Inclusion Audit: Processes, Structures & Policies

As you get started on your D&I journey as an organization, it becomes important that you be proactive rather than simply compliant or reactive in your approach. Here’s a guide to help you assess your current structures, policies and processes so that you can make changes that will help you create a more inclusive workplace.

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How To Structure Your D&I Efforts

Structuring your efforts requires planning, dedication and accountability. The three most popular ways to structure D&I efforts are:

Chief Diversity Officer

A growing trend is for an organization to hire or appoint someone in the centralized role of Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) to drive all Diversity and Inclusion efforts, including auditing current processes and policies, strategic planning and organization development, and employee engagement. This individual might single-handedly manage all D&I initiatives, or can work together with a committee of diverse team members to build a more comprehensive and inclusive plan.

D&I Committee

Form a team or committee made up of individuals from all levels of the organization that can focus on inclusivity and help guide the organization’s goals and strategies. This group can be formed to work independently or in tandem with an appointed CDO, and the committee’s wide scope of backgrounds within the organization can help expand focus to all aspects of the business, from human resources to marketing to customer service and beyond.

HR-led D&I

A common move is to add diversity and inclusion initiatives to the existing duties of the HR department, which can be advantageous since the two work very closely together in many ways. However, opinions differ on this since D&I can cover so much more than HR, such as marketing, public relations, customer service - even web design and user experience. Therefore, some industry experts feel that having Human Resources absorb Diversity and Inclusion can get in the way of success.

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Reviewing Your Recruiting Process

Speaking of HR departments, how does yours recruit new team members? Do your talent and acquisition strategies encompass multiple age groups, abilities, cultural backgrounds, and genders? Unconscious bias is tricky since it is, of course, unconscious. How does your organization ensure that all candidates are getting fair consideration?

Identifying Needs and Developing Job Descriptions

  • Look at current job descriptions and think creatively about how various tasks can be split up and reassembled to create new roles that may be accessible to a wider candidate pool than the previous versions were.
    For example, if a job requires 98% desk work but 2% lifting boxes, consider reallocating the lifting tasks so that the rest of the job can be done by a fantastic candidate who might not have applied in the first place because they read in the job posting that lifting boxes was a requirement.

  • Remove unconscious gender bias from your job postings and the recruitment process in general by working with apps like Textio, or Kat Matfield’s free Gender Decoder.

  • Remove insensitive language using tools like Alex.

  • State your family-friendly policies in the job description to encourage parents to apply, and include a statement about your organization’s commitment to Diversity & Inclusion at the bottom of each job posting.

Recruiting

  • Consider posting new job openings across more platforms than the typical major job search engines. For example, if the role has the potential to be a remote position, try a site that specializes in virtual work. Seek out local job search groups on social media, or get in touch with industry-related associations and community groups to increase the visibility of your ad.

  • If you use recruitment agencies, find out what their policies are on diversity and inclusion, and hold them accountable. It could be as simple as asking for a more diverse pool of candidates.

  • Remove unconscious bias from this stage of the recruiting process by using hiring platforms like Applied or Blendoor, or by using apps like Unbiasify, which hides the names and profile photos as you search for candidates in LinkedIn.

Screening

  • Give candidates a work sample test using apps like GapJumpers to get a sense of how the candidate will perform, rather than basing your hiring decision solely on a résumé or the first impression of an interview.

  • Standardize your interviews so that each candidate is asked the same set of questions, rather than a improvised conversational interview. Be mindful of not only asking the most relevant questions, but also of avoiding awkward or biased questions.

  • Some research shows that employers are more likely to hire candidates that they feel natural chemistry or share common interests with, so factor in the possibility of likeability bias. Is it important that you personally like a candidate in order for them to be the best match for the job?

  • Interrupt your decision-making with planned pauses so that you can take a step back and reflect on whether or not unconscious biases may be sneaking into the process.

  • For the final decision, enlist the help of someone who has not been involved in the earlier assessment stages. Present them with overall summaries of applicants’ experience and performance so they can provide objective advice and observations.

Onboarding

  • Be prepared. Plan the entire onboarding process from start to finish so that the new hire never feels neglected or as if they are lacking direction in those early days. From onboarding paperwork to personalized workstations to team lunches, ensure the new employee feels supported and included.

  • Present new hires with a mission statement and set of policies written in simple language that is easy to understand. Include clear guidelines for performance reviews and raise or promotion criteria, including things like upholding the organization’s values when it comes to D&I.

  • Create a standardized welcome kit that includes all contracts, tax forms, policies, and other paperwork to ensure that each new team member is starting with all the information they need.

  • Assign new team members a buddy - a peer they can go to with general questions about procedures or company culture, or for clarification on unclear concepts.

  • Provide initial diversity and inclusivity training, as well as ongoing access throughout the employee’s career.

