Throughout the years, great strides have been made towards promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Though much progress has been made, the distribution of this progress is still imbalanced in many organizations. There is often a pyramid diversity effect in which the demographics at top of the organizational hierarchy, are not reflective of the demographics at lower levels of the structure. A subsequent perceived glass ceiling may then form, supported by pillars of both informal social networks and the limited educational and skill levels required for entry level positions.

One way to address this challenge is to “treasure the jewels within”, by building an internal pipeline of diverse talent and nurturing that talent to grow at all levels. Almost every organizations strategy should include treasuring and up-skilling current team members from diverse populations to develop a long-term organic pipeline of management and later executive candidates. Additionally, who knows your business better than your current employees?

This is an opportunity to leverage their in-depth understanding of your market, customers, products, and more. It is understandable that there may be circumstances in which organizations want to bring in fresh resources for a new perspective on the business, and the diversity pyramid conundrum should still be taken into consideration in those cases as well, but we’ll leave that topic for another day.

In this article, we recommend four achievable first phase steps to cracking your glass ceiling before we put a bow on 2016:

1) Get Leaders On Board. Discuss your desire to up-skill some company gems with influential members of your leadership team and get their buy-in on beginning or elevating diversity initiatives.

Possible Goals for 2016:
  • Educate leadership on cost-benefits of diversity initiatives.
  • Get leadership clearance to develop a diversity committee or council within the organization.
  • Gain feedback from leadership on some of the most polished gems in the organization who can lead to quicker, easier wins on which to build in 2017.
  • Solicit leadership ideas on areas for diversity growth within the organization.

2) Break Bread Together. Do some research on how to facilitate social activities without reinforcing a diversity divide. Many organizations have holiday activities at this time of year. These activities can be used as an opportunity to expand social networks for potential promotion candidates and possibly be seen in a new light by those in existing senior leadership positions.

Possible Goals for 2016:
  • Research best practices and lessons learned regarding diversity and office social activities.
  • Coach employees who stand out as potential promotion candidates on how to maximize the holiday party occasion and bond with senior leadership.
  • Pair senior leadership members with aspiring leaders so there is less intimidating interaction for those new to these social circles and events.

3) Don’t Guess – Communicate. Everyone deserves to have a say in their own career path despite any well-intentioned vision of what management feels they should want to do. In reverse, it is important to be realistic about openings in potential career paths with discerning team members in order to build trust. This clarity on odds of opportunity openings could affect the direction in which they may want to strategically point their efforts.

Possible Goals for 2016:
  • Consider having individual informal check-ins with select high-performing team members to learn more about their interests around career development and advancement.
  • Solicit honest feedback from employees on enhancements that could be made to “level the playing field”.
  • Empower your Human Resources/Talent Management team to begin developing a company-wide staff “Professional Development Plan” process if it does not yet exist.

4) Groom talent and build qualifications. Diversity is not simply about promoting those of an underrepresented group, but also helping to develop skills that support the pipelining of underrepresented groups. It is important to educate potential promotion candidates on the importance of meeting qualifications required for the desired positions, as well as expose those candidate to the opportunities available to build those credentials. This will not only prepare candidate, but also alleviate potential perceptions of unfair promotions or reverse discrimination.

Possible Goals for 2016:
  • Mine for local and/or online training programs that align with career path development in your organization.
  • Begin to develop relationships and conversations with the training organization to understand opportunities conducive to financial, schedule, and other obstacles of your colleagues.
  • Educate your workforce on any employee or tax benefits that could support their educational advancement.

There is great opportunity in developing and grooming diverse internal resources for leadership positions. Doing so can benefit companies in many ways, including less turn over, greater job satisfaction, and greater diversity at all levels of the organizational hierarchy. We hope that you will join us in the quest to attain greater diversity at all level of our organizations.

By: Maji Tharpe

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