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SENSE OF BELONGING

Watch: Airbnb’s DEI advisor Melissa Thomas-Hunt on better strategies for increasing corporate diversity and inclusion

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Movements like Me Too and Black Lives Matter have helped inspire corporations to invest more than ever in improving the diversity and inclusiveness of their boards and org charts. But research has shown that even the best-intentioned DEI initiatives often fail to produce tangible results.

To find out what makes for a successful DEI objective, Quartz CEO Zach Seward spoke with social scientist and diversity expert Melissa Thomas-Hunt, who was hired as Airbnb’s Global Head of Diversity and Belonging in 2019 and now works there in an advisory role. She cited “the M word”—mandatory—as a main reason these programs stumble and recommended keeping trainings both voluntary and small. At Airbnb, they’re structured more as team-building activities, where managers and their direct reports can spend time together learning and sharing experiences. 

What we find is that people really do want to be good allies; they just don’t know what that is. And so to the extent that we can equip them to do that while taking a more proactive rather than blaming perspective, we’re able to engage and activate them.

If you’re hoping to improve your own DEI approach, Thomas-Hunt offers a wealth of other tips in this episode, from integrating diversity questions into the hiring process, to reframing implicit bias as something that can be actively blocked, to tapping employee resource groups—no matter how niche—to gain direct feedback. These practices will prove even more critical for both the ethics and the profitability of businesses in the years to come.

Read more: Real equality means inclusion at every level of your organization

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