Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives can re-vitalize your organization. But the reactions of your associates may run the extremes: from optimism to acquiescence and, for some, the fear of being left out.
How an organization approaches any initiative reveals a great deal about ‘who they are.’
Organizations all have history, values, rituals, and a “feel” to them; these are just a few of the many indicators of culture, a topic highly relevant to our discussion. Eyes become unfocussed and start to wander when the topic of culture is mentioned; it is a challenging for many astute leaders due to its complexity and particularly due to its proximity – one may be too close to see, as the adage goes, “the forest for the trees.”
The phrase “I don’t know what I don’t know” is worthy of attention (picture this phrase on a neon sign blinking before your eyes). Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, described the “shadow” as aspects of the personality that we don’t like and find it difficult to even acknowledge so we choose to reject and repress this information. Rest assured, these blind spots are present in every organization on the planet. And like all of us, organizational leaders balk at investigating painful information – sometimes leading to ill-fated outcomes.
All initiatives need to be in accord with the organization’s values – if not, then why are you doing this?
DEI, in my estimation, needs to be positioned as an integral component of the organizational strategic plan. For many firms, this will be challenging as historical practices and values have been embedded for decades. However, leaders have numerous allies: research findings indicating fiscal and human benefits of DEI; Brain-Trust members (see below); and, recent poll numbers citing a DEI environment as desirable for many workers.
Importantly, measuring for success is key. Consider establishing a DEI Brain-Trust to gather “state of the organization” data through a survey process. Anonymity must be assured with both quantifiable and narrative data collected to obtain what you need to determine a baseline to gauge an answer to: “Where is this organization really with respect to DEI?”
Some groups take an inventory of key indicators:
- Are the executive ranks diverse, equitable, and inclusive? And, is this topic off-limits or undiscussable?
- Analyze the frequency, and severity of complaints, microaggressions, and incidents – what patterns, themes and other messages appear?
Internal information such as data related to lawsuits, and settlements over the last 10 years can, with survey information, provide a baseline which will be a formidable ally to future measurement of the initiative.
This is a term you may not see often but one that I view as an essential piece of the approach and strategy. As mentioned earlier, while many associates are in favor of DEI initiatives, a segment of your population may be feeling nervous and/or fearful of being left behind. This may result in high attendance at activities and training, but, for some, the body is there but the heart is not. Some organizations have decided to make DEI trainings optional– this could be short-sighted and deprive both the organization and absent associates of potential benefits.
Given what DEI is all about…making it a priority for all is key.
We have witnessed a level of social upheaval in the past year elevated higher and more intensely than, imo, having been experienced in the last thirty years. The number of organizations initiating changes now and many analyzing structural and systemic factors that either foster or sabotage respect, discrimination, and DEI is unprecedented. Moreover, future-state organizations recognize the implications of this initiative to BIPOC in their ranks and those BIPOC who are yearning for a safe, diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment.
Absent a firm commitment from senior management, DEI initiatives could fall far short of their potential.
While organizations will design varied measurements of success, it is important to remember that the process, e.g., how one designs the initiative, will clearly impress upon your people what executive leadership values and as an expression of what the company is all about.
The DEI initiative is an adventure in engagement.
It is dynamic, revealing, and, when done with planning and timely execution, can be leveraged to enhance performance, morale, and the retainment of quality staff.
Need to express your own concerns about initiating an effective and successful DEI?
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Thanks for stopping by!
Be safe and stay well,
Joe Lemmon, PhD