Diversity and inclusion programs make companies more innovative. Research proves that. Yet many organizations struggle with building a diverse and inclusive team, especially at the leadership level.

Award-winning top companies don’t give up, and they get results. Here are seven proven techniques from award-winning companies you can put to use to improve diversity in your organization.

  1. Create ERGs. Affinity Groups or ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) allow those with similar and underrepresented backgrounds to network, mentor each other, and share information. While it may seem ironic to think about a separate group fostering inclusiveness, these groups have received a thumbs-up from employees and researchers. At Charles Schwab, 25% of employees belong to at least one ERG.
  2. Leaders – own it. To promote diversity at Medtronic, the Vice President/General Manager serves on an Inclusion Coalition and assists in the development of its Action Plan, along with others from all functions of the organization. The VP/GM then requires all managers and employees to support the implementation of the Plan through the company’s review process. They walk the talk. In Arizona, the executive team is an example of leadership diversity. Composed of twelve individuals at the Director/Sr. Director level, the team includes six females and two ethnically diverse individuals.
  3. Broaden your perspectives. Diversity is really an innovation initiative. Think of diversity as the opportunity to bring different points of view to your team, like Synchrony Financial does. A mentoring program designed to encourage cross-cultural relationships can be helpful.
  4. Focus your message. The same message will not necessarily resonate with all diverse candidates. USAA speaks the language of service, appealing to veterans. GoDaddy publicly changed their male-dominated brand in order to appeal to women in tech.
  5. Watch your language. Many job postings are awful, but even those that are otherwise well-written often reflect common biases that dampen diversity efforts. The words and phrases chosen for job postings can set up a hiring bias before the first candidate is even interviewed. Words like “ninja”, “dominate”, and “competitive” attract more males, while “creative”, “adaptable”, and “collaborate” draw in females.
  6. Follow the “Rooney Rule”. This practice originated in the NFL in 2003, requiring hiring managers to interview at least one female or minority candidate for every open position. This technique has become popular in the tech industry. While the Rooney Rule does not involve hiring quotas, advocates maintain that to get any traction for diversity hiring “You have to start interviewing people who don’t look like everyone else in the room.” Tech giants making use of this approach include Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. Startups may benefit the most from The Rooney Rule since it is easier to create a diverse company from the beginning than it is to change an established homogenous one.
  7. Make your employer brand match your consumer brand. Dignity Health extends their external message of “Humankindness” inside the organization, stating “Diversity is not just an initiative, it’s the true nature of who we are”. The message is clear for both patients and job seekers.
  8. Seek out diversity award opportunities. In addition to workplace culture and industry awards, diversity awards can help your efforts gain traction. Managing workplace award nominations can be a challenge for companies. Many of the best companies in Arizona rely on employer branding and PR consultants to help navigate their awards strategies.

There is no longer any doubt of the bottom-line benefits of diversity, and creating a workplace reflective of the population has become imperative. A one-size-fits-all approach to improving diversity doesn’t work, but the examples of award-winning companies provide a great place to start.