Creating a culture that values inclusion and diversity should be a priority for every organization. A more diverse and inclusive culture not only results in happier and more productive employees and leaders – which contributes to building a more competitive marketplace advantage – research shows that those with above-average diversity and levels of employee engagement outperform companies that are below average by 46% to 58%.
During our partner conference, I shared my Blueprint for Inclusion: Five Steps Towards a Thriving, Inclusive, and Diverse Culture, which outlines the steps Extreme took to confront hidden bias and stereotypes, and advance our culture through inclusion. Since sharing this guidance with our partners, multiple resellers have reached out to me and we’re now working with these partners to help them increase diversity and inclusion within their organizations.
A bit of history, we rolled out our plan for diversity and inclusion (D&I) in June of 2020. As of today, we now have 7 active ERGs. Within the first 110 days of this program, 16% of Extreme employees plugged into some resource relating to our D&I program.
We’re excited about the success of our program and hope other organizations will benefit from our experiences. Below is a deeper dive into my five-step Blueprint for Inclusion that you can reference as you work to increase D&I in your organization.
1. Hire or Appoint a Diversity and Inclusion Leader
In order to have focused leadership in D&I, I encourage appointing or hiring a D&I leader. This leader will be accountable for initiating and implementing programs as well as overseeing all D&I activities. Your D&I leader will not only help define what inclusion looks like in the organization, but also, will help to align the initiatives required to make inclusion part of the company culture which is necessary for lasting impact.
2. Commit to Diversity and Inclusion Goals
Setting attainable goals will help you measure your progress. This work is not easy, so we set milestones that allow us to celebrate our successes and maintain our focus on the work that’s still needed. Benchmarking is a great tool to use for goalsetting. Be sure to align your goals to companies your “size.” Nothing is more disheartening than trying to align to larger organizations that have a much more mature D&I program. Ensure you gain buy-in and support from your executive teams and ERG leaders as you will need their commitment to be successful.
3. Conduct Diversity and Inclusion Training
Training is a critical step in your D&I rollout. Training should include basics like, “defining inclusion” and “unconscious bias training.” As you are framing out your game plan for training, it’s critical to understand how best to engage employees. Assess what training would yield the best results for your organization, seek feedback from employees, and engage regularly to ensure your initiatives are producing the desired results.
4. Establish Employee Resource Groups
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are employee-led groups that help to facilitate your D&I agenda. ERGs represent “the employee voice” and provide an outlet for employees to build stronger community and drive stronger employee engagement. Our ERGs span a wide variety of departments, employee job levels, backgrounds, locations, and geographies. We have diversity in our ERG leadership (by design), and our core values of transparency, candor, curiosity, ownership, inclusion, teamwork underpin all the work in our groups.
5. Establish a Cross-Functional Diversity and Inclusion Council
A D&I Council is very effective as it brings together employees and senior leaders to provide oversight of diversity and inclusion initiatives. This council works closely with senior leadership to institutionalize our practices and helps to support and accelerate our D&I goals. Our D&I Council has direct sponsorship from our CEO, Ed Meyercord, which is amazing because his executive representation demonstrates Extreme’s full commitment to D&I and establishes its priority.
As you are building or refining your program, I might add that research proves that the most effective diversity and inclusion strategies are those that focus on not only creating an inclusive environment but also driving behavioral and cultural changes that align with employee engagement and morale. Engaged employees help to drive better business outcomes and company performance. Our goal at Extreme is to create a culture that motivates, empowers, and respects our employees.
In closing, prioritizing D&I not only helps to increase race and ethnic diversity but also enables cognitive diversity which plays a critical role in innovation and breakthrough thinking. Here at Extreme, we are proud of our success in such a short time, but quite honestly, we have high aspirations of creating a world-class program and we are just getting started!
For more information about our D&I initiatives, please view: