When it comes to your diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) journey, avoiding some of these common mistakes will allow you to create a more effective approach and to enable you to engage more leaders and employees in your efforts.
1. Develop Your Vocabulary
Terms like diversity, equity and inclusion connote different meanings for people. When an organization does not define what it means to them, it means that people often interpret the words on their own and this can lead to confusion, communication errors and frustration. It should also be noted that diversity, equity and inclusion do not mean that same thing and they are not interchangeable. Diversity is relational. It’s about the differences between people within your teams, company, and community. Inclusion is about asking how everyone, from team members to end-users, can feel valued, accepted and included. Equity is the fair and respectful treatment of everyone in the organization. This means that we do everything we can to identify and eliminate unfair biases, stereotypes or barriers that may limit full participation in our workplace.
2. Lack of Senior Executive Endorsement and Involvement
While it may be difficult to find a senior executive today who will say that diversity is not important, not all of them actively support internal diversity efforts. Employees know when diversity and equity are key priorities for executives because it comes up in meetings and inclusionary ideas and concepts are interwoven into the operations of the organization. When senior leaders are not actively involved in DEI programs and are only coaxed into including it in a brief mention at company meetings or newsletters, employees know that it is not a true priority for the organization. If asking a senior executive why diversity is important to them or your organization results in a long pause before they answer, this is a key sign that diversity is not on their radar screen.
3. Activities are Sporadic
Diversity initiatives are often started with great fanfare and enthusiasm. DEI committees have ample volunteers and programs have good attendance. Done right, this initial passion builds important momentum within the organization. What is key to keeping that momentum going are consistent and continuous efforts. This does not mean one large event a year and then little or nothing the rest of the year. What is critical to keeping the momentum going is consistent engagement – however small – with employees. This is what keeps the topic front of mind and keeps the momentum moving forward. Having sporadically events means it can become more of an annoyance to employees rather than a topic that truly engages them.
4. Lack of Communication
People don’t know what you are doing if you don’t tell them about it. While it may be important (and in some cases obvious - to a DEI professional) what is being done and why, to employees and executives it is not always the case. It has been said when making a presentation that you need to repeat a message seven times before everyone in the room will hear and understand what you are saying. The same can be said for messages pertaining to diversity, equity and inclusion. When you do not regularly communicate and reinforce diversity topics and themes, employees enmeshed in the daily overload of information may not take in your message. Plus, as the focus and priorities of diversity programs and initiatives change over time, if communication is not sufficient, they will not understand the evolving goals and priorities.
5. Lack of Manager and Executive Accountability for DEI Efforts
What gets measured gets done. The same can be true for what people are held accountable for also gets done. DEI programs and initiatives that don’t have accountability built into them are less likely to succeed. Changing an organizational culture to be more respectful, value others and inclusive won’t be done overnight. It will require long-term commitment and this means that those involved will need to be held accountable. Managers should be the first priority, and then employees.
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