Beyond HR: Diversity Practices a CEO Can Actively Promote
No longer a buzzword or a nice-to-have, diversity in business is a key asset that the C-suite must work to encourage.
Karoline Gore looks at the role played by CEOs and how they can promote diversity in their businesses and rely on it as a source of resilience.
Around 70% of job seekers prioritise job openings from companies that are committed to diversity, according to The Manifest. Companies that espouse diversity within their policies also have better financial returns. For an organisation or a business to fully claim to be diverse, it needs to start with the very person at the top: the CEO. So beyond sensitivity seminars and other HR ploys, what are diversity practices that a CEO can actively promote?
Focus The Leadership On The Agenda
As with any organisation, the CEO is merely a part of a larger leadership framework. In order for a CEO to fully promote diversity within their company, they need to ensure the rest of the leaders, such as managers and executives, are committed to the diversity agenda as well. For this to work, teams should be made up of a diverse group of people: only then can diversity be truly represented by a company’s brand or ethos. A CEO that takes personal ownership of diversity as an agenda sends a stronger message to the rest of the organisation that diversity is now an organizational requirement, and subsequently focuses them all on it, according to Carmen Morris. Once those in leadership roles are focused on the agenda, the groundwork for a diverse culture is set, and it can be employed in the company’s work philosophy.
Introduce Workplace Flexibility
Diversity is all about the harmonic convergence of different people from a wide array of backgrounds, cultures, religions and languages. This means that CEOs must be able to harness these talents by providing them with equal footing. A good key to achieve this is by introducing workplace flexibility that provides employees with more agency over where and when they may work. Workplace flexibility promotes better inclusivity within the diverse employee ranks, as it offers them support toward achieving better work/life balance, according to Frances Georgina Gain. When productivity and diversity have meshed together, the better it will be for the organization as a whole.
Be A Mentor And Sponsor
While hiring may be the gate at which a diverse workforce can be pulled together, it is not enough. A CEO may further promote diversity by taking on an active mentor or sponsor role. Leaders make a stronger impact by serving as mentors and sponsors and giving their employees the support that they need in order to advance, according to Jennifer Reddien of Haynes and Boone. A CEO as a mentor may be able to give critical advice on the culture and informal rules of advancement, like executive preferences on work results. A CEO as a sponsor can become a strong champion for an up-and-coming talent within the ranks, and allow the leadership to put them on a healthy path within the company. Both mentorship and sponsorship are crucial in providing employees with the knowledge that one may only gain within the certain strata of a company or field.
Any leader must be able to adopt and promote positive movements to further the improvement of their organization. Not only is it smart business, but it is also the right thing to do. A CEO that actively creates a working environment that authentically champions diversity has a stronger chance of fully weaving this positive movement into the very fabric of their brand.