Five Actionable Takeaways for Combining your DEI Efforts with Learning and Development

Five Actionable Takeaways for Combining your DEI Efforts with Learning and Development

From Jessalin Lam, Vice President of Member Development and Diversity at the Interactive Advertising Bureau

Diversity, equity and inclusion are words we are hearing much more often these days, and cultivating a culture of DEI to recruit and retain talent is a challenge many organizations are facing, especially during The Great Resignation. Let’s break this down to think about what DEI means in a simple way:

  • Diversity is being invited to the party. This is a fact.
  • Equity is being on the planning committee. This is a choice.
  • Inclusion is being asked to dance. This is an action.

Belonging is also a piece of the puzzle, which I think of as feeling free to dance however you want. This is the outcome.

It is important to acknowledge all of these components, as we often forget about the outcome, which ultimately empowers people to be who they are. You can’t have one of these without the others for it to be impactful.

In many organizations, DEI and learning and development may exist in silos; it is key to ensure L&D is a strategic driver to reshape and rebuild the organization to become more efficient when aligning DEI and L&D with your business goals. Here are five ways to integrate DEI into your L&D strategy to set yourself up for success in the long term for talent development.

1. Provide mentorship programs.

The value of mentorship programs can extend far beyond the duration of the program itself when you create lasting relationships that support the growth of your talent. You can tap into industry mentorship programs that already exist externally or create your own internal programs for employees to benefit from as a way to access leadership and have a sounding board to guide them throughout their career journey. Depending on your company priorities, you could create mentorship programs for a specific audience. For example, the Asian American Advertising Federation created a NextGen Leadership Program specifically for AAPI marketing professionals.

2. Offer succession planning and leadership programs.

Consider investing in inclusive leadership training where you require employees to understand how to be an inclusive leader in order to get promoted to the next level. Some organizations also require employees to take unconscious bias training and learn how to interview candidates to remove barriers when recruiting people to their teams. It is essential that organizations integrate DEI across the company for all employees to see the importance of it and tie it back into your succession planning and leadership programs when crafting your performance reviews. It will speak volumes and create a bigger impact when you tie it into employee goals that impact their mindset and behavior within your organization rather than a check-the-box compliance training.

You can also consider creating a leadership program for your organization or tap into external resources. The Advertising Club of New York created an annual i’mPART Fellowship program to elevate women in mid-level positions, for example. And Women inPower’s fellowship program provides senior-level women across all professional sectors the peer support, mentorship, training and coaching needed to advance to the highest levels of leadership.

3. Create opportunities for marginalized communities.

Are you intentionally creating opportunities for marginalized communities? Consider how you could invest in professional growth across your employee population with internal and external resources to ensure each employee continues to thrive in their career journey.

For example, you could hire coaches for your marginalized communities, share external resources like ADCOLOR Futures or this BIPOC Scholarship that provides free access to a Manager Essentials Course, or partner with organizations that will sponsor opportunities for marginalized communities. Earlier in my career, I was fortunate to be selected to participate in a sponsored Hyper Island 3-day Digital Acceleration workshop (pictured above) that provided a scholarship for 30 young marketing professionals of color organized by The Advertising Club of New York. These opportunities are truly life-changing beyond words.

4. Leverage your ERGs.

Many organizations are starting to tap into their employee resources groups, as they are valuable drivers of company culture that impact engagement and retention. As stated in The Rise Journey’s State of the ERG 2021 report, they create a sense of belonging for groups of employees who may have been marginalized and provide a safe space for employees to acclimate to organizational culture while finding community. This is where you can leverage them as leadership opportunities and create L&D opportunities for the leads of ERGs who actively participate in making a difference. This could be as easy as sending ERG leads to industry conferences and leadership programs or pairing them with executive mentors.

5. Diversify your attendees and candidates.

Who are the first people nominated in your company to attend your development programs or selected as final candidates when recruiting talent? Diversify your short list of nominations or selections to include BIPOC, LGBTQIA, working parents, veterans, people with disabilities, etc. You want to make sure you are intentional with who you are sending to learning experiences.

When it comes to recruiting talent, look for new ways to hire people into your company beyond your regular strategies. For example, the Interactive Advertising Bureau launched a digital media apprenticeship program that addresses diversity in the workforce across the industry and secures diverse talent into jobs to change the representation of future leadership.

These are only a few examples of initiatives that you can adopt into your company L&D and DEI strategy. As you integrate similar initiatives into your organization, evaluate where you are and where you want to go in the future by measuring specific KPIs to set yourself up for success.

Jessalin Lam is vice president of member development and diversity at the Interactive Advertising Bureau, where she is leading the company’s commitment to DEI and L&D for IAB members and the industry. She is a DEI champion, mentor and people-oriented leader with more than 10 years of combined experience across learning and development, diversity and inclusion, marketing, partnerships, business development, client management and consulting. She is also the co-founder of Asians in Advertising and an advisory board member of The Rise Journey.

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