ANNOUNCER: The following is a presentation of the ILR School at Cornell University. ILR-- advancing the world of work.
LISA NISHII: Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, welcome to today's CAHRS webcast. I will be talking about diversity and inclusion in corporate America. I'd like to highlight some of the similarities and difference between diversity and inclusion. My name is Lisa Nishii, and I'm on the faculty here in the human resource studies department.
So I'd like to begin with just a clarification of what we mean by diversity and inclusion. I think it's pretty obvious that diversity focuses primarily on diversification of the workforce throughout the organizational hierarchy and also across occupations or functions within an organization. Inclusion-- I think the definition is a little bit more varied depending on who you talk to, but there is now growing consensus within the research literature about what inclusion refers to. And there are two primary components of inclusion.
One is whether or not people experience a sense of belongingness. That is, do I feel like an insider within the organization? And the second is whether or not somebody feels like their unique perspectives, talents, skills are recognized and valued within the organization. And the idea here is that this sense of belongingness doesn't come at the cost of having one's uniqueness also valued. So it's very different from assimilation, which would be when people feel that they can feel like an insider, but they check their identity at the door and really try to blend in rather than feel like they can really bring what's unique about them to the table, so to speak.
One important thing to keep in mind here is that people feel inclusion, both vis-a-vis their broader organizational contexts. So do I experience a sense of insider status or belongingness within the broader organization, and do I feel like my unique talents are appreciated and value by the organization? But also within their immediate work group.
And so this is an important distinction, because a lot of times organizational level policies and practices don't have as much of an impact on the inclusion experiences that people have within their immediate work group. But we know from a lot of research that people tend to leave their organizations because of their experiences with their immediate manager or co-workers. And so this is a really critical HR and D&I issue.
So what I'd like to talk about today is the practices that we tend to called D&I best practices. And to spend some time thinking about whether or not these practices really drive the outcomes that we assume that they are driving. And in particular, does the same set of practices help to drive outcomes associated with diversity or diversification and also inclusion?
So here I've just listed a common set of practices that are often included within the set of what we call D&I practices. I've sorted them loosely into three different categories. Those that are focused on attracting and retaining diverse talent. So here we have targeted recruiting, and we have various attractive employee benefits. And then the second set are the practices that are designed to provide developmental opportunities and visibility to women and members of other minority groups.
And so here we have practices such as mentoring and sponsorship, employee resource groups, and various leadership development programs and career tracks for high potential women and members of other minority groups. And then the third group of practices I have here under a label called bias reduction with the goal here being with diversity training, for example, and accountability practices. The focus here is on trying to minimize the role that bias might play-- unconscious bias, in particular-- might play in HR decision-making that can ultimately impact employment outcomes for women and minorities.
And so these practices I would say are often thought of as diversity and inclusion best practices. There are others, of course, that some organizations have adopted. And there are variance within each of these, but I'm just going to assume that this is the set that we're talking about for today.
So the question I want to pose to you is, does this same set of practices help to drive inclusion? I think the assumption is that they do because from what I've seen, there isn't really a another set of practices that organizations focus on that have been explicitly designed to address inclusion as opposed to diversity. And so the assumption widely made is that yes, the same set of practices D&I after all-- we kind of lumped them together-- help to drive inclusion outcomes as well.
But I think that this is potentially a dangerous assumption. And I think that some adaptations to these practices are necessary if they're going to actually also improve inclusion within organizations. So I think that we've all seen that diversity practices tend to be adopted in organizations in large part based on institutional and industrial and societal norms about what organizations should be doing when it comes to diversity and inclusion. But there actually isn't a whole lot of robust evidence about the effectiveness of each of these practices.
And so I want to urge you to think about how rigorously your company has examined evidence about whether or not each of these practices has been effective, and effective for what? Effective for what kinds of outcomes? What are the metrics that are needed to really examine whether or not these practices are helping to drive both diversity and inclusion outcomes within organizations? So in thinking about the effectiveness of practices, I think it's useful to think about three different pathways through which these practices can help to drive firm outcomes.
So you'll have to excuse me for a second as I use some academic terms here, but the first pathway here on the top is what we refer to as social exchange. And the idea here is that when practices help employees to feel valued and supported, they reciprocate with commitment and loyalty to the organization. And that is obviously good for the firm because it helps to reduce costs associated with turnover. And the idea, hopefully, would also be that people are more engaged in their work.
