanity trait.  If we can support workers striving to belong, then they are likely to be dedicated, motivated, loyal and more creative.  Strategies implemented with this shift of focus can increase the organizational ratios of diversity of people and diversity of thought.

Standards of Diversity & Inclusion varies.  Organizations can be diverse (at the basic definition) and weak on inclusion efforts.   Ask yourself, does your organization allow room for your talent to be true to themselves, honest open and free of judgement?  If not, then their work experience is like a relationship built on lies; eventually something is revealed that breaks trust causing friction.  This can lead to feeling left out or like you don’t belong.

Imagine walking on eggshells every day.  The anxiety of hiding parts of ourselves just to fit in. Take me for example and coming from the fashion industry, I used to constantly question if I would be judged wearing a Doc Martin, urban style shoe vs. a “proper heel” such as my Louboutin shoe.   Now as a business owner or organizational leader, imagine 75% of your employee population feeling this way.  Can you truly state that this type of organization has the formula for sustainability?

Four best practices that I’ve tested and continue to evolve, help turn around the ratio and retention of minorities including women in advertising.  This approach is driven by the goal of fusing humanity and sense of belonging into business culture

  1. Identify Gaps in your Processes
  2. Train and Develop you Teams
  3. Set Targeted Initiatives and Goals
  4. Communicate Strategically and Effectively

Identify your gaps. Analyze your company’s historic information by tracking a few years of pre, during and post processes to identify process gaps.  Don’t be afraid to spend few bucks on external experts.  Many times, an outside resource can get team members to discuss delicate topics of concern and help you analyze sensitive employee issues including, gender equality, minority hiring and retention, opportunities for growth and development, future leadership, communication and transparency.  After filling the gaps, don’t forget to spread the word and share best practices with like organizations.

Training and Development.  Self-diagnosis, career plans and digital training centers are valuable resources that should be promoted for use and easily accessible.  Having idle talent is like throwing money out the window, so provide those unicorns with learning platforms to occupy downtime by develop new talents or to enhance mediocre skills.  Sessions can include planning, social behavior, using technology and communicating in tough situations.  Make sure you provide a platform your team’s voices to be heard; try surveys such as Edge and Employee Engagement, connectivity apps or a good ‘ole fashion suggestion box.  Providing a safe environment for employees to share honest, unfiltered opinions is one of the most valuable investments an organization can make.

Set Targeted Initiatives and Goals.  Initiatives are great, but goals tied to your initiatives is better.  Organizations have been known to put actionable efforts in place and the hype is great; a campaign is launched, people are excited, hashtags are created, social media is pushed and then; the results are non-existant.

I call those good, but weak efforts. Launching initiatives with accountability measures and goals, such as programs I have supported or launched; Breaking Bias, Diversity and Creativity Partners and No Respect 4 Status Quo. Requiring mandatory Unconscious Bias Training for all levels of employees, developing measurements and targets and communication from the top down, sends a specific message that employees will pay attention to.  I know it can sound easy on paper and you may experience change the first few years; that’s when I suggest corporations implement the final strategic approach of hitting employees in the pocket by linking measurements to performance evaluations.

Communicate Strategically and Effectively.  Employees want leadership to share, be transparent and provide information and feedback.  The key to communication is listening first.  Listening is a constant effort that leads to transparency and happier, dedicated employees.   I’ve learned that not only do I want my voice heard and appreciate a pat on the back, so does a talented team member.  They want to know what’s happening internally- the good and the bad.  Try activating communication strategies for training platforms, social platforms, global event participation, CEO videos or newsletters, townhalls and individual performance reviews.

Positive results will depend on your organization following this three-pillar approach of: 1. Delivering on process change 2. Displaying actions of Humanity and Belonging continuously 3.  Engaging Leadership which includes your dedicated Diversity professional in a strong, communication strategy.  Then your people will feel a part of change, believe in your brand and influence other talent to join and stay a while.

Dawn Fitch-Mitchell| Director of Diversity |  DDB Worldwide | (212) 415-2087  | |