Dec 201921

Five Common Diversity Mistakes

(Guest Blog by Kari Heistad - Culture Coach International)

When working in the field of diversity and inclusion, avoiding some of these common mistakes will allow you to create a more effective diversity and inclusion program and to enable you to engage more leaders and employees in your efforts.

1. Confusing Diversity and Inclusion

The terms Diversity 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 in their own and this can lead to confusion, communication errors and frustration.  It should also be noted that diversity and inclusion do not mean that same thing and they are not interchangeable. As a short hand way of understanding the difference in two ways: for sports enthusiasts -  diversity is being on the bench and inclusion is playing on the field, for other folks – diversity is being at the dance, but inclusion is being asked to dance.

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 is a key priority for executives because it comes up in meetings and diversity ideas and themes are interwoven into the operations of the organization.  When senior leaders are not actively involved in diversity 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. Diversity Activities are Sporadic

Diversity initiatives are often started with great fanfare and enthusiasm. Diversity 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 diversity 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.  Doing events sporadically means it can become more of an annoyance to employees rather than a topic that truly engages them.

4. Lack of Diversity 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 diversity 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 diversity messages. 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 Diversity Efforts

What gets measured gets done. The same can be true for what people are held accountable for also gets done. Diversity programs and initiatives that don’t have accountability built into them are less likely to succeed. Changing an organizational culture to be more respectful 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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