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DEI and a Skills-based Future

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are words that we’ve all heard in our workplace, but what do they mean in action? The OSN is committed to engaging with current and emerging workplace initiatives, with a focus on the practical application and demonstration of these efforts as skills in the workplace. For the OSN, efforts around DEI can be focused on increasing equity and access through expanded opportunities for employment for workers, increasing the impact of a company through the inclusion of new stakeholder points of view, and increasing diversity in the marketplace by redefining customer engagement through the lens of skills across sectors. Let’s take a look at some new endeavors and best practices in DEI skills. The White House announced the Infrastructure Talent Pipeline Challenge earlier this month. The challenge’s goal is to expand “equitable pathways into good jobs, boost opportunities for union jobs, and meet critical employer skill needs.” Nearly 350 organizations have accepted this challenge and will be focused on training programs, recruitment, supportive employment services, and workforce education. These efforts will help train workers with new skills, increase opportunities for growth, and provide expanded support systems for workers’ families, allowing workers to put their new skills into action.

Increasing diversity in an organization includes making sure a variety of populations have a seat at the table; inclusion ensures those voices are heard. LinkedIn shared that focusing on skills in the hiring process can help prevent companies from “missing out on desirable candidates from underrepresented groups” and counts IBM and Merck among those who are shifting to a skills-first hiring approach and that those who leverage “skills data to find the right match are 60% more likely to find a successful hire.” Skills-based hiring allows companies to identify more candidates that are qualified for a role, from entry-level through the c-suite. Indeed highlights five types of diversity skills that are most important when engaging with factors surrounding categories such as age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education level, neurodiversity, physical ability, religious beliefs, mental health, and others. The five skills include cultivating cultural awareness and belonging, confronting bias, mitigating microaggressions, combating stereotypes, and multicultural and multi-ethic understanding. DEI efforts are upskilling in their own right, and the outcomes of these skills mean that the marketplace is increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion not just within organizations but in the people they serve.

These are examples of companies working from a skills mindset when they approach DEI initiatives. On an individual level, this can be impactful. For an employee who is looking for a pathway from entry-level to management and hasn’t had access to traditional education, upskilling from their employers is an investment in their professional, economic, and family’s future. For a company looking to broaden its impact, elevating voices from wide-ranging demographics can widen the scope of its understanding and empower them to reach new audiences, and innovate their products. A human resources team that is willing to share expertise in DEI skills can transform a company culture and influence the personal interactions that happen in a professional setting every day. These skills are changing the way that individuals relate to one another in a positive way through broad-strokes efforts at the company level.

A focus on DEI and skills can help advance efforts in employee support, hiring, and customer engagement. Concentrating on skills as a starting point helps remove external barriers that have limited representation in the past and allows for a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive future in the workplace.

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