DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION FROM THE TOP: Diversity and inclusion programs must start with a leadership team prepared to both map a clear vision and adapt it.

Author:Larsen, Tiffany

Leaders at my employer, AvidXchange, are charting the course toward making our organization more diverse and inclusive. Liz Costa, senior director of teammate communications, has committed to help by describing AvidXchange's journey as it unfolds. She describes herself as a "catalyst of change." The first step for senior leadership interested in building a diversity and inclusion program is to create a specific business case for how it will improve your organization. This business case will be internal (recruiting, hiring, promoting, recognition, employee benefits, and so on) and external (customers, vendors, business partners, and others).

Once you have identified your business case for a diversity and inclusion strategy, the next step is to apply what you've learned to your processes. Liz explained that this can be difficult since you need to target change at three different levels: (1) Change how individual leaders behave. (2) Change how teams interact within the company. (3) Change at a systematic level.


Liz advised that you first identify where you can shift your focus. If the area your organization needs to focus on is your hiring and recruiting processes and you recruit at universities where, say, the majority of students are white, then you're probably going to have a predominantly white workforce. Evaluate why you're recruiting at those universities. Perhaps you need to partner with other universities or recruit with a variety of different organizations. This doesn't mean your current recruitment sources are necessarily flawed; it means you need to approach recruitment differently to "cast a wider net."

Ultimately, the purpose of a diversity and inclusion program is to create an environment where people feel invited to come and welcomed to stay. While a good strategy is to start training sessions, just holding them isn't enough. "You want your employees to walk away from training sessions asking themselves, 'What insight did I gain?' and 'What can I do differently?'" Liz said.

The intent isn't to criticize past actions. Rather, it's for leaders to work across the company to build a stronger workforce. If your employees feel welcome, they will stay with you for a longer period of time. They need to feel their ideas are being heard by management. The only way to effectively do this is to listen to your employees and create a culture where their input is valued.


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