What it takes to move the needle on Diversity & Inclusion

Three steps to making a difference.

Pretty much everyone I meet in my work agrees that diversity and inclusion are important matters. There are many good reasons why it’s necessary: Because we can’t afford to lose out on the talent in the groups that are underrepresented today. Because diverse and inclusive organizations are more innovative and perform better. And because that’s the kind of world most of us want to live in. At the same time, diversity and inclusion efforts often give a feeble or weak impression. Sometimes the engaged groups end up just preaching to the choir of other engaged people, while the rest of the organization nods their kind but passive approval. How do you make sure that doesn’t happen?

1. Top management engagement

Your lead team’s approval and support are not enough, you need their wholehearted engagement. They need to understand why it’s important, how to make a difference, and have it high on their agenda. This is the foundation that needs to be in place, for everything else to happen. This is why I’m so pleased that Spotify’s entire leadership team took an active part in our Inclusion Summit in April together with other Spotifiers from all over the world. Together, and with top management engagement and support, we can really make a change happen.  

2. Real and relevant data

Knowing that you want to have a more diverse workforce is a good start. Understanding that inclusion is necessary to get access to all the diversity benefits is a good insight. But in order to know what efforts will matter and which ones would be useless, you need to base your actions on real and relevant data. “Diversity” and “Inclusion” mean different things in different organizations and there are huge differences between geographical areas. So you need to understand your unique situation and probe your own organization for data. You need to know your demographics (which is hard enough in a global company, because practices and laws differ between countries), but you also need to know what inclusion means to your people, and what the variations between different levels and parts of the organization are. To put it simply, you need to know where you are and where you want to get, to be able to choose the right road. A big part of Spotify’s unique data comes from our inclusion survey that is being finalized as I write this. More about that in my next blog post!

3. Accepting and addressing unconscious bias

No one I ever worked with came into the office every morning thinking “Today I’ll exclude people and shut up the minority”. Yet that is what actually happens every day, in tiny steps and actions that are performed completely without malice. Not because we want to but because that is what that unconscious bias we all carry does to us. We need to make sure the entire organization understands and accepts that fact, so we can all work together to mitigate the effects of unconscious bias. Unconscious bias can be handled and dealt with, but you have to make a conscious decision to do so.

I am very proud of where Spotify is on this curve. We have top management’s engagement. This is the second year we are running an inclusion survey and we have enough responses to it for it to be statistically significant data. And we are rolling out unconscious bias training to the entire organization. So I’m ready, and very excited, to take the next steps on our diversity and inclusion journey!


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