Even though it's 2019, let me start with why you need to invest in building a company culture that promotes and celebrates diversity and inclusion.

First of all, the workforce composition is rapidly changing. If you can't attract women and underrepresented minorities to work for you, you're missing out on more than half of the talent pool, and that's a huge loss for you given that it's more difficult today than ever before to hire employees. 

Secondly, it's a proven fact that diverse teams are more innovative, ship better products, and make more money for your company. So why would you neglect this revenue driver?

Here are five steps you can take towards building a company culture that promotes and retains women and minorities:

Listen to your people.

Do all men want beer or videogames? No. The same goes for women and espeicially for women of color. That said, let me be clear that diversity extends beyond gender and race.

Don't assume what your employees want, instead, just ask them what they want. A good way to do this is to establish channels where your employees can openly voice their wants, their concerns, their stories to you. You can establish a culture of weekly/biweekly one-on-ones between managers and reports, and quarterly 15-min one-on-ones between skip levels (meaning, between an employee and their manager's manager).

Executives should also host office hours where any employee can walk in and talk to them one-on-one. You could block one to two hours on your calendar monthly for such office hours and make it known at your company all hands.

Tools like Cultureamp and Surveymonkey are very helpful in surveying employees at scale, but be intentional in what you're looking to measure and improve.

Policies can go a long way.

Flexible work hours, the ability to work remotely, and being able to take time off for important life events or circumstances allow people to be themselves and not feel guilty and penalized for being a parent, for example.

Having care benefits like childcare or offering sabbaticals for employees to take care of an ill loved one go a long way in making employees feel supported and builds loyalty. These are just a few suggestions; invest in listening to your people and understand what will make their life less difficult.

Mitigate biases in pay and career progression.

Increasingly, companies can no longer get away with inequity. If you don't pay a female engineer fairly, she knows she can find another higher paying job in today's tight labor economy. Hence, it's important to be tracking the seniority levels, salaries and diversity on teams to implement fair and inclusive practices to retain your employees and hence reduce the cost of hiring.

Generally men are hired or promoted based on potential, but women and minorities based on performance, which leads to severe underleveling for women and minorities. It's necessary to flesh out what is expected of an engineer at level three vs level four for example, and proactively communicate it to your employees so they know what they need to do to get to the next level.

Set up mentorship and sponsorship programs.

According to a survey conducted by PWC, millennials' number one employee benefit of choice is career development. It's increasingly common for companies to offer internal mentorship programs so employees can meet other employees to learn from them as well as expand their network at their company.

This not only helps employees feel supported in their career and have clarity on their career path at your company, they also make more friends and meaningful connections across the company which breaks silo's and creates a more cohesive company culture focused on learning and relationships.

Some companies also offer sponsorship programs, but I personally believe that while mentors can be matched, sponsors are earned. Sponsors are influential people who are actively advocating for your next promotion or raise.

They're pulling you up through the ranks of a company or industry, making sure your name is brought up in closed-door meetings. Encourage your leaders to sponsor women and minorities and educate your employees on navigating mentorship and sponsorship.

Lead by example.

Take maternity or paternity leave. It gives them permission to do so themselves. Have zero tolerance for inappropriate jokes and discrimination so your employees will know that such jokes are just not okay. Have lunch with different employees. It normalizes that people should break out of silo's and meet new people. Talk about your passions and loved ones at work; do an annual "bring your parents (or kids or pets ...) to work" day and bring yours. This gives the others the permission to bring their whole selves to work.

If your employees feel fairly treated and included at the company, they are more loyal, work harder, refer their friends to work at your company and exude a sense of community & belonging while interviewing candidates.

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