Experiential DEI – Are You Fully Benefiting from the Diversity of Your Workforce?

Even if you’ve already invested in a robust DEI program that’s influencing everything from hiring to product development to sales, your managers and employees may not be feeling its impact. There’s a simple reason for this – and a simple solution.

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By Adam Etzion, HR Analyst @ Gloat

April 8, 2021

If you had to learn how to fix a flat tire, and you needed to choose between either reading a how-to guide, or getting your hands on a carjack and wrench and simply giving it a go, which would you prefer?

For most people, trying things out for themselves often feels like the better choice.

That’s because experiences are always more tangible than talk.

The same is true for any other type of learning, including on-the-job. To capitalize on this, organizations looking to increase workforce upskilling and agility often turn to “learning experiences” in the form of short-term projects, gigs and mentorships, all of which create meaningful experiences which individuals can retain and make sense in much more meaningful ways than any training they’ll receive in courses or workshops.

But what does that mean for D&I workshops and seminars?

In many ways, diversity and inclusion programs are actually learning programs, focused on upskilling employees with an array of important soft skills which help them fight bias. But while other learning programs stress the importance of experiential learning, the concept of “diversity experiences” is rarely brought up, and even more rarely practiced.

The reason for this is probably due to what’s going through many readers’ minds at the moment; it’s difficult to imagine what diversity experiences actually look like.

Once you visualize the diversity experience, however, it becomes very clear how it can be provided to employees – and how an already diverse workforce both benefits from, and is instrumental in, creating these experiences.

The Diversity Experience

What does it mean to experience diversity, and what benefits does this kind of experience provide?

To answer these questions, we need to ask what companies are looking to gain from their D&I programs in the first place.

It’s already been established that D&I is crucial for making employees feel like they belong and have a place within the company – but that’s only one part of why DEI is critical.

Less discussed, but just as important, is the fact that untreated bias can minimize opportunities for business growth and for fulfilling a workforce’s potential.

In her recent interview with Gloat, Seagate’s Divkiran Kathuria shared a diversity experience that helped her realize how her own bias was informing her decision-making process. For a project she was putting together, she initially looked for candidates from solely English-speaking countries. Eventually, she was able to shed that bias, and, in her own words:

“I ended up having a team from across the globe that helped me bring in the local context to our internal communications plan. None of us were from a primarily English-speaking country and despite that we worked beautifully together. Anyone using a talent marketplace will be immediately able to discover hidden talent – candidates and skills they didn’t know exist. And they’ll be able to experience how diverse, valuable and capable these discovered candidates are.”

Experiencing the Wealth of Options that Come with Diversity

When people think about DEI programs, the things that come to mind are usually along the lines of sensitivity training workshops and updated hiring practices. What they often overlook, though, is the wealth of new opportunities that are integral to a diverse workforce.

The more diverse a workforce, the more likely individuals from different backgrounds will be able to contribute something unique to business efforts. Once these opportunities for innovation and development are recognized, they’re impossible to ignore – but merely having a diverse workforce is rarely enough to make them visible.

Silos and biases still need to be broken down for these opportunities to be seen – and in traditional organizational structures, it may be difficult for employees to present themselves as the right solution for a problem that’s outside of their immediate responsibilities – that is, if they’re even aware of there being a problem they could help solve in the first place.

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So how can companies create diversity experiences that allow managers and employees alike recognize and realize the full breadth and scope of the opportunities that a diverse workforce can offer?

For the answer, we’ll once again turn to Divkiran Kathuria’s interview:

You should really visit some of your customers and experience their talent marketplace firsthand.

 For me, just looking at diverse, undiscovered talent being surfaced by Career Discovery at Seagate is a diversity experience. Just like we have an emotional quotient, we have an intelligence quotient, I believe there should also be a diversity quotient. Maybe that’s a good way to put it: the talent marketplace adds to your diversity quotient instantly as you discover diverse, hidden talent in less than 30 seconds!”

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