Manager Mysteries & Mishaps Podcast

Diversity and inclusion. [Interview]

This episode reviews the controversial yet important topics of diversity and inclusion. Learn what you can do to improve these components within your organization.


Diversity and inclusion is a huge topic. It's also a hot topic. It seems like it's being talked about now more than ever. I could review the benefits of diversity and inclusion or offer various examples of what it could feel like to not work in a diverse or inclusive environment. I went back and forth on how to best frame this topic, and I figured, you know what, I'll just jump right into the interview.

On that note, I interviewed Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of Human Resources and Leader of Diversity and Inclusion at Deltek. Among other topics, Lisa talks about what managers can do for diversity and inclusion strategies, as well as what can be done if team members or managers themselves are resistant to diversity and inclusion efforts.

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It seems like diversity and inclusion initiatives are becoming more common across organizations. Where do people managers fit into those diversity and inclusion tactics and strategies?

So diversity and inclusion is definitely a hot item right now in the world. And I think it is mainly because our world continues to change. And so, what worked 20-plus years ago is not going to work as our landscape continues to change. From a diversity and inclusion, I think one of the heart is our people managers, because what our people managers say, and do, and foster that type of environment is key to all the other employees getting on board with diversity and inclusion.

And as a leader, you have to make sure that you're walking and talking the same message. And you want to make sure as a leader as well that you have a diverse team, because as we know, some of the benefits of having a diverse team is you foster innovation within an organization. It has high returns on your productivity level. People want to come work for an organization that is diverse, and they feel like they are included in where the company is heading.

I think one of the other things from a diversity perspective is you have a higher level of engagement with employees when you have a more diverse workforce. And so, really from a strategy perspective, the organizations that are trying to be nimble and grow, and attract and retain employees are looking to weave in diversity and inclusion as a part of their corporate strategy. It's really going to continue to be a game changer as organizations continue to grow and change. It's one of those things that's going to set people apart in attracting employees when they're trying to hire talent across the world that. Our talent is a scarce commodity right now, and with low unemployment rates, it's going to be even more important that organizations find something that makes them just a little bit different.


With all those positives of diversity and inclusion (like fostering innovation, higher returns, higher engagement) how do you think people managers fit into the flow of ensuring that diversity and inclusion strategies take root?

Well, I think they're at the center of it, right? Because if you think about our managers have the greatest influence on our employees, and many studies show, oftentimes when people leave, it's not because of the company, it's because of the managers that are managing them. And so, one thing that we have to keep in mind is, if we have leaders who have the thought around working in a diverse and inclusive environment, then that's going to help their team continue to grow and foster. And you build those relationships as a leader when you know and you support where the organization is going.

So I think that a lot of it has to do with, we can't be successful in any organization until our managers are in alignment or on the same team as the company. And so, if we have an organization or we have a leader who is not thinking of hiring people that are different, whether it's race, whether it's gender, whether it's ethnicity, we're not going to have that innovation, right? And I think, obviously for myself, working in a software company, innovation is pretty important. And it's the only way that we're going to continue to be able to sell products that mean something to the diverse customers that we have.


What do you think managers should do to show their teams that they are supportive of, maybe even committed to diversity and inclusion?

Well, I think it starts with recruiting. And so, when managers are hiring externally, they should think about the interview panels that they are asking to participate. And so, making sure that there's a mixture to represent the organization, but also that people instantly feel like they're included when they come into the organization and they can see themselves working with these individuals. So I think it all starts in the beginning stages.

It also starts with how the job descriptions are written and the requisitions to attract candidates. We're very mindful of the words that we're using on the paper. Oftentimes, if you say, "I'm looking for an aggressive person," aggressive typically means male. And so if you're trying to attract a female, they're going to read that word and say, "Hm, this is probably not the place for me." And so, again, I think a lot of it on the front end is looking to see how those requisitions are written to foster that type of candidate that you're trying to get.

We also want to make sure, from a development perspective, that our leaders are consciously thinking about, that they are developing all people, and not just the males, for management positions. And so you should continuously, as a manager, look at your population, and if you see that your population is lagging in one particular, let's say if it's a race, that you're going to certain areas either of the country or certain schools that really foster that, or even thinking about certain fraternities or sororities, or things that are different that can help you attract something that you don't already have. And so, making sure that leaders are always on their front mind of looking at their team, assessing their team, and determining, "What is going to continue to make my team a well-blended and well-rounded team?"


