Top Diversity and Inclusion Problems - and How to Solve Them

The 1970s - in the U.S. and many other parts of the world, was a turning point in how we consider diversity and inclusion in the business context. A drive for inclusive innovation means more than diversity demographics - but rather managing a work environment so that a broad spectrum of people can contribute for business success and social health.

At The Impact Seat we've seen companies wrestle with these ideas, and below we identify the top problems and solutions that drive them to new approaches. Contact us to discuss how we can partner with you to keep the dial moving.

Quick Links - Inclusion Problems - and Solutions

PROBLEM: Our innovation engine is stalled because we need new perspectives...
SOLUTION: What is your diversity bench strength? Understand your team's diversity to tap into creative assets and/or to develop a strategy to hire and train for the expression of different perspectives. Learn more...

PROBLEM: We don't reflect our customers, and that hurts our ability to perform...
SOLUTION: What processes and behaviors got you to this point? Are you hiring the same type of person? Are you unable to retain a broad range of talent? By examining your current diversity profile, as well as the hiring and promotion decisions that brought you to this point, you can develop new strategies. Learn More...

PROBLEM: Our managers aren't equipped to help their diverse team members shine...
SOLUTION: Managers need to understand their teams, beyond demographic diversity, to really see how each member can bring their own unique point of view to work. The first step is to understand the diversity of the team. Then look at the behaviors of the manager and team to assess inclusion - is everyone invited to fully participate? Learn more...

PROBLEM: We want to tackle unconscious bias - and make lasting change in how we work together...
SOLUTION: To eliminate unconscious bias, companies need to take action, in the rhythm of the business, to change behaviors that exclude or diminish contributions based on applied assumptions. Awareness of bias is an important first step, but it's not enough. In fact, research shows that becoming aware of bias without then taking on behavioral change can cause complacency. Group training, well facilitated, and tied to decision agendas for common activities at work including meetings, one-on-one supervisory meetings, and team meetings allows groups to assess their inclusion performance. Learn more...

PROBLEM: We have a longstanding women's leadership program. What's next?
SOLUTION: Companies have been taking a hard look at their women's leadership programs. What are the characteristics of the women who are successfully navigating through the leadership process at your company? Are these women reflective of the pool of women at the company or are they fitting a prototype? Consider how your women's leadership program aligns with a wider diversity and inclusion strategy and how your company has approached leadership training along diversity dimensions. Learn more...

PROBLEM: Our work environment isn't appealing to emerging top talent...
SOLUTION: The millennial generation is the most diverse generation and will soon be the largest percentage of the workforce. Studies repeatedly show that this group, with individuals now reaching mid-30s in age, is not satisfied with baby boomer styles of hierarchy and concentrated power at work. Does your company consider generational work culture preferences seriously? Are you ready for Generation Z, now in college? It's complicated, but companies that have an inclusive mindset are better prepared to welcome, well manage, and promote for talent, not stereotypes. Consider the science on diversity and inclusion as a first step in building your argument for strategic action. Learn more...

PROBLEM: We have a talent engine that is caught in a loop of hiring its own...
SOLUTION: For many companies, it takes a big mind shift to go from thinking that "people like me are what works" (often called "Mirror-tocracy") to a mindset that a group needs to include diverse perspectives built from social, cognitive and experience difference. Hiring what has worked in the past, or even for right now, is not the way to build a company for the future. At The Impact Seat, we believe one of the best levers to seed this thinking in the organization comes from internal champions. To be effective and to maintain momentum, these champions need to be built and supported. We have a program for that for executives and managers.

PROBLEM: As a Caucasian male leader in my company, how can I effectively contribute as a diversity and inclusion champion?
SOLUTION: The corporate habit of relying on under-represented groups to "lift their own boats" hasn't worked. While ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) can help individuals create networks within the company, systemic change in behavior and incentives for change are everyone's responsibility - and particularly those who hold the power and influence. So, it's necessary for white males to be respectful champions for inclusion. This isn't something most people have been taught in business school, so training is helpful to uncover unconscious bias, gather intelligence, and develop a professional strategy to step out effectively. At The Impact Seat, we have a one-on-one executive coaching program to get you there. Read more here and consider our coaching expertise.

