We recently looked at the state of DEI efforts in the Life Sciences industry. These efforts may range from being more attentive to the stated ethnic and gender diversity of the workforce to building affinity group programs within an organization. How can we best seek to build diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace?

Don’t Overlook the “I”

Coqual recently published results of a study titled The Power of Belonging. They sought to quantify a very elusive part of the DEI equation: inclusion, perhaps better thought of as belonging. They found that on a scale from 1-10, where 10 indicated the greatest sense of belonging, White men scored an average of 7.6, while Black and Asian women scored 6.88 and 6.77 respectively. The lead researchers of the study note, however, that “The good news is that while a lack of belonging is the challenge, building it is a crucial strategy for healing — and for galvanizing support for all DE&I work.”

Belonging and inclusion can be more difficult to build because they are not always quantifiable data but are subjective feelings. This work underscores the fact that building a truly diverse organization has to go beyond statistical representation. If all you do to increase diversity is hire people in underrepresented demographics, you will have a difficult time retaining those same people. Building a culture of belonging that goes beyond statistical inclusion means finding ways to value the contributions of all your team members while also finding ways to value them as people.

Have a REAL Conversation

Building the right culture starts with having the REAL conversation. One of our DEI Benchmark Study participants stated that there are four critical components to having a constructive conversation around DEI: Realize opportunity, Elevate equity, Activate engagement, and Lead inclusively. We recommend this as best practice to build your organization. Progress toward DEI goals cannot always be neatly quantified as a percentage or a total employee count, especially when it comes to inclusion and belonging. Shifting company culture is a difficult task that requires hard work; the REAL conversation detailed here is the best first step.

Focus on Retention, Too

It's not enough to just recruit the best diverse talent. You need to focus energy on retaining them as well. If employees don't feel that they are valued for what they bring to the organization, you will find yourself dealing with a revolving door problem. That problem compounds on itself when people from underrepresented demographics see high turnover among specific groups. Making sure that your employees are valued for who they are will ensure that they want to stay for more of their career. It can also make recruiting the best talent easier; everyone wants to work where they are valued.

Ensure Transparency in Career Paths

We've said this before, but it bears repeating. One of the best ways to simultaneously nurture talent, retain diversity, and build a strong succession plan for leadership is to have clearly stated advancement paths. When your employees can see that you are committed to their success within the organization, satisfaction grows and retention follows. Nobody should assume that an employee understands what is required to advance into a leadership position. Rather than implicitly requiring employees to seek out guidance from senior leadership about career advancement, make the path clear. When you do so, be sure that you're remembering to lead inclusively and considering carefully whether that advancement path unfairly favors any particular group.

Know Your Market and How to Navigate It

Partering with an experienced search firm can help you build a reliable pipeline of talent. Be sure that whoever you work with has a strong track record of placing the most desirable candidates. That firm will have the best network of candidates for your organization. They will be able to help you find the best match to build a better organization now and ensure that trend continues into the future.

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