By Dawn Fitch-Mitchell

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


Diversity and Inclusion efforts even at the basic standard should be immersed into the business’s core values, not just be a basic program check mark.   Humanity and Belonging are actions of respect are now measurements with value.  If they are not fused into your business strategy, your organization will be fighting an uphill battle to gain the 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 will spread the word about being part of a truly empathetic and collaborative environment.

For true sustainability to be attractive to all flavors of talent, however, your program must be on some next level.   Think about it, most work days are long, colleagues get more time than family, and who doesn’t want job security or to feel wanted by the team.  Therefore, a company should frame Diversity and Inclusion efforts around the scopes of 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 has 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 large or small.  For example, some large social groups may include clubs, coworkers, religious groups, professional organizations and sports teams.

Being treated with respect and empathy, supports humanity and belonging and is not distinctive of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, age, abilities or sexual orientation. Feeling like we belong is just a trait of humanity.  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 organizational Diversity and Inclusion vary by level, type and degree of program efforts. Organizations can be remarkably 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 judgment?  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 one doesn’t belong.

Imagine walking on eggshells every day, and the anxiety of hiding parts of ourselves just to fit in.  Take me, for example.  Coming from the fashion industry, I used to constantly question if I would be judged wearing a Doc Martin urban style shoe instead of 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 that of 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 Company Processes
  2. Train and Develop Your Teams
  3. Set Targeted Initiatives and Goals
  4. Communicate Strategically and Effectively

Identify Gaps in Company Processes. Analyze your company’s historic information by tracking for a specified period and documenting pre-existing programs, current efforts and post-processes.  Don’t be afraid to spend a 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.  Valuable resources to allow employees to perform self-diagnosis, career planning, and digital training centers should be promoted to teams 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, to 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 for your team’s voices to be heard; try surveys such as Edge and Employee Engagement, connectivity apps or a good ole fashioned 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 are 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 nonexistent

I call those good, but weak efforts.  Launching initiatives with accountability measures and goals, such as programs I have supported or launched include Breaking Bias, Diversity and Creativity Partners and No Respect 4 Status Quo. Success has proven greater when top leadership added a mandatory clauses to Unconscious Bias Training which included,  all levels of employees were required to participate,  measurements and targets were developed and enforced, and communication was driven from the top down.  This approach sends a specific message that inspired employees to pay attention and respond.  I am aware this approach can sound easy on paper and you may not experience change the first few years. If  the needle of change doesn’t appear to move after a few years of these efforts, 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: 1. Delivering on process change, 2. Displaying actions of Humanity and Belonging in your diversity programs continuously, and 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  | |