It’s our responsibility as leaders to guide our teams in the right direction by removing barriers that keep us and our organizations from reaching our full potential. The absence of diverse talent is definitely one of those barriers.
Research has proven that we’re stronger together when diverse ethnicities, diverse backgrounds and diverse voices work together. This yields better results. Yet, we’re still in a society where we have to justify the inclusion of women and people of color. We can all play a role in changing this.
On an individual level, everyone can mentor someone. We all have something to share that can help someone else. Don’t discount your own experiences. Mentors are needed in all facets of our professional lives. One mentor may guide you early in your career, another may guide you on your leadership journey, and yet another may guide you in your development as you advance. It’s important to note that mentorship is actually a dialogue where all parties are both teachers and students, where each person gives as much as they receive. Relationships are vital in helping us navigate the career journey.
As leaders, particularly leaders of large teams, we have to be very intentional about the culture we create and promote. If we want diversity, equity and inclusion in our organizations, we have to develop the ecosystem that enables these results. Here are four steps that leaders can implement to create an environment that supports diverse talent on their path to success:
1. Develop the narrative.
What’s the story that you want to rally your people around? At Verizon, we rally around being a network of people who move the world forward. The emphasis is on people — our employees — so ensuring they are their best, with everything that makes them their best, is our focus. We know this is our competitive advantage and it’s important for all employees, at every level, to know it and live it.
2. Know your numbers.
It might not sound sexy, but in order to understand your progress, you have to measure it. If you want to increase the number of people of color in a certain role, you first need to know how many people of color are eligible to apply, then how many actually apply, then how many have gotten hired, etc. Understanding your numbers is a way to ensure you know the current situation and where you stand relative to your goals.
3. Deploy tools and resources.
After identifying behaviors or competencies we want our employees to have, it’s imperative to give them tools and resources to obtain and/or maintain them. This could include training courses, webinars, book clubs and more. For example, we have a curriculum for new people leaders to give them the tools they need to succeed. Likewise, for development programs — like the one we have for women aspiring to be sales leaders — not only do program participants receive resources to make the most out of the program, but so do the other parties such as their mentors, advisors, etc. We provide training that appropriately supports the program participants on their journey.
4. Create connections.
Among the tools and resources we have at Verizon, our team is our best asset. Nothing will take the place of connecting with people — no matter if it’s virtual or in-person. However, the daily grind can only do so much for networking, so we create connections by tapping into employees’ interests. We have employee resource groups, college alumni groups, online networking groups in our Slack channels, and more. In addition to identifying opportunities for career development and stronger engagement with the company, many of our employees have made lifelong friends from these connections.
Change is uncomfortable, but it’s also inevitable. As leaders, we know that we often have to shift gears to achieve our goals. Where we put our energy, we find success. As we strive to create a more inclusive environment, we must take personal responsibility for this cultural shift. It’s not only a great thing to do, it’s the right thing to do.