When managers are thinking about increasing the diversity or the inclusion within their team, what should they do if there is pushback toward those strategies and tactics?

So if they're getting pushback, we'll say from the other employees, I think they need to educate the importance. And sometimes we can do that in a training. So saying, take a particular training that helps people understand the environment. So for instance, if you're working in a global organization, some of the things that you might do in the US might not be relevant for other parts of the world. And so, making sure that you're looking at your population to say, "What is needed to make people work closer together?"

And thinking about being conscious of the words that you're using and the phrases that you're using. And even simple things of who you ask to go to lunch, right? Because you've often heard the phrase, from a diversity perspective, it's about being invited to the party. And once you're at the party, it's being included to dance at the party, right? That's that inclusion piece. And now they're even going further about the belonging, right? Coming and being yourself. So dancing your heart out, however you want to dance, is that belonging.

So from the perspective of really ensuring that, as a leader, you're conscious of what you have and what you don't have, so you can continue to build that team out in the pockets that you might be lagging. Because, again, as we all know, oftentimes if you're going to an organization, the first thing you do is you go to their website, you look to see who's represented on their executive team, and then you look at yourself and say, "Do I fit in?" And so, I think it's very key when you are trying to hire externally that you're representing exactly how the organization looks or where you're trying to go.


What if managers are resistant to diversity and inclusion tactics and strategies?

So if we have that, we have a bigger problem to solve. But I think a lot of it has to do with helping the managers see the benefits of having a diverse workforce. And some of those can be done with trainings. You can also use stats from other teams that are diverse to say, "Hey, when you have a diverse workforce, this is some of the productivity that you might have or the engagement that you might have," and then compare that to that manager. So you can, again, go back to the benefits of, why would you want to have this type of workforce? And again, depending on the part of the organization, it will typically help foster sales and revenue. It will help you attract new customers. It will help you retain your employees. So as you start to lay out those benefits for that manager, you almost force them to think, "Why wouldn't I try something different?"

And so, training I think is one area. But I think also, from an HR perspective is openly talking to managers to understand what their fear is, and helping to try to resolve the obstacles that they might be seeing by taking this step that maybe they're not comfortable with. And so, a lot of times, we are resistant or defensive of change because we're uncertain of what that's going to bring us, and so trying to help them work through that change that we're trying to evolve.


What tips, or advice, or suggestions would you give for creating a more fully realized inclusivity within teams?

Yeah, so from the inclusive perspective, I think, again, it's being mindful of the things that you're doing to foster the inclusion. And we often have friends and colleagues that we make relationships at work because there's some level of connection, right? And sometimes you have these employee resource groups that you develop within the organization, and a lot of times you might not fit into that employee resource group, but you're invited and you see what it's about, and you're like, "Oh, it's not as bad as I thought it was," right?

And so it's about exposing employees to know what else and who else is out in your organization, and respecting that we are all different, but there's a lot of synergies that we have that are similar regardless of our race, our gender, or our titles. And I think, just about the exposing to employees to know that, "You know what, you might not be like me, but we have a lot of things in common." Making yourself vulnerable and putting yourself out there is one way that people can feel included in different parts of the organization.



Lisa used an analogy that I think summarizes diversity and inclusion quite well. It showcases the importance of differences, opportunities to be involved, and feeling like you can be yourself at work.

I think about an organization like a dance party. Some people get invited, some people don't. In that sense, diversity is about being invited to the party. If you're not inviting certain types or groups of people to attend, then your party, your organization, isn't going to be very diverse.

But just because people from a wide range of groups with a wide range of traits are invited to your party, doesn't mean they're going to dance. If you're invited to a dance party, but you're told you can't dance with everyone else, or you don't feel comfortable dancing, or you don't feel like you're being given the opportunity to dance, then you're not going to dance. You're not going to feel included. So inclusion is being invited to dance.

Finally, there is belongingness, feeling like you belong. This is closely related to diversity and inclusion. In the analogy, feeling a sense of belonging is showing up to the party as you are, and dancing how you want to dance.

And that's it for this episode! Join me next time on Manager Mysteries & Mishaps, where I'll conduct an interview about handling employee turnover.

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