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One of the most difficult changes an organization can make is evolving from being a diverse organization with representation of marginalized groups to a truly inclusive environment where those individuals feel a sense of belonging. It is not only changing systems but the culture—the hearts, minds and leadership styles—and fabric of how a company operates. It takes an enormous commitment and perseverance.
However, there are small, impactful changes that can make a difference right away.
1. Weekly Pay Periods
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most common pay period is biweekly. However, 4.4% of organizations, ranging in size and industry, only distribute pay once a month. This can create stress for employees who struggle with financial literacy—a phenomenon that's becoming more apparent. Additionally, Black and Hispanic adults often have less access to capital, so longer pay periods are more likely to impact them negatively.
While you can't make assumptions about your employees' financial savviness, implementing weekly pay periods for everyone is a simple yet impactful change. A drawback to this is, of course, more work for your payroll team. For example, if your employees earn a commission, calculating these wages on a weekly basis would be much more overwhelming than doling out a yearly salary in more frequent payments. However, if you know commissions tend to be relatively stable, a simple fix can be weekly draws and a true-up at your preferred time, whether it's monthly or even quarterly.
2. Transportation Subsidy
Unless it's a requirement of the job, employers can't ask candidates if they have a car. We can only confirm whether they have reliable transportation. But as the cost of transportation increases, it can be a barrier for adults to just show up to the office.
One way to help employees with the cost of getting to work is to provide a transportation subsidy. This could range from parking and mass transit subsidies to stipends for those employees who walk, bike or utilize public transportation. Regardless of your employees' situations, it's best to offer a subsidy across the board, rather than basing it on needs. That way, anyone can access it at any point when needed.
3. Education Requirements
Throughout much of American history, a common belief is that earning a bachelor's degree is the key to career success. But, that's not a reality for many Americans today, especially as the cost of a four-year education has skyrocketed in the last 20 years. Additionally, Black and Hispanic students face more barriers to obtaining a higher education compared to white or Asian students. Determining whether your roles need a degree, license or certificate or simply the right experience to perform certain tasks is an easy way to reach a more diverse talent pool.
In fact, many major companies, such as IBM, Accenture, Dell and Bank of America, have dropped the requirement for four-year degrees. According to research, the top reason was to increase the talent pool in a tight market, with creating a more diverse workforce being a close second. Among the companies surveyed, just over half of the hiring managers said the requirement was removed for some or all roles where a degree was deemed unessential. While this change applied to entry-level roles primarily, 57% of companies also dropped degree requirements for mid-level positions and 33% did for senior-level positions.
Higher education remains an important factor for finding the right people to fit open roles, but experience is becoming an equally valuable indicator as well. When you open up your talent pool to professionals without traditional degrees, you can create a more inclusive environment that prioritizes true talent.
In an ever-changing work environment and professional climate, it may seem increasingly difficult to make your company stand out among the sea of businesses whose policies and practices exude diversity, equity and inclusion. Taking little steps in your journey toward a more inclusive workspace is a large step forward for employees of marginalized groups and communities. Realizing the need for change is something to be proud of. This will help begin to level the playing field so that employees from different groups can access opportunities without undue and unnecessary hardship.
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