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Reviewing Your Compensation Practices

  • Know the facts. According to the 2017 Labour Force Survey results from Statistics Canada, female workers in Canada aged 15 and older earned $0.87 for every dollar earned by male workers, as measured by average hourly wages. Women of colour face even further gaps.

  • Initiate transparent conversations with your team about their pay to ensure that they understand why their salaries are what they are.

  • Break down your organization’s jobs by standard criteria such as skills, effort, education or experience required. Ensure that job descriptions and performance metrics are accurate and complete, then group them across various levels and pay grades.

  • Once you have grouped your positions, review the salaries, benefits and other compensation for individual employees in shared groups. Compare this data based on gender, culture, or social background to identify inconsistencies, then review qualifications such as experience, education, and performance to better understand how these variances have occurred and evaluate whether or not they are justified. Repeat this assessment annually and make adjustments as necessary.

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Reviewing Your Promotion & Advancement Processes

According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, “racialized persons, women and people with disabilities are still largely concentrated in the lower levels of organizations,” and various factors such as unclear expectations, sliding scale requirements, or even unconscious bias can impede their upward mobility.

  • Set clear advancement criteria that is based on merit or experience and attempt to first promote from within the organization whenever possible.

  • Consider using performance management software (PMS) to clarify organizational expectations and ensure that employees at all levels have a clear understanding of both their current job requirements and the steps required to earn a promotion.

  • Make sure you have a succession plan in place to fill positions as lower-level employees are promoted and their old positions become available.

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Reviewing Your Meeting Processes

Meetings are another way that teams communicate, and can require intense collaboration even in the planning stages to ensure the location and scheduling work for everyone involved, and that discussion topics are relevant for each participant.

  • Web or teleconferencing can be great alternatives for those who work remotely or do not otherwise have access to the meeting location. Make sure you include the web link or teleconferencing number directly in the meeting invitation so attendees have all the information they need to join the meeting.

  • When scheduling meetings, be mindful of participants in different time zones and try to be accommodating if possible.

  • Encourage meeting leaders to send relevant materials to participants beforehand so that they each have time to prepare feedback and questions in advance. This is especially helpful if there are people attending whose first language is not English.

  • Consider recording the meeting so that it can be accessed by teammates who are unavailable or otherwise unable to attend.

  • Change up the individuals leading the meeting and taking notes, so that it is not always the usual suspects.

  • Make sure to engage remote participants, whether it is specifically asking for their input at various times, or allowing them to let you know they have a question or comment via instant messenger or Slack.

  • Ask for feedback after making the above changes to your meeting processes. Some of your teammates may have additional ideas to make your meetings more inclusive.

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Reviewing Your Workplace Policies

From employee codes of conduct and holiday policies to work-life balance strategies and discrimination or harassment reporting processes, it is important to ensure that individuals feel recognized, safe and supported when making strides toward a more inclusive workplace.

Codes of Conduct & Ethics

Including conduct, dress code, attendance and punctuality

  • Ensure that conduct policies such as your company dress code are not outdated. For example, if employees are not allowed to wear baseball caps in the office, does the policy refer caps as “headwear”? This may need to be rewritten so that employees understand that turbans, hijabs, and other religious headwear are acceptable and encouraged.

Health & Safety

  • Do your health and safety policies work for everyone within the organization? For example, will an employee who is in a wheelchair be able to follow the escape route laid out in your fire safety plan?

Harassment & Discrimination

  • Clearly communicate the role of all employee levels and departments in preventing and stopping inappropriate workplace behaviors.

  • Ensure that these policies are clearly communicated early and often with all team members.

  • Set firm standards, filing practices and follow-up procedures for when complaints are brought forward so that employees feel safe and supported.

  • Provide support, resources and education for those involved in incidents of harassment or discrimination.

Training & Development

  • Do all teammates share equal access to learning and skills development, or are these options available only to your high performers? Consider high performance compared to high potential when it comes to offering education and development opportunities for your team.

Leave and Time Off Benefits

  • Review policies for historically gender-specific rules or allowances such as maternity/paternity leave, or even time off for mothers if a child is sick. Simply rephrasing policies like this to use words like “parental” instead can remove gender bias from your policies.

Holidays

  • Does your holiday policy cover each of your employees’ religions? Consider offering floating days where employees can take paid time off to celebrate the holidays that are important to them.

Performance and Discipline

  • Ensure that your policy is clear in outlining escalation from verbal warnings to written warnings, and that the procedures are consistent for every team member.

  • Consider adopting a progressive discipline policy.

Social Media Policy

  • Communicate guidelines for official corporate, professional networking and personal social media accounts. Policies should cover etiquette and general conduct as well as time limits on personal use.

  • Research and educate your team on the various risks and benefits of using social media. Read through examples of other organizations’ policies to help you get a better sense of what will work well for your team in particular.

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See more of the Guide to Getting Started With D&I!

Stefan Kollenberg