The second pathway is the one on the bottom here related to human capital with the idea here being that the more organizations invest in the knowledge, skills, and abilities of their employees, the more they will be able to contribute to the organization. And the theory here is that if people have a similar set, similar levels of human capital, they should advance at similar iterates through the organization and make it to the top. But as we know, this isn't always the case.
And so you'll see here that I've put a dotted line between human capital and managerial diversity is one of the firm outcomes. So I guess I should also point out here that in that box of different firm outcomes that we might be considering, I'm distinguishing a little bit between different types. So on the one hand, a big focus is on attraction and retention of talent and also corporate brand and reputation. And another really big goal for D&I obviously is increasing diversity throughout the workforce, particularly in the managerial, senior managerial ranks.
And then more recently, of course, there's been a huge focus on whether or not D&I and diversity help to drive innovation and performance within organizations. And I'll talk a little bit more about this in a bit, but what you'll see there is this middle pathway that's so critical for driving innovation and performance, which is through inclusion. This notion that when people really experience high belongingness and the sense that their uniqueness is valued and the work is structured in a way that they can contribute meaningfully to the way that work is done, then we get synergy from inclusion.
That is, outcomes that are far greater than the sum of the parts. And so the idea is to provide these opportunities for people to contribute meaningfully. There is a good amount of evidence that indeed when people do experience that type of inclusion and really great team norms within which they can contribute that it drives innovation and performance. But what's not as clear as whether or not D&I practices as we've traditionally thought about them actually help to drive those experiences of inclusion. And that's why you see a dotted line there between D&I practices and that middle box of inclusion.
OK, so I'm going to talk a little bit here about the different practices that I had listed before as being part of the set of D&I practices and talk about each of those pathways so that we can think a little bit about whether or not they're effective in the ways that we assume or expect them to be. So when it comes to this social exchange pathway, it's certainly the case that practices like really good benefits, mentoring and sponsorship, employee resource groups, leadership development programs. These types of practices can help people to feel like they really are valued.
And they have opportunity to succeed within the organization and that can trigger a sense of commitment and loyalty and identification with the organization and that is good. Recruiting-- I think that the research tends to show that whether or not the messages that people receive during recruiting really help. Depends, of course, on whether or not those messages align with what they actually experience once they're employed with the organization. So when they are aligned, it will help to drive higher levels of attraction and retention within the organization.
Diversity training-- does diversity training also help to promote this sense of being valued within the organization? I think it depends here on the training content, what is being trained, and whether or not diversity training is seen within the organization as something that the company really truly values and senior leaders really value it and whether or not what they learn in the context of training seems to mirror what they're experiencing within their work group context. And also people's perceptions about why diversity training is being offered influences their perceptions about whether or not this provides me with any indication that I really am valued, that diversity really is valued.
When people perceive that it's a check the box exercise, obviously, it'll be less effective than when people perceive that the organization really feels that diversity training is essential for helping people to succeed and for people to work effectively across dimensions of difference. In terms of managerial accountability for diversity goals, whether or not accountability helps to drive outcomes through this social exchange pathway depends on what the focus of that accountability is. Oftentimes, the focus seems to be on hitting targets or numbers, trying to make sure that the organization and the managers throughout the organization are able to reach their goals as far as diverse representation is concerned.
And when that's the case, it can backfire because people can start to assume that there's a little bit of affirmative action going on, where people are being selected or promoted based on their identity. And we see that when that happens, their competence tends to be discounted. And so it can end up leaving people who are presumed beneficiaries of affirmative action to actually feel less valued within the organizational contexts. But when managerial accountability instead is focused on making sure that managers are developing their employees, this can, of course, have quite a positive impact on how valued people feel within the organization.
So here now I'm turning to the pathway that involves human capital. And I think the most obvious diversity practice here that's relevant is diversity training. And the idea here is that if people are trained to become more aware of their biases and, ideally, also are trained to develop skills on how to address those biases that that can help to drive better outcomes for women and minorities. The problem is that there's actually limited or inconsistent evidence about the extent to which diversity training ultimately does help to drive these outcomes.
And there are a number of explanations for that. For example, when people return to the work context, do they have an opportunity to practice what they've learned? Is what they learned in training reinforced so that it actually leads to behavioral change and so on. With managerial accountability, the idea once, again, here is it depends on what managers are held accountable for.
And if managers are held accountable for developing their employees, then they should help to ideally promote women and members of minorities by helping them to develop the critical KSAs that they need, the various experiences that they need in order to be able to advance within the organization. This third pathway that was in the middle is the one that I want to talk about most.
So this is the question about whether or not diversity and inclusion practices really help to drive outcomes through inclusion. And I'll talk about each of these. With recruiting, the idea would be to increase diversity. I once heard this phrase-- you can't just count the numbers and expect the numbers to count.
So the idea is that we can't just increase diversity and assume that we'll be able to leverage that diversity for better performance. There are a lot of things that have to be in the environment for that to be true. But if we're thinking about recruiting as a means of enhancing the synergy that we can leverage from diversity and inclusion, then it's worth thinking about the value of recruiting for the kinds of characteristics that make people more likely to work well across differences.
And maybe this is particularly important for managers and leaders, but things like having a pro-diversity orientation or having a strong value for diversity and having a strong learning orientation or agility that enables people to really engage in that back and forth across differences, which is what we know is so critical for being able to leverage diversity for innovation. With benefits, I think this is an interesting one to the extent that on the one hand, we know that lots of work family benefits are really important for people to be able to manage their careers.
And there's some evidence that indeed, companies that offer more work family benefits tend to have a higher proportion of women in managerial levels. But there is also evidence that suggests that there is a penalty often to taking advantage of these benefits, that when people do take advantage of them they tend to be perceived as less committed to their careers, or they can be anyway. And that is associated with lower rates of promotion.
So there is good and bad there. And it depends a lot on whether or not there are stigmas associated with taking advantage of these benefits within an organization. And they think another issue related to benefits, especially right now is there's a lot of discussion about whether or not it's important to bring people back into the workplace-- that is, to reduce the use of flexible work arrangements so that people are physically together and can have more of those spontaneous water cooler discussions that are thought to be so important for innovation to occur.
As far as opportunity enhancing practices go-- mentoring and sponsorship-- historically mentoring has focused on providing a particular individual with career related advice so that they are equipped with what they need to be able to go for various promotions, to know about job opportunities that exist, get some advice on what they need to do to make themselves eligible for promotion. So it's very much of this dyadic relationship between a mentor and a protege. And what we really need to enhance inclusion is leadership that helps to change the way that employees are interacting with each other. Not just the way they're managing their own careers, but the way that they're interacting with each other.
So to the extent that mentors role model inclusive leadership then we start to see the potential for a mentoring to have more of an impact on inclusion, not just on individual women and minorities. So what we want here is for mentors and sponsors to reinforce the value of the kinds of behaviors that help to promote inclusion. I think employee resource groups-- this is a really interesting one.
I often hear the assumption that employee resource groups are critical for enhancing inclusion. And I think that's true on a number of levels. It certainly provides opportunities for voice that people, perhaps, may not have had previously, access to people at different parts of the organization that they may not have previously had access to, and that this helps people to experience this sense of being valued and supported. And we have evidence too that employee resource groups have helped to drive business performance.
So it helps people to feel that they are contributing in a unique way to the bottom line. But there are questions about whether or not the inclusion benefits of employee resource groups spill over into the inclusion experiences that people have within their immediate work group. So they might experience inclusion in the employee resource group, have a sense of belonging, have an ability to contribute some unique ideas that can help the organization.
But when they're back in their day to day work group, does that spill over or are the dynamics quite different within their everyday work roles? And the other potential concern to keep in mind with employee resource groups when it comes to inclusion is that they sometimes highlight the boundaries between these different identities that is in a way-- it's some segregation based on one's demographic background.
And I know companies are doing quite a bit to try to encourage allies, people to join employee resource groups even if they don't personally identify with the group with the goal here being to have more mixing across groups so that they don't end up perpetuating that segregation. But I think it is really important to think about whether or not employee resource groups are helping people to experience inclusion within their work groups. With leadership development programs in these career tracks for high potentials.
On the one hand, they can help people to feel valued, as I said earlier, by the organization. But the question here is how leadership is defined within the organization and whether or not different forms of excellence are really valued and recognized within the organization or whether notions of leadership are defined more based on what leadership has look like historically based on probably a more homogeneous set of leaders. And so a lot of-- maybe not a lot, but some organizations are focusing more and more on really trying to help employees to identify their unique strengths and contribute their strengths and abilities, approach their work with through the lens of their unique strengths and abilities.
And so the question is how do you incorporate that into the way that leaders are identified and developed within the organization? When it comes to diversity training, there is really mixed evidence about whether or not diversity training can end up perpetuating some of the very biases the training is meant to try to eliminate. We know that training that focuses both on awareness and skills development is a lot more effective than training that just focuses on awareness building.
The focus when it comes to inclusion really should be on the skills that people need to interact effectively, to build on each other's ideas. It's really-- at the end of the day, it has a lot to do with effective teamwork. And I strongly believe that diversity training will be much more powerful when it comes to inclusion when work group members go to training together and when the training focuses, at least to some extent, on effective teamwork skills and not just on traditional issues related to diversity.
And the last set of practices here related to managerial accountability-- whether or not managerial accountability helps to drive inclusion is going to depend once again on what managers are held accountable for. And here, it has to be on demonstrating-- they have to be held accountable for demonstrating inclusive leadership. And the companies that do it well, I think, are able to provide data to their managers-- perhaps, from employee surveys-- about how their employees are experiencing the work group and to empower managers to use that data, to be in charge of that data, and to work with their employees to come up with solutions for how to improve the work environment, to improve the way that co-workers are interacting with each other so that people experience higher levels of inclusion.
So as you can see, the traditional diversity practices can be used to drive inclusion. But they have to be thought about quite carefully and redesigned, I think, in a number of ways. If they're actually going to drive inclusion and not just enhance the sense of support that women and minorities feel as a result of these practices. So I'm going to pause here actually. That's the end of what I have to present.
So I will take any questions that you might have. The examples of companies that do this well-- Brandy is asking. Do which part of it well? I covered a lot of ground here, Brandy. If you can follow up with another question that would be helpful. But overall, my sense is that companies are not distinguishing that carefully between diversity and inclusion goals. And this is what I think is really important to do is to think about, what is our practice and what are we trying to achieve with that practice? And what evidence do we have that we're achieving those goals?
And are we really achieving inclusion as well? I think the focus often is on, well, if we offer these practices and people want these practices, they'll feel more included in the organization. And they might because they'll feel more valued because the practices are offered, but that's different from a true sense of inclusion, feeling that true sense of inclusion within the work group. But also that's different from being able to leverage that inclusion for better performance. I don't know, Brandy, if I answered your question.
The last topic demonstrating inclusive leadership-- are there examples of companies that do that well? I think this is something that's just beginning. And that some companies have worked to try to identify the kinds of leadership behaviors that are required to create more inclusive environments. But there isn't a whole lot that's been published on it, I think in, the practitioner area or the academic area.
But there are a few different components to it. So one is that leaders really begin by implementing practices, policies within their immediate work group in a way that's perceived to be fair you have to start there, but that's obviously not enough. The next thing is for managers to help articulate the value of diversity in a way that employees really can see that, oh, this is something that will benefit me too, will benefit all of us. So articulating the value in diversity.
And then leading in a way that helps to actually leverage that diversity. So it's the way that decisions are made. It's the way that input is sought. It's the way that conflict Is managed. It's the way that communication is managed to make sure that different perspectives are really considered within the group.
So some leaders, for example, might start their meetings by asking the least senior person or the least experienced person to share their ideas first. Because, otherwise, we know that usually they defer to more knowledgeable, more experienced people. And to the extent that that happens, you end up not being able to leverage the unique perspectives that a newcomer or a younger employee might have so. It's that focus on, well, how do I manage the group as a leader but also the way that they interact with each other in order to really make sure that we are getting these diverse skills, abilities, perspectives in play within our work group.
What works to help managers learn to value difference? That is a really great question. I think that we're often searching for that one magic tool that will help everybody to see the value in diversity. I think that people have to have personal, experiential, kind of aha moment to really, really be converted. But it's certainly the case that narratives help, especially when they come from senior leaders, but examples of how diversity has been really beneficial for people, the personal learning that people have experience because of it.
But also the group or team level learning that has emerged because of diversity and actual stories that are tangible that people can relate to. I think that's a really great place to start. D&I training-- how meaningful or effective is online training to really make a change in behavior. This is a really, really good and important question. If we're focused on trying to help people develop skills, then I think there's a little bit of a limit to the extent that people can interact with an online tool and develop skills.
They need opportunities to practice those skills. And more importantly, we know from decades of research on training that what happens after training matters. So do people have an opportunity to practice what they learned once they return to work? Are those skills and behaviors reinforced by their coworkers and their managers? Are they valued?
