EMPLOYMENT LAW NEWS

How Are Companies Addressing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?

By Kris Janisch
Published July 14, 2021

How Are Companies Addressing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?

More than a dozen HR and compliance professionals came together July 14 to discuss these topics during Compliance and Coffee, a virtual roundtable presented by GovDocs.

How are companies addressing diversity, equity and inclusion?

More than a dozen HR and compliance professionals came together July 14 to discuss these topics during Compliance and Coffee, a virtual roundtable presented by GovDocs.

Facilitated by Jana Bjorklund, GovDocs Senior Counsel, Employment Law, the event asked participants:

  • How are you assessing your organization’s needs and objectives?
  • What are you doing to address issues (i.e., policies, training programs, etc.)?
  • How will you assess the success of your program?

The wide-ranging discussion gave attendees the chance to hear from others about how their organizations are tackling these matters, as well as raising questions about compliance laws, how to engage employees and how to measure a diversity program’s success.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Employment Law Compliance LinkedIn GroupFor one company, diversity is a major component of company culture, with quarterly calls, webinars and guest speakers. The attendee said the business’ president has made diversity a focus, and the company also has a vice president of diversity equity and inclusion.

Another Compliance and Coffee attendee said her company has an entire department dedicated to diversity and inclusion, which includes VPs, managers and analysts. The company has also revised company policies to remove gender-specific pronouns — more than 500 policy and form revisions were made to make the pronouns nonbinary.

However, those types of changes can create issues elsewhere, notably with government forms. New York has a law that allows for nonbinary indicators on driver’s licenses, which makes I-9 verification more difficult. And the same is true for EEO-1 reporting, and insurance and medical information.

Training Programs

The push for diversity, equity and inclusion takes many forms. Companies have different philosophies in terms of getting the word out.

Some send smaller, bite-sized items, including short videos and companywide emails. Others hold quarterly training sessions, as well as host webinars, provide eLearning modules and post intranet articles. One attendee said her company has themed months, Black history or women’s month, for example.

Another Compliance and Coffee attendee said her company recently started a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access (DEIA) initiative, looking to establish training programs and make changes to company policy and recruiting efforts. Already the business has seen an uptick in conversations regarding race, politics, social issues, etc. They’re trying to create an atmosphere where employees can discuss these issues in an open and safe environment.

Through all this, leadership is key. Buy-in must start with the executive team. Once they get onboard, it motivates others to participate, as well.

Evaluating Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Programs

While most companies have diversity programs in place, many struggle with how to evaluate them. Some factors, such as pay equity, are easier to quantify than others, for example.

One attendee said her organization has been looking at affirmative action reporting, using the data as a tool to:

  • Enhance DEIA programs
  • Find areas for improvement
  • Drive more discussion and training

It’s also a matter of where a company places its focus. One neglected area, an attendee said, is age discrimination, which can come against both older workers as well as young.

Lastly, the group discussed unconscious bias. One company designed an in-house program — led by the talent and development team, in conjunction with legal — to create in-person and eLearning programs.

The Compliance and Coffee attendees said it’s always good to educate people, and many employees understand diversity, equity and inclusion, but unconscious bias can be more of a blind spot. However, while unconscious bias can have a negative connotation, the discussions surrounding it can be quite engaging, one attendee said.

Conclusion

Diversity, equity and inclusion has become more significant for large employers of late.

While each company handles these initiatives differently, all agreed it has become an important part of the job of HR and compliance teams.

Note: The next Compliance and Coffee event will be held Oct. 20. Details and registration will be announced soon.

This Employment Law News blog is intended for market awareness only, it is not to be used for legal advice or counsel.

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