#WorkTrends: Diversity in Practice

The evidence continues to pile up: Diversity pays.

Whether you’re in the heart of Silicon Valley or elsewhere, diversity at work provides a greater breadth of thought, experiences and approaches, and it’s becoming more important than ever in business.

But it can be difficult to move beyond the buzzwords and generate real, long-lasting change. On this week’s episode of #WorkTrends we talk with Amy Cappellanti-Wolf, a diversity champion and chief human resources officer at Symantec, to help understand the path to success.

She offers the kind of open, honest conversation we need. “I’ve never had to rationalize or make a business case about why four white guys are better than a diverse set of employees,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. “So why should I have to make a case for why diversity is a good decision?”

We also speak with Rania Anderson, diversity expert and author of “WE: Men, Women, and the Decisive Formula for Winning at Work” about her framework to help men and women be more inclusive, support diversity and work better together.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

Defining Diversity at Work

“Diversity is really about inclusion,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. “While numbers are important, and they are really the outcome you are driving toward, it’s about the right kind of environment that you create.”

Cappellanti-Wolf says your goal should be to have a place where people want to come to work, feel like they contribute, are able to learn and stick around. “Create that kind of landscape so that it happens naturally,” she says.

Part of her work at Symantec includes an overhaul of diversity strategy and creating that inclusive environment. This involves hiring and promotion but also how the company approaches building its business units.

For example, Cappellanti-Wolf says the company looked at data showing how women are very strong at “solution selling” — the long game that focuses on a portfolio instead of trying to get an immediate sale. Because solution selling is central to the company’s growth, Symantec is creating an initiative to bring more women into its sales organization.

“Not only is it the right thing, but they help propel the business,” she says.

Stumbling Is Normal

If you’re struggling with your diversity program, you’re not alone. Cappellanti-Wolf says it’s universal, even though industries like tech make the news more than others.

“We’re all struggling with the same challenges in terms of representation mix and if we have the right capabilities to go after the right talent,” she says. “For us it’s really about how do we think about the addressable market that we have, and how do we start to cultivate and build those relationships.”

The best way to start creating relationships and avoid cultural mistakes is to get leadership on board. Bring leadership in from the beginning so there’s always buy-in for diversity efforts, she says. Symantec is “building inclusive leadership muscles at the top because if you don’t have leadership support, these things fail,” she says.

Putting Hiring First

“It starts at the hiring process,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. “That’s where it really starts to show that you’re serious about this.”

A major goal for hiring practices is to root out bias. She says managers will need training on how to think holistically about candidates. No one is a perfect fit, so the emphasis is on identifying where manager training and employee mentoring can make up the difference. Many people will need to learn how to open up the pipeline to more perspectives and experiences.

“We’re going to mandate that before a requisition can be closed, you have to have shown that you had a diverse slate,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. “You have to open up the candidacy for people to be considered for the role.”

Succession planning also generates problems because many people are inclined to hire someone that they think is like them. “You don’t want to hire in your own image, because if you have homogenous thinking on a team you’re not going to get your best results,” she says.

Advice for Your Office

Cappellanti-Wolf says companies should strive to build a culture of servant-leadership to make their diversity efforts a success and to attract or maintain valuable team members.

“You’ve got to lead that way because there are too many competing jobs out there,” she says. “If you don’t create a place where people want to come because they know you’re going to be there for them, then game over.”

To achieve that result, she recommends a two-pronged approach:

  1. Do your math. Know your current population and what the market near you looks like. Look for new opportunities and talent pools. Then set goals that are achievable based on your hiring.
  2. Hold your leadership accountable. “This is not an HR initiative; it’s a business initiative,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. Leadership is what drives employee retention, so they’ve got to be on board and trained to help your company succeed.

And that’s only the beginning. Cappellanti-Wolf provided even more thoughts on the tactics and data she used to measure these outcomes, and how to create that foundation. Be sure to stick around for when she pulls out the crystal ball to give us predictions for diversity in the next decade.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.