4 Core Skills Crucial to Capitalize on DEI Initiatives

June 11th, 2024 – SkillCycle

Companies often struggle with overlapping priorities as they build strategies to improve performance, hone a competitive advantage, and deliver on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. 

However, fostering a more inclusive workplace won’t hamper gains in other areas. In fact, the opposite is likely true. Building a diverse team and fostering a more inclusive workplace has been shown to benefit other areas of company performance. 

The benefits of DEI in the workplace run deep. Organizations that are both diverse and inclusive are 87% more likely to make better decisions, according to Korn Ferry.

“For companies to continue to deliver to a diverse audience, they need to include different perspectives,” says Rebecca Taylor, CCO and Co-founder of SkillCycle. “That starts with who they have at the table and how they incorporate their feedback and ideas.”

In this article on core skills amplifying the benefits of DEI in the workplace, we’ll explore:

  • Why soft skills are valuable in planning and implementing DEI efforts
  • 4 core skills that are vital to capitalize on DEI initiatives
  • How developing soft skills helps promote DEI in recruitment and retention
  • How talent development contributes to a culture of inclusion and belonging


Why soft skills are valuable in planning and implementing DEI efforts

To understand why soft skills are important when crafting and executing your DEI strategy, it’s helpful to break down the term and how it’s used today. 

  • Diversity is usually about numbers or statistics that help represent the people who make up your workforce. It’s helpful when ensuring no one group is overrepresented. 
  • Equity is how you can support and create fairness among your different employee demographics. 
  • Inclusion creates an environment that welcomes everyone in your organization, considers their perspectives, and ensures decisions are made based on everyone’s experience and needs.

“Being inclusive means being able to empathize and understand other people’s perspectives  — and to consciously seek out those different perspectives,” says Taylor. 

An inclusive workplace is a key element in the evolution of work. Companies must evolve to stay competitive as audiences and markets expand and become more diverse. 

Soft skills for leaders and employees help everyone in your organization value different perspectives and be willing to change and grow. This builds long-term success into your DEI planning. 


4 core skills that are vital to capitalize on DEI initiatives

Leveraging any of the soft or human skills will benefit your company in countless ways, from strengthening your organizational culture to improving employee experience. 

Still, four in particular work together to help ensure your workplace attracts diverse individuals, creates an inclusive environment, and evolves quickly enough to retain employees.

Here are the four core skills most critical to supporting your DEI initiatives.

  1. Emotional intelligence
    The ability to empathize and understand the experience, emotions, and perspective of others while also navigating and managing one’s own ego and emotions.

  2. Change management
    The capacity to create healthy frameworks to guide and support individuals, teams, and companies through internal and external transitions to allow ongoing improvement across all business functions.

  3. Communication
    The ability to convey information and ideas clearly, seeking and delivering constructive feedback while fostering understanding and collaboration with others who may think and express themselves differently.

  4. Adaptability
    An openness to continuous learning while adjusting effectively to new challenges and environments.

“If you’re constantly developing and leveraging these four skills, your policies will be able to change and adapt with how the workforce changes and people’s needs adjust,” says Taylor. 

Companies that prioritize soft skills for leaders, managers, and employees will see positive changes in workplace culture that support growth across the organization.


How developing soft skills helps promote DEI in recruitment and retention

Training soft skills within your leadership and management teams can ensure your organization prioritizes inclusion in recruitment, retention, and promotion of your employees. These areas are important to attract high-value applicants and avoid costly turnover

Your investment in skill building is likely to pay off as it supports your DEI programs. Research shows that a diverse workforce improves company performance by 12%, and employees’ intent to stay rises by 20%, according to Gartner.

“Unconscious bias can be positive and negative,” says Taylor. “The first step is to understand these biases and leverage emotional intelligence to work through them.”

For example, even those who might be mindful to sidestep common negative biases could be subconsciously warmer to an applicant from their alma mater or hometown. An organization may miss opportunities to support workers with hybrid working arrangements. 

Soft skills allow interviewers to leverage their ability to actively listen to people and make better judgments about their ability to do the job rather than making assumptions. When hiring managers leverage empathy and emotional intelligence, they can implement recruitment practices that are more inclusive to a more diverse group of applicants. 

DEI efforts don’t just influence hiring. Well-developed change management skills can help ensure your workplace evolves as needed to meet the needs of its employees, improving retention. 

“Most initiatives fail because of poor change management,” says Taylor. “You need to be able to change a current policy or implement a new one and then really manage that change process well.”

Finally, adaptability can help ensure that your people are ready for promotion when opportunities arise, helping you keep talented employees in the organization. 


How talent development contributes to a culture of inclusion and belonging

Skill development for the future must go beyond technical skills. Instead, it’s important for companies to focus on training soft skills that help people work better together and that help them grow. 

“When you have a talent development strategy that supports the development of those core skills, you’re going to have a more inclusive organization,” says Taylor. “And when your organization is more inclusive, you’ll attract people who want to be a part of it.”

Talent development is about consciously developing people in your organization and intentionally building the skills to support employee and company success. 

Fostering a culture that welcomes a more diverse workforce and creates an environment where their contributions are seen and recognized happens more easily when people at all levels have strong human skills. 

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