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8 Ways Companies Are Becoming More Inclusive This Year

Is your organization striving to create a more inclusive work culture? If so, you’re not alone. Many HR and business leaders are committed to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). But some strategies are more successful than others. What methods are actually moving the meter these days?

To understand what works in the real world, we asked eight business executives to tell us about effective DEI changes they’ve implemented during the past year. Their collective answers read like a best practices playbook:

  • Improve Meeting Policies to Support Wellbeing
  • Review and Revise Job Offers
  • Establish Employee Resource Groups
  • Share Diverse Employee Experiences
  • Shift Pay Structure to Base Salary and Bonus
  • Introduce Mental Health First-Aid Support
  • Prioritize Leadership Paths for Women
  • Intentionally Redesign Teams for Diversity

For details about these ideas, read the responses below…

How to Become More Inclusive: 8 Examples

1. Improve Meeting Policies to Support Wellbeing

As part of our commitment to workforce wellness, we addressed recent employee feedback about excessive meetings and pandemic-related burnout. Specifically, we emphasized the importance of taking small actions to reduce meeting frequency and duration, so we could ease stress for everyone. For example:

  • We send regular calendar blocks so everyone can conduct brief “meeting audits.” This is when employees use our Meeting Decision Tree tool to review upcoming meetings and determine the necessity.
  • We’ve recommitted to scheduling meetings only within core business hours (9:00 am – 4:00 pm) to promote reasonable work-life balance and family time in the evenings.
  • We’ve designated Friday afternoons as meeting-free time. This enables people to focus on creative assignments, catch up on projects, and prepare for the week ahead.

Our new practices and resources are improving wellbeing. They’re also facilitating better collaboration, problem-solving, productivity, and innovation.

Natasha Miller Williams, VP, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Ferrara

2. Review and Revise Job Listings

During the past year, we have intentionally revisited the way we write job ads. We’ve always made sure our offers are inviting, clear, concise, and accurate. However, we felt it was time to address other details so we could hopefully increase diversity among candidates.

The results are visible to the naked eye. Now, I am super happy to look at our diverse teams, knowing that our attention to rephrasing may have made it easier for people to join us.

These were our priorities when reviewing and improving job listings:

  1. We used truly gender-neutral language.
  2. We highlighted the importance of skills, so it’s clear that this is the decisive factor in our hiring decisions.
  3. We listed job requirements only if they were absolutely necessary. You never know if needless demands are unintentionally excluding people.
  4. Finally, we reviewed job titles and descriptions to ensure that they are truly inclusive and free of biased language.

Piotrek Sosnowski, Chief People and Culture Officer, Life And My Finances

3. Establish Employee Resource Groups

Our organization has been attempting to improve inclusivity by enhancing our approach to diversity and inclusion training. For example, we have created employee resource groups (ERGs) to provide a safe space for employees based on their identity or shared experiences. 

These ERGs serve as proactive networks that help members build communities, collaborate professionally, and work together on initiatives that promote inclusivity across the organization. They also help our organization understand uncommon experiences and points of view, while ensuring that everyone is respected at all times.

Michael Alexis, CEO, teambuilding.com

4. Share Diverse Employee Experiences

For any organization that wants to build a more welcoming culture where everyone feels they belong, raising awareness about inclusivity is vital. However, it’s not always easy to understand the difficulties that other people face — especially when those difficulties aren’t highly visible. 

This is why we’ve been providing opportunities for employees from across the organization to share their unique stories. Specifically, we invite everyone to discuss the unique difficulties they face, along with advice on how peers and managers can be more helpful. They also answer questions from others in the organization.

By sharing employee experiences, we’re spreading empathy across our organization. This helps team members build stronger bonds and creates a more positive, inclusive work environment.

Max Wesman, Chief Operating Officer, GoodHire

5. Shift Pay Structure to Base Salary and Bonus

Although our industry traditionally pays employees on a commission-only basis, we’ve adopted a compensation package that includes base salary plus a performance bonus. This gives employees better financial security and peace of mind. Also, we feel it helps ensure our clients receive the best impartial advice from every agent.

What’s more, this move promotes more inclusivity. That’s because sponsorship and mentorship are integral aspects of mobility for people of color and other underrepresented employees. But commission-only pay can derail vital team relationships and breed a culture of competition that further divides people.

We encourage our people to collaborate in establishing performance metrics that will promote better team cohesion and move us collectively toward our DEIB goals.

Anthony Martin, Founder and CEO, Choice Mutual

6. Introduce Mental Health First-Aid Support

During the last year, our organization has focused heavily on promoting employee mental health. In particular, we’ve focused on making our workplace safe for people with any kind of neurological difference, such as ADHD, dyslexia, or autism.

As part of this effort, two of our staff members completed mental health first aid training. Now, people across our organization know that if they’re struggling, they have somewhere to go where they will be heard and supported but not judged.

This effort has been very well received. In fact, it’s been so successful, we’ve recently trained two more mental health first-aiders.

Matthew Stibbe, CEO, Articulate Marketing

7. Prioritize Leadership Paths for Women

People expect modern organizations to provide an inclusive work environment. And this responsibility for creating a welcoming work environment for all falls on the management team. This is why we’ve essentially created a women in leadership program designed to help women from all backgrounds achieve their professional aspirations.

Unfortunately, many businesses don’t promote single mothers into leadership. That’s because they assume women won’t have the time or commitment to succeed. But in my experience,  these women tend to be more driven than average.

Long ago, I started my company as a single mother. I understand firsthand just how hard it can be to juggle personal and professional life. But I also know how committed women in this situation are to keeping their promises to customers, employees and family members.

