When most people think about SXSW, they’re excited for the music, the movie premieres and the parties. For others, it’s all about the innovative technologies and startups. There’s always a buzz about the many celebrities in attendance across all fields. For me, my favorite thing is the learning. My ideal state is to attend panel after panel.
I’ve covered diversity discussions at SXSW the past three years and the topic of diversity continues to be timely. Based on the events I attended, here are 10 tips for achieving a more diverse, inclusive workplace:
- Diversity isn’t just a moral imperative; it’s a business imperative. Men and women engaged in gender diversity are more successful. According to McKinsey and IBM, on almost every measure, diverse teams produce stronger results.
- Say no to “check-box diversity.” Some people think of diversity as compliance. With the popularity of diversity and inclusion efforts at the enterprise level, we must understand the missional nature of our work and make sure our aim is to make a real difference, not just check boxes.
- Diversity and inclusion is best addressed through workplace culture, which takes time. Diversity shouldn’t just be the responsibility of the diversity and inclusion leader or human resources. To make lasting change, an organization’s culture must be addressed. It’s important to take the long view in our efforts.
- Leadership is the key to success. Having a key leader with the desire to do things differently is critical to achieving success. Additionally, we must take chances and risk mistakes to make progress.
- Bigger isn’t always better. To achieve true diversity and inclusion, small, privately-held companies can have a big advantage over larger, publicly-held companies. Smaller organizations are typically more nimble, have greater influence on management, and teams can more easily rally behind initiatives.
- It’s really about cognitive diversity. Are you thinking creatively and divergently to achieve the best solutions? More than race, gender and a host of other categories, diversity is really about achieving cognitive diversity versus achieving a set of superficial metrics. Cognitive diversity helps us be more innovative and make a greater impact.
- Don’t fall for the “culture fit” filter when assessing candidates. We often unwittingly apply implicit bias when we look for culture fit. Instead, consider “culture contribution.” We should ask ourselves: does a candidate add to the organizational culture? This helps us combat our unconscious prejudices.
- Look at your employee as a whole person. The biggest mistake organizations can make is to look at individual employees transactionally (compensation for work hours/product). We need to make sure we have plans for our people. When we look at the totality of a person, they are more apt to feel included, build loyalty, be more productive and confidently contribute to the organization. “We’re sub-optimizing our workforce when our colleagues don’t feel included.”
- Build empathy across your entire workforce. One way to get everyone involved in diversity and inclusion is to help colleagues identify with something about themselves that is atypical to the norm. Maybe they’re from a rural part of the country or they’re the first from their family to go to college. By helping others recognize their differences and also their contributions, we can build empathy and openness for diversity and inclusion initiatives.
- And, finally, practice self-care. For those that are doing diversity work, it’s a long journey that can tug on your heart and soul. It’s important to remember to practice self-care. Some tips: limit events to no more than 2-3 per week; connect with good friends on a regular basis; eat right and exercise; seek out a good coach, therapist or counselor; and always remember the bigger picture.
Building a culture of diversity and inclusion isn’t simple, but I hope these few tips are helpful in supporting your important work.
Soon Mee Kim is EVP and Global Diversity & Inclusion Leader for Porter Novelli. This is her third year attending SXSW.