Updated: Nov 13, 2020
Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) programs are finally making their way to the top of the executive agendas. As a society we’ve been talking about these programs for years but let’s be honest - progress has been slow. This year has been a year of change and companies are being scrutinized more than ever by media, social media, their customers and shareholders on their DEI programs, leadership team members and workplace culture.
The 2020 protests and movements have shed a new light on the importance of DEI programs and how we need to change. Not change for the sheer vanity of having a program, but a sincere commitment to make things better for future generations. Executives are being asked if they are working on creating a diverse workforce, a diverse leadership team and giving their entire workforce equal opportunities and rewards.
Every company is facing challenges today with cultural and structural changes impacting who they hire, promote and how they make HR decisions impacting employees.
In many organizations DEI seems to fall on HR but it is critical that it is owned by all and embedded in the workplace culture or it simply will not work.
The most successful programs are actually bottom-up grassroots movements championed by employees and supported by the organization. These movements are most successful because they include champions that are invested in making an impact who have the support of their leaders and colleagues when it comes to providing time, resources, tools and funding necessary to enable their success.
Moving the needle does not happen overnight, it’s an organizational mindset shift that takes time and concerted effort. One of the most important steps is making a conscious decision to change the mindset of hiring managers and leaders who can lead by example and educate those around them.
Leaders need to believe that there are benefits and understand how those benefits will not only create a healthy workplace culture but also contribute to the organization’s overall success.
The benefits speak for themselves; a more diverse workforce is more successful because it brings together different mindsets, views, cultures, experiences and educational backgrounds that can best represent clients and consumers to create better and more innovative products and services.
Creating Your Bottom-Up Grassroots Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Program
1. Leaders! Lead by Example
As leaders you can play a major role by educating your workforce and community on the benefits of diverse and inclusive teams, setting diversity goals and most importantly by modeling the behavior you expect from everyone else.
2. Create an Open and Trusting Working Environment
Creating an open and trusting working environment is critical. It is important to create an environment where ideas can be shared openly without interruptions, criticism or judgment. A healthy workplace is one where feedback is encouraged, valued and used to help make decisions.
When it comes to trust, a team member will judge whether or not to share ideas and opinions based on their previous experience with you and how you have handled information or feedback they have given you in the past.
Is their feedback being ignored?
Are they being criticized when giving feedback?
Are they constantly interrupted when trying to share their thoughts?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, they may feel disrespected and decide to keep quiet going forward. This does not mean that you cannot disagree with any feedback or opinions; it means that you can have respectful discussions or disagreements and move forward with diverse thoughts to make the best decisions for your business. Challenging each other is healthy as long it is done with an open mind and mutual respect.
3. Seek and Respect Diverse Ideas and Opinions
Inclusion is a choice, a conscious and consistent choice and it is action based. Every leader and colleague must make a conscious choice to include everyone at the table, listen with an open-mind and respect every opinion. You have to seek out those diverse thoughts to get diverse thoughts. Encouraging people to speak up and seeking their opinions and ideas is key.
4. Start Being Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
You may get the eye rolls in meetings when you bring up diversity, equality or inclusion discussions and you need to keep having the discussions, over and over and over. Not until the eye rolls stop, because they might not, but until you make significant progress that you and your organization can be proud of.
You would be surprised at how many of your team members would champion and support diversity, equality and inclusion initiatives. These champions exist in every organization at every level, they may just need a nudge to step forward to take the lead. They can help you come up with creative ideas and bring like-minded employees together to help tackle the challenges your organization is facing. The team champions can work with colleagues to create actionable solutions to move your DEI initiatives forward.
6. Assessing Where You Are At As An Organization
Assessing where you are as an organization is very important! How will you know if you are making progress if you do not know where you are or where you are headed? Analyze your data, set goals and set-up quarterly check-ins and discussions to review your progress. Share your data and any progress with all employees.
7. Goal Setting
Once you know where you stand as an organization, share the results with everyone and engage your team (especially your Champions) to help you set realistic goals and hold everyone accountable to achieve those goals. It’s a mindset shift! It’s a team effort! Celebrate your achievements as a team!
It may seem intimidating but it’s about making a conscious effort to move the needle one step at a time as a team for long lasting impact. How does your company measure up? Are you rocking it? Or is it still at the discussion stage? Move the needle; it’s your responsibility too!
Linda Mota, PCC
Founder, Topanga HR Consulting and Coaching