PROBLEM: How should we measure our success in building an inclusive organization?
SOLUTION: Like many change management initiatives, it's hard to develop a direct ROI pay-off for a diversity and inclusion strategy. Companies usually rely on a variety of factors including:

  • Levels of employee engagement as related to diversity and organizational culture
  • Demographic diversity targets for hiring and promotion, in general, and in specific role categories (e.g., board members, top leadership team, managers, new recruits, etc.)
  • Innovation measures including how comfortable and experienced teams are in developing a range of solutions and thinking outside of the box.

Companies need to start by defining their objectives - is it to have the profile of the company reflect demographic diversity categories that have been identified as important (e.g., sex, ethnicity, LGBTQ, age, ableness, etc.)? Or is it to develop an inclusive innovation standard that looks for differences in perspective much beyond the demographic categories (e.g., values, experience, religion, economic income background, etc.)? Our work at The Impact Seat reveals that a strategic approach to diversity and inclusion -- integrating both social and business objectives -- is emerging for U.S. companies - but is still rare.

See approaches to building such an effort at your company here.

PROBLEM: How do we build inclusive practices for our LGBTQ employees?
SOLUTION: This question can be asked about any demographic category. Still, there is a lot of media, political, and social energy around LGBTQ identity today - and a lot of confusion about how to handle it within the corporate environment. Part of this is a lack of understanding and part is a result of shifting identity work within the movement itself.

LGBTQ relates to sexual orientation, gender identity, and their intersections. Related terms include pansexual, two-spirit, fluid, intersex, and asexual. Inclusive practices for LGBTQ employees means understanding identity related to these concepts, examining company practices to find those that may exclude, and using language and behavior appropriately. This is not second nature to many people - training can help. The Impact Seat Building the Inclusive Organization can be tailored to address LGBTQ issues, and Executive Champion coaching can prepare your managers and leaders to play an effective ally role internally and externally.

PROBLEM: Our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) divide people more than they bring them together...
SOLUTION: Tap into your ERGs to identify actions that the company can take to be more inclusive. Bring together representatives from different ERGs as champions for inclusion and encourage the development of new talent. Value the contributions made - don't expect quality ERG work to be done in isolation from top management, "off the clock" and without financial support. Integrate ERGs, or as they are now increasingly titled, BRGs (Business Resource Groups), to be a frontline for building inclusive practices and knowledge. Our Best Practices for Diversity and Inclusion Research Report includes discussion on ERGs/BRGs and tailoring a D&I consulting and training engagement around these practices can deliver results. Learn more...

PROBLEM: We have broadened our demographic diversity profile, but we're still not getting the returns to innovation that we're seeking...
SOLUTION: At its core, innovation for teams is achieved by getting a meaningfully varied group of people "in the room" and then providing the structure, leadership, and behavior know-how to help everyone deliver their best, in concert, and sustainably.

Understanding the composition of groups across a broad range of categories (e.g., demographics, experience, cognitive approaches, values, etc.) makes groups more effective. The Impact Seat Diversity Diagnostics can get you started on this exploration.

PROBLEM: We're not the company we think we should be...
SOLUTION: Many companies are doing forecasting assessments of how well they are preparing for the 2020s, and beyond. They are taking a good look at themselves and evaluating where they are in the context of today's social, economic, political, and technological realities. Business coalitions like CEO Action are providing a new way to participate in creating standards and benchmarks for diversity and inclusion in corporate life for both business success and social value. To make room for diversity of thought and perspective and build inclusive behavior into the rhythm of your business will take a dedicated, strategic approach. For some inspiration, consider The Impact Seat Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices.