October 22, 2018

3 Key Insights for Workplace Transformation

The current demand for diversity and inclusion is at an all-time high. The future of work is multiracial, multi-ethnic, and multigenerational. This paradigm shift we’re witnessing is a powerful one, and it’s an exciting time to be at the forefront of workplace transformation. As a corporate education company, we work closely with our clients to develop immersive development programs that teach both entry-level employees and executives the cultural competence and inclusive leadership skills they need to thrive. We’ve trained hundreds of employees globally this year, and we have discovered a trend in our observations of culture change in the workplace.

Invest in representation because it really does matter, drive sponsorship cultures because it is the most effective solution yet, and emphasize the future value of your people as the key to unlock innovation. Here are our three key insights from our years of working at the forefront:

1 | Representation Matters

This year we have the same number of Black Fortune 500 CEOs as we did in 2002. That was 16 years ago. Where might we be in sixteen years from now in 2034?

Millennials are the most racially diverse workplace generation, with 50 percent of working millennials being non-white. The number of educated, ethnically and racially diverse professionals is rising yet the last decade has seen limited shifts in change at the CEO level of America’s largest corporations.

We do not know, but we must do better. We believe Corporate America’s leaders should represent the consumers they serve, and the people they employ. In recent years, even the entertainment industry has had to confront its lack of diversity. The 50/50 by 2020 movement fights for equity and intersectionality in Hollywood. In the words of Eva Longoria, “Representation matters. It’s also just good business.

Companies who are in the top quartile for racial or ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to achieve financial returns above their respective national industry means. We know this makes business sense, so the question becomes, do we leave it up to chance or do we start investing more in representation, so the next 16 years don’t look like yesterdays, and instead look like the change we always wanted to see.

How will you attract potential talent if they can’t see themselves working at your company? Or growing into a leader? Workplace demographics will only gradually continue to shift. By 2025, millennials will represent 75 percent of the workforce. Ethnic and racial diversity at the top requires intentional effort and a long-term investment of resources in the growth and development of emerging leaders. How will you guide and support diverse employees on a path from internship to the C-Suite?

2 | Rethink Mentorship, Drive Sponsorship

At its core, sponsorship is about advocacy and promoting people to reach the next level. Sponsors speak about you when you are not in the room. Sponsors, unlike mentors, might not tell you what to do or give you advice, but they believe in you and provide you with resources and opportunities to shine.

Sponsorship is not the norm in the workplace, especially for underrepresented talent. 81 percent of professionals of color need navigational support to advance their careers but don’t receive compared to White men. However, more people of color are getting access to mentors. An American Society for Training and Development study found that 71 percent of Fortune 500 companies have some type of corporate mentorship program. How many have sponsorship programs? Not a lot.

A 2017 Fortune article discusses the “black ceiling” that holds African American women back from reaching the C-Suite in Corporate America. Companies can help crack this proverbial ceiling by creating inclusive management systems and processes  -- like individualized coaching and sponsorship -- to help African American women navigate the workplace, build rapport with senior leaders, and further develop their careers. Again, this requires intentional effort and a long-term investment of resources to cultivate talent.

Informal sponsorship exists. For example, if I like sports, or go to the golf course, or go a happy hour at the bar, I might meet potential sponsors all the time, that give me that promotion or stretch assignment I have been looking for. But what happens if I don’t like those things or if I don’t look like the people who typically like these things? Five percent of Latinos have sponsors. Eleven percent of Black women have sponsors. (Center for Talent Innovation)

Informal sponsorship doesn’t work. If we are committed to our diverse talent, we must invest in formal sponsorship initiatives. Employees of color with sponsors are 65 percent more satisfied than non-sponsored employees. This means they are likely to stay longer, engaged, and produce more for their employer.

3 | Emphasize Future Value, Not the Present Value

Organizations who rely heavily on what’s worked in the past or the present inevitably create their own roadblocks to innovation and business growth. Employees who perceive bias are 2.6 times more likely (34 percent to 13 percent) to say that they’ve withheld ideas and market solutions over the previous six months.

Bias in the workplace can be a result of our fear to change, so we hang on to tradition and what we feel has been effective thus far. We know getting to the top is easy. Staying there is hard. For organizations that want to stay on top, they have to become future-ready. What is valuable in the present might not be worth anything tomorrow, especially when you look at the quickly changing demographics in the United States to a more multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-generational environment. We are changing, so the way we work should change too.

To be Future Ready is to be DEI Ready. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Ready. Ready to embrace difference, the unknown, and the future value that diverse perspectives bring. We must embark on a transformative mindset shift from perceiving value as something that only looks one way to something that can come from all places and levels of your organization.

This is an exciting time to invest in workplace transformation. On which side of history will your employer be?

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