Turning Intentions Into Outcomes for a More Inclusive Workplace

We all start with an overarching aspiration, such as wanting to be a great place to work or retaining our diverse representation. A group of human resources and diversity leaders share their insights on how to achieve those results.

Without a blueprint to guide our inclusion and belonging journeys, how do we accomplish what we set out to do?

My colleague Phil Willburn, head of people analytics and insights at Workday, shared an insight from an Olympic coach who believes that a secret of world-class athletes is shifting their energy beyond goal setting to goal getting. While they have an aspirational goal—for example, winning gold at the Olympics—the vast majority of their effort is intentionally focused on the assessment and actions required to get that goal. 

To be an Olympic-level inclusive organization, we might consider a similar approach. Goal setting is necessary, but not sufficient, to move the needle, and it requires us to assess and apply actions that will help us achieve the desired outcomes. We all start with an overarching aspiration, such as wanting to be a great place to work or retaining our diverse representation. But from there, it’s difficult to know which path to take to lead us to our desired outcomes—whether it's more effective leadership development, more effective recruiting, or better sponsorship programs.

We explored this in depth with a group of chief human resource officers who are change makers, subject matter experts, and industry leaders—and I want to share four insights I learned to help improve inclusion and belonging in your own organizations:

Create a Clear Strategy

Develop a plan, make a commitment, and consider what shift is needed to get all stakeholders on the same page. For example, Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, chief diversity officer at Microsoft, revealed that embracing a growth mindset helped the company find new ways to approach its diversity and inclusion (D&I) work. By giving each other the grace to practice and fail fast, employees are better able to learn and improve—and as a result, have been able to elevate periodic allyship to regular and frequent habits globally.

PwC made a commitment to be candid about its diversity strategy and results, then practiced what it preached by releasing its first D&I transparency report in 2020. Since then, Kimberlee Washington Barr, managing director of D&I strategy at PwC US, has been open and authentic in sharing with clients how the firm decided on its approach, where it is in its journey, what lessons it learned, and what programs are having an impact.

Track the Outcomes

Do you clearly understand the outcomes of your strategy? That Olympic hopeful may need to win or come in second place for at least three trials to move ahead in contention. For an organization, this may be a tougher measure to determine. Try to be specific about the outcomes you want as a result of this effort—this should be a disciplined measurement.

BMO Financial Group has implemented an ambitious expansion of a multiyear diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy to address gaps affecting Black, Indigenous, people of color, Latino, and LGBTQ+ employees, customers, and communities. New benchmarks and plans include doubling enterprise-wide representation of Black senior leaders, accelerating Indigenous talent strategies, introducing an LGBTQ+ representation goal, and sustaining a strong gender equity position. The company has outlined specific goals, such as “increasing representation of Black employees in senior leadership roles to 7 percent in the U.S.”

Explore Underlying Indicators

Use scientific measurement to know where you are and where you need to focus in order to achieve those outcomes.

Workday Chief Diversity Officer Carin Taylor uses a solution called VIBE Index to look across different groups of people using intersectionality (a combination of different elements of a person’s identity that could include race/ethnicity, gender, generation, and more) to ensure all people are having a consistent experience. When VIBE Index data revealed that a specific population of people did not have a similar sense of belonging as other populations, she and our colleague Phil Willburn analyzed the underlying experience data to identify where to empower action. 

“By giving each other the grace to practice and fail fast, employees are better able to learn and improve.”

Take Action

Actions should be analytics-driven, based on what your data is showing you can improve. This could entail new ways to empower people—through sponsorship, allyship, and mentoring; giving and getting more feedback; and encouraging more learning and development. And organizations should be considering how newer technologies could help drive change—for instance, in looking at how they can better leverage skills to democratize opportunity.

In Taylor’s example above, the concerning data prompted a broader partnership with the learning organization and Asian Employee Belonging Council (EBC). Her team responded by developing a tailored journey for this population of employees with curated content, videos, articles, and actions to help them increase their sense of belonging. Workday’s Asian EBC is also launching a mentorship program to make sure this population continues to get ongoing support and development.

Another organization driven by feedback is Year Up, a nonprofit committed to closing the opportunity divide by helping young people gain the skills, experiences, and support they need to reach their potential. According to Chief Operating Officer John Bradley, “Intentionality is key, and individuals need to recognize and feel the outcomes of your policies. Organizations should disrupt their normal processes but also need to know when to be opportunistic to promote inclusion and when to avoid it if it doesn’t.”

The importance of employers taking the lead to empower their people is echoed by inclusion pioneer and Landit CEO and Founder Lisa Skeete Tatum, who says that individuals should always be at the center, and organizations should provide each person with key elements for career support. Landit, a personalized career pathing platform to increase the success of diverse groups in the workplace, follows this concept to enable people to drive their careers forward with both access and support. The personalized playbook includes access to certified executive coaching, advice on building a personal board of advisors, curated and recommended content and skill development, and personalized pathing. 

As HR leaders, we have the expectation and desire to seek out diversity and to create a more inclusive environment. We just need the right combination of tools, mindsets, and strategies to realize the outcomes we intend. The data will show us at times that our approaches are not working, and we will need to accept it and adjust accordingly. Few organizations have reached Olympic athlete status here, but I have no doubt that we’ll achieve our goals—and continue to aim higher with stretch goals—as long as we continue to be intentional, empathetic, and curious.

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