Whether in HR, IT, or real estate/facilities, workplace leaders need to keep diversity and inclusion top of mind or risk missing out on top talent and a range of perspectives for addressing today's challenges.
IT executives taking this to heart can learn from research firm Gartner, which last week shared
some takeaways from its latest report on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). While speaking to CIOs, Gartner’s message could be applicable for any workplace leaders. In the report, Gartner argued that CIOs should leverage their influence and technology expertise to take a more active role in advancing DEI initiatives in and outside the workplace. To accomplish this, Gartner recommended focusing on four key actions, which are:
- Challenge pre-existing thinking on DEI programs — CIOs should create a shortlist of DEI priorities, highlighting initiatives that have a shared sense of passion and purpose, Gartner said. Gartner suggested that CIOs should ask their IT teams, "What are the barriers to increasing diversity in the technology profession?”
- Develop more DEI partnerships — To advance DEI within IT specifically, Gartner recommended forging connections with educational institutions and nonprofits to offer training and access to technology, creating a pipeline to diverse IT talent. Additionally, Gartner suggested extending the thinking to sourcing, procurement, and other stakeholders, to ensure you are working with companies that support your mission.
- Combat digital inequities in the community — To better address inequities in local communities, Gartner recommends providing access to technology services, applications, and/or technical expertise. For example, CIOs and IT teams can provide laptops and tablets to students or host a coding bootcamp for an under-served neighborhood, Gartner shared.
- Fostering IT inclusion in the community, workplace — To foster a diverse workplace, CIOs can provide mentorship and allocate resources to employee resource groups like women in technology communities, Gartner said.
While these recommendations are a good start, CIOs and workplace leaders can do much more to boost DEI. As a crucial first step that would make these changes even more impactful, I suggest listening to diverse perspectives before doing anything.
For a bit of perspective, I’m reminded of a conversation I had with Kari Mattek, a senior IT director for Northwestern Mutual, during a communications and collaboration event
hosted last year by our sister organization, Enterprise Connect. During this session, Mattek discussed the importance of listening and finding the right words/actions. Following the Black Lives Matter protests, Mattek and her team hosted listening sessions during which employees were able to share their thoughts, opening the conversation on how best to approach DEI for Northwestern Mutual.
However, Mattek acknowledged workplace leaders might not have the right words/action for the moment. Following the death of George Floyd, Mattek was at a loss of words on what to tell her employees. “At the end of the day, I just apologized and said I'm not going to say the right words, but I thought it was important to say something,” Mattek said. By being humble and listening to her colleagues, she was able to better address their concerns, thus creating a more inclusive workplace.
So, while Gartner recommends four things for CIOs, I’d like to tack on one more — listen, listen, listen. Only then can CIOs make lasting changes in their workplace and the world.