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Many companies say they have a diverse and inclusive workforce, but just because companies have employees of different races and cultures, doesn't necessary mean those companies are diverse.

To truly understand whether or not a workforce is diverse, business leaders must be willing to look within, and ask tough questions.


Stacey Lewis, founder of HR Interrupted, recently sat down with Work It Daily founder and CEO, J.T. O'Donnell, for an episode of "JT Talks Jobs." Lewis said one of the biggest mistakes companies make is hiring diverse candidates for the sake of having a diverse workforce, without first truly committing to a culture change and building a strategy for these employees to be successful.

To have a diverse workforce that is meaningful, companies should keep the following things in mind:

Leadership Must Be Committed To A Culture Change

This commitment involves everyone, from the CEO, to department managers and supervisors, and human resources. Lewis said when crafting policies about diversity, leadership has to plan on these employees playing important roles in the company, not think of them as a diversity quota.

"We can put on our roster or website that we have a black person, but what practices and policies do you have in place to make sure that black employee has a path in the organization, or are they just good for the website?" Lewis asks. "It has to be more than just a hire. It is a culture change."

Lewis says it's no good having a lot of black people on staff if there's no defined roles or path forward. She said she would rather have two strong black workers on staff than 15 that are only there to project a sense of diversity for the company.

If leadership wants a diverse company, they need to properly plan for it, otherwise it's just a feel-good measure.

Make Sure Your Employees Feel A Sense Of Belonging

Managers and supervisors need to make an effort to get to know their employees, and understand their strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly, you need to get a sense of whether each employee feels like they belong within the company.

Being a minority employee in a workforce striving for diversity is like being invited to a party. But just because you're invited doesn't mean you're going to have a good time, according to Lewis. When it comes to the difference between diversity, inclusion, and belonging, Lewis breaks it down like this.

Diversity - Gets you invited to the party.

Inclusion - Means when you're at the party, you get invited to dance.

Belonging - Means you actively plan the party.

"It's about being invited to the table," Lewis says.

If you're not familiar with your workforce, or have a path in place for your minority employees to advance their careers and continually engage with the company's growth, you'll never know whether they feel a sense of belonging.

An example of a diversity policy not working is a company's only black employee working in the same position for 15 years, according to Lewis. It's very likely that the employee never felt a sense of belonging at the company, was never properly engaged, and isn't happy in their job.

Take Advantage Of Employee Resource Groups

Leaders of a company diversity committee begin a meeting.

Employee resource groups are groups of employees who join together in their workplace based on shared characteristics or life experiences. ERGs are generally based on providing support, enhancing career development, and contributing to personal development in the work environment.

If your company's diversity policies are working well, these groups should form organically, and will further engage your workforce.

In addition to the employee resource groups, it's also helpful to have an overall diversity committee with a mixture of employees and managers from all cultures. The committee and resource groups can act as a checks and balances for company leadership to make sure the company's diversity plans are working, and that all employees feel a sense of belonging in the company.

Such groups can also organize special training opportunities pertaining to race and culture, and help to facilitate important conversations.

Having a diverse workforce is just a label if you don't put the proper effort into it. Every employee should feel a sense of belonging and have the same opportunities to advance their careers. If done right, a company gains high-quality employees that can bring a unique background and perspective to the company, and ultimately make the company stronger.


Many thanks to Stacey Lewis, whose passion for re-engineering the HR agenda led her to create HR Interrupted, a community organization for HR Influencers with grit who unapologetically interrupt historical workplace ideologies and practices through inspiration and insight.

Learn more at hrinterrupted.com or follow her on Instagram @hrinterrupted.