Recent current events have prompted many organizations to take a closer look at diversity, equity, and inclusion planning (DEI). However, DEI is not necessarily a new concept, as it has always been and should be an integral part of human resource planning and initiatives. Large and small organizations that foster diverse and inclusive work cultures and environments benefit in a plethora of ways, ranging from an overall positive & encouraging work atmosphere, increased creativity, productivity, and employee retention.
We cannot operate our organizations in a bubble. The issues, conflicts, and tensions which ostensibly exist on the “outside” of our working environment are integrated into every element within the workplace. Leaders at all levels of the organization must recognize the importance of events, issues, and conflicts outside the work environment since they will necessarily affect relationships between employees and with customers. Your unique role in HR as both an advocate and a strategic partner places you in the position to facilitate diversity initiatives within your organization.
HOW IS DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION DEFINED?
Diversity is the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religion, ethical values, and national origin.
Inclusion is involvement and empowerment, where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized. An inclusive workplace promotes and sustains a sense of belonging; it values and practices respect for the talents, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of living of its members.
Equity is treating people fairly, taking into consideration, respecting, and embracing their differences. However, equity is not equality (where all individuals are treated the same). Instead, it denotes an environment where individuals share the belief that they are getting what they need so they can contribute equally.
DEI IS NOT A “CHECK THE BOX” PLAN
DEI planning is an organizational journey – it is not intended to be a “check the box” type project. Organizations must move beyond simply tolerating differences, but instead embrace the various characteristics of our colleagues and the world around us. We must learn to appreciate, respect, and understand the differences between us. A diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace is not a matter of simply adhering to legal obligations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Instead, proper DEI planning starts with executive management genuinely buying into the process at all levels. However, it is also critical that DEI planning engages all employees throughout the organization. Therefore, all parts and members of the organization should contribute to DEI planning and execution.
HOW IS DEI IMPLEMENTED
Diversity, equity, and inclusion planning is not a one size fits all approach. DEI planning and training should be tailor-made for the organization conducting it. However, the general framework of a DEI plan includes the following essential elements:
The first step an organization should take in implementing a diversity, equity, and inclusion plan is to conduct an internal census to better understand the social and demographic make-up of the organization at large. This is a top-down review of all aspects of the organization, whether it be the front line retail associate or the c-suite executive.
When conducting an appropriate census, companies must consider gathering information related to all of the major federal, state, and local protected classes. Therefore, an organization should not limit its inquiries to race-related issues but instead consider a more expansive list of protected class-related issues, such as national origin, age, and gender. Engaging in objective fact-finding to determine the culture and make-up of the company would include, but not be limited to:
- one-on-one interviews with staff
- electronic surveys
- focus groups
- meetings with senior and mid-level management.
After an organization has gathered raw data from the census, they would then determine where the most salient issues of concern lay. For example:
- Which parts of the organization have the most under-represented demographics?
- Where are the most complaints?
- Does management appreciate or even recognize the issues?
- Is there a prevalent culture that lacks diversity?
- Is there a disparity between management and lower-level staff, etc.?
The analysis of the census is both the objective and subjective number crunching to determine the areas of concern. While we may have preconceived notions of our organization’s diversity and inclusion, we don’t find out the truth until we ask and carefully evaluate the data!
This is the most organic of the steps in that it will evolve as your organization proceeds. After your organization has identified areas of concern, you must then address which objectives you will pursue to effectuate meaningful change. These decisions will often be based upon prioritization. While there will likely be many different areas that require improvement and change, efficient and effective planning demands that you prioritize those efforts which will have the most substantial impact on the organization at large. Bear in mind that this is not a one size fits all approach. Indeed, which objectives you pursue and how you implement them, will depend upon the unique nature of your organization and where it stands. Perhaps it’s a start-up entity just entering the marketplace or a well-established, closely held company that has existed for generations. Either way, careful research and planning are required to determine which objectives have the highest priority.
Some examples of implementation objectives include:
- A focus on implementing a training regimen as it relates to the unique issues of the organization
- A thorough review and/or creation of policies and procedures which integrate DEI
- Recruiting Strategies focused on a broader more diverse candidate pool
- Educating and engaging its staff for the entire life cycle of an employee
The success of a DEI Plan is undoubtedly a moving target. DEI is not a product – it’s a process. As this “process” begins and continues, it’s vital that the company objectively measure the success and/or failure of its initiatives. Of course, it’s worth noting that ascertaining results may sometimes be challenging in light of the fact they are not always tangible or seemingly objective.
To those ends, measurements can be in the form of factors such as:
- Employee retention
- Employee satisfaction
- Productivity Increases
- Creativity Increases
- External customer feedback
- Awards and/or public recognition
With each of these above measurements and any others that your organization considers, it’s critical that they are shared and communicated to your organization. Again, these communications should be made throughout the organization – from C-suite to job seeker.
AN ORGANIZATION’S CULTURAL COMMITMENT – A FAILURE TO ADDRESS DEI
To be an effective game-changer, diversity, equity, and inclusion must tie in to the mission, vision, values, and goals of the organization. The DEI plan can and should impact how an organization values all aspects of diversity with employees, customers, and the community.
We cannot turn a blind eye to diversity and inclusion planning. As mentioned previously, we are not in a bubble. The world around our organization is the very same world our organization operates in. While this mantra seems simple on its face, you’d be surprised how organizations miss the obvious. We must learn how our organizations can address and overcome the very real issues our employees face both inside and outside the workplace.
Whether it is complaisance? Ignorance? Or simply not caring? The ugly alternatives lead to bias, prejudice, and stereotypes within an organization and its very culture. Indeed, this leads to a cornucopia of troubles ranging from, among other things, low morale, reduced productivity/creativity, and legal exposure.
Employers Council offers the following DEI classes:
Diversity and Inclusion: A Key to Innovative and Effective Teams
Diversity, Inclusion, and Unconscious Bias
LGBTQ Basics: Understanding Transgender and Gender Diverse Communities at Work
Online Learning Center: Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in the Workplace