Our organization wants to reward this kind of commitment. That’s why we assist women of all ethnicities and backgrounds as they work towards a degree or a leadership position in our company. We want to help women in our company shoot for the stars and reach them.

Kathy Bennett, CEO and Founder, Bennett Packaging

8. Intentionally Redesign Teams for Diversity

We recognize the value of diverse perspectives and experiences in driving innovation and fostering a more inclusive work environment. So, one action we’ve taken this year to enhance diversity involves remixing our teams.

Specifically, we deliberately redefined the composition of teams across departments and projects. Our goal was to better represent the diversity of our workforce within smaller groups. Therefore, when reassigning team members, we considered factors such as gender, ethnicity, age, and skill sets.

By intentionally rethinking the composition of our teams, we’ve aimed to break down silos, encourage collaboration, and promote the cross-pollination of ideas. By bringing together individuals with different perspectives, expertise, and life experiences, we hope we’re better positioned to harness the collective intelligence and creativity of our workforce.

Kimberley Tyler-Smith, VP of Strategy and Growth, Resume Worded

ERG Lead Compensation: What to Consider When Getting Started

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are developed for many reasons and almost always contribute robustly to company culture. They form to support a specific demographic of employees and provide a safe space for the group. It is ironic that it is often those of the same demographic that spend countless unpaid hours leading these groups. Although ERGs contribute dramatically to organizational culture, company leaders are not always developing these groups in a way that allows them to grow and flourish.

No matter how or why we create ERGs, they build a sense of belonging for groups of employees who are likely currently marginalized or have been in the past. The purpose of an ERG is to provide resources, build community, and serve as a point of connection for these groups. This helps create sustainable and supportive environments that allow employees to grow. When structured effectively, ERGs drive inclusion and contribute to higher retention and productivity rates, benefiting the entire company.

The Latest on ERG Lead Compensation

ERGs can be found in 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies. Successful ERGs are not possible without dedicated leadership. ERG lead compensation is currently a hot topic. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Autodesk recently shared publicly that they are compensating leads but provided little details into how they are structuring their approach. According to The Rise Journey’s 2021 State of the ERG Report, there is an increase in organizations across the board that are considering ERG lead compensation. It is clear that the majority of organizations do not compensate in any form. This means that there is work to be done to keep the momentum going to ensure that unpaid labor is avoided.

Acting as an ERG lead means extra work and responsibilities in addition to one’s day-to-day role. It can also demonstrate the organization’s commitment to not only the lead’s career success but the success of the overall group.

It is important to keep in mind that every organization is unique and requires an individualized program structure. Here are some things to consider when making a business case for ERG lead compensation at your organization.

1. What is the best form of compensation? (Hint: Cash is king.)

The compensation conversation does not just revolve around if an organization compensates, but how it compensates. While all forms of compensation show that an organization values this work, ultimately, cash is king. The majority of employees taking on ERG work are underrepresented in the workplace, and therefore historically underpaid for their 9-to-5 role. By compensating leads in monetary form, the organization is not only showing commitment to the work but showing commitment to breaking cycles of pay inequity. Monetary options range from hourly wage, stipends, bonuses, and spot bonuses. Whatever the rate is, paying leads will show your organization as a leader in this space for recognizing this work. If a company cannot or will not pay, be sure to propose as close to an equivalent form of compensation as possible.

 

*Image from The Rise Journey’s 2021 State of The ERG Report

2. How do you determine the compensation amount?

When deciphering the most equitable pay decisions for your leads, there is no right answer on how much to compensate. You should always start by conducting an internal survey to get an idea of the current work distribution. Then, build out a guide to support how much work is appropriate and expected.

Rather than expecting to have exacting rationale behind how much, instead focus on the impact that each ERG expects. Work with the leaders to focus on the work, its impact, and relevant metrics to track progress and outcomes. Each ERG can operate differently, but it doesn’t mean one has a “better” impact than another. Be sure to:

  • Set up a review process to evaluate how the ERG leads are doing.
  • Have a regular (often annual) discussion around whether the compensation amount is appropriate.
  • Clearly outline goals and expectations of ERG leads.

The graph shows some back-of-the-envelope math. Compensating at minimum for five hours a week, $15/hour with a quarterly payout plan is somewhere to start. This pay rate (which is not a living wage) is the lowest hourly rate that should be paid for the work.

*Image from The Rise Journey’s 2021 State of The ERG Report

3. What should you clarify when building ERG lead structure and budget?

ERG budgets should not be inclusive of ERG lead compensation. The first thing you need to ensure is that “ERG Lead Compensation” is a separate line item in a company’s budget, meaning that during the upcoming budget planning cycle, this number can change or increase based on success.

Clarity is key. To support an effective business case for ERG lead compensation, start by revisiting your criteria for all ERG roles. Some questions to address include:

  • Do employees need tenure to take on a lead role?
  • What is the process of electing someone to an ERG lead position?
  • What is the duration of each position’s term?
  • Can the individual be on a Performance Improvement Plan and act as an ERG lead? Make sure to clarify what steps you take if they are not hitting work-related goals or are not clearly demonstrating organizational values.
  • How does an ERG lead use or request budget? What is the difference between the two? (i.e. over a certain dollar threshold approval is needed vs. a lead being able to make the decision on their own)?
  • Will they need to use technology as part of their role (project management tools, ERG software, intranet, internal blog, etc.)?
  • What do they need to communicate to their DEI/HR lead or executive sponsor?
  • Can an ERG leadership role lead to other leadership roles? How?

Conclusion

Do your research, know your organization, and utilize your resources. Your employees will notice and your company culture will be better for it. The future of work is now and it is about time for unpaid labor to remain in the past. For more insight on implementing effective ERG lead compensation practices, read The Rise Journey’s full report: State of the ERG 2021.