Unless all of that happens, even if somebody learned great things in training-- you can quickly forget it because you get wrapped up in your day to day again. So the after training part of it is what's so important. So yes, I think e-learning could be effective if the manager, for example, of a unit has also gone through it, knows what people are learning, knows the value of it, and explicitly tries to incorporate those concepts in the way that they do work. So that the group, for example, can establish new norms, new ways of doing things, can catch each other so that they're reinforcing the behavior that's been learned, helping people to recognize when they're slipping back into old behaviors.
So there need to be a lot of checks and balances in place. And if there are, it can be effective. But as a standalone, it it's a pretty lean form of training. I'll take a couple more questions maybe. We're supposed to be wrapping up pretty soon I think. So one more question that I got is what tools do we have to measure effectiveness. Jose asks this question.
It's a really, really great question. There is no one tool because it depends on the goals that you're trying to drive right, the outcomes you're trying to drive with the practice. And so what I encourage you to do is to really think about that process, with the process mapping, so we implement a particular form of diversity training-- OK, for what? What are we trying to teach?
For whom-- who needs this training? And then after training, you would want to assess whether or not people have actually learned what you had intended for them to learn in training. And then a few months later, you would, ideally, want some way of assessing whether or not that has led to sustained change and behavior that has then impacted the way that an individual makes decisions or a group interacts together in their work. And so depending on what the goal was of a particular practice, the logical things that you would hope to see their after would differ.
And that's true really for each of these different practices. And so the measures of effectiveness, I think if you can deconstruct each of the practices and what you're trying to achieve and then think about what evidence do you have, what metrics you might already be collecting that can provide you with some evidence. But there may not be metrics that you're collecting that really get at the issue.
And so the question is, how can you collect that data? So mentoring, for example-- we know that people might like their mentors and are satisfied with their mentor relationships. But that is a different question or issue from whether or not people who have mentors holding kind of levels of human capital and experience constant-- are the women and minorities who have mentors experiencing greater success in their careers than the women and minorities who don't have mentors?
That would be the piece of evidence that you want to look at to see whether or not mentoring is having an impact. And if it's not, the next question will be, well, why not? Where is it falling? Where it breaking apart?
So I'll take one last question-- what are the most important managerial behaviors that result in employees feeling a sense of belonging? So this is multifaceted. So if you imagine your own experience at work, it's probably a function of the quality of your relationship with your manager.
And it's also a function of the quality of your relationship with your manager relative to what you see other people experiencing with your manager. And if compared to what you see around you, you can safely say you too have a good relationship with your manager. That helps you experience a sense of belonging within the managers in group. And then with co-workers, it's the extent to which co-workers are openly sharing needed information with each other.
It's the way that groups maybe end up splitting into subgroups or not and whether or not you feel that you are sometimes excluded from certain conversations or certain subgroups. Those kinds of things impact whether or not we feel this sense of belonging at work. And so when you think about what managers can do, managers can help to build a strong team identity or group identity.
So that people aren't focused on their subgroup identities-- whether it's functional background or gender or whatever-- And instead, are focused on the team's collective identity. You can do lots of team building, really valuing the time that it takes to build strong meaningful relationships within the work group. I think managers differ quite a bit in whether or not they think it's a waste of time or a really valuable use of time to make sure that there's that bonding that happens among employees.
And that's a really that's really at the core of this sense of belongingness. Will the deck be shared with attendees after this session? We will-- I was looking for an answer, but yes, we will, I assume, put some version of these slides up on the CAHRS website is my guess. So I think we've gone a little bit over. So thank you very much for your attention, for your time, and have a great day. Thank you.
ANNOUNCER: This has been a production of the ILR School at Cornell University.
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If your company is like most other large companies, it has probably expanded its diversity strategy to also include a focus on inclusion. Clarifying the distinction between the two is important because the interventions that are necessary for promoting employee experiences of inclusion are not necessarily the same as those that promote workforce diversification. Lisa Nishii, associate professor of human resource studies and chair of ILR International Programs, moderates this webcast, drawing upon discussions from Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies (CAHRS) working groups, as well as academic research on diversity and inclusion, to highlight: some of the nuances that determine the effectiveness of diversity practices; the ways in which common diversity “best practices” do and don’t help ensure employee experiences of inclusion; and new approaches organizations should consider to more effectively promote inclusion.