Diversity, Equity & Inclusion For Dummies
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Let’s face it. Although the term diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) may be common knowledge, it’s not commonly understood. Moreover, as the workforce continues to be redefined by demographic shifts, this adds additional layers of complexities and responsibilities for leaders.

You already have a lot on your plate, and with DEI becoming a greater focus for many companies, it can be daunting to be expected to know all that you should in demonstrating new behaviors and practices and making decisions.

The following sections provide a quick reference to give you food for thought, best practices, and strategies on some key DEI considerations, as well as guidance on how to perform an aspect of DEI effectively.

Identifying and removing barriers to DEI efforts

No matter how compelling the DEI business case is presented or how clearly demographics are shifting and impacting the workplace, resistance and obstacles are still going to get in the way of successfully implementing DEI efforts.

If you have some old habits getting in the way of your organization’s DEI efforts, it’s time to consider removing those barriers to change. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you hear (or use) the phrase culture fit to describe people you’re more comfortable working with?
  • Can you clearly describe the aspirational culture of your organization or your team as well as the kind of person who can get you closer to those aspirations?
  • Are you or some of your colleagues skeptical about the need for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in your team or organization?
  • Can you clearly state both a values case and a business case that compels you to pursue DEI goals?
  • Are you or some of your colleagues pessimistic about your DEI efforts and their ability to create real change?
  • Can you clearly articulate the strategy your organization has embarked on to achieve its DEI goals?
  • Are you aware of the different kinds of microaggressions that can impact disenfranchised groups in your organization or industry?
  • Can you spot any harmful stereotypes or prejudices that may be impacting your employees?
  • Can you identify the star performers, hidden figures, and problem children on your team?
  • Can you think of better ways of deploying resources to ensure stretch opportunities for each kind of employee?
  • Do you have a system for receiving employee feedback about you or the current dynamics on your team?
  • Do your employees have a trusted way to provide feedback anonymously?

By removing some of the most common barriers to diversity, equity, and inclusion on your team, you can build trust, reduce bias, and more quickly see the results of your DEI efforts.

Enabling employee resource groups to succeed

Employee resource groups (ERGs) have gained significant traction in the last 10 years as organizations broaden their scope of DEI efforts.

Realizing that the DEI work cannot fall on the shoulders of a few people, ERGs act as a network of employees who share common needs, perspectives, and experiences in the workplace, and they help advance the DEI agenda.

ERGs’ collective efforts include: building awareness about DEI, celebrating the heritage and cultures of the staff, and sharing ideas and solutions for how the organization can be a more inclusive, equitable, great place to work for all talent. The efforts can also show how the organization can better serve its customers, clients, and other stakeholders.

ERGs also participate in the company’s recruitment, career development, and retention efforts, and they act as brand ambassadors to the external community.

For ERGs to be successful, they must have the support and commitment from senior leaders, meaning the time, resources, and the budget to operate. Here are several strategies for supporting and empowering ERGs in your organization:

  • Detail a plan: Create an easy-to-follow procedure for employees interested in starting an ERG. Doing so ensures process continuity across the organization. Make the sign-up process easy. You should have digital and easily accessible resources such as the procedure for creating ERGs, guidelines for mission and purpose statements, charters, and operating procedures.
  • Provide financial support: As a leader and manager in your organization, allocate some of your budget to support ERG events and initiatives. Determine an equitable way to distribute the funds and create a clear process for fund requests. ERGs are worthy investments into the well-being of employees and the company.
  • Assist with documentation: Help the employees who lead the ERGs with documenting and tracking their progress. Provide systems for managing membership and reports in order to measure the impact in the workplace. Maintain records of the mission and the charter and house them within HR.
  • Get executive sponsorship: I can’t stress enough the importance of executive-level sponsorship for ERGs. Executives advocate and serve as liaisons between the ERG and the company’s decision makers. They can also provide support for new initiatives and increase visibility.
  • Promote, promote, promote: When ERGs have events and workshops, promote them to your staff. Offer space for meetings and other resources that may be needed. Volunteer your own time and resources to support trainings and other volunteer opportunities.

Making an inclusive culture work takes everyone working together!

Testing your cultural competence

Most organizational leaders say they want to create a high-performing workplace and get the best ideas from their workers. But to achieve this goal, you must be able to work well with all kinds of people who don’t look like, think like, act like, or believe like you do. You must be able to work effectively in a multicultural environment — this is known as cultural competence.

So the question is, how culturally competent are you? Here’s a list of questions to consider as you chart your own development in this area.

  • Knowledge
    • Can you define the specific beliefs that define the cultural groups you belong to?
    • Can you tie those beliefs to predictable behaviors that are common in your cultural groups?
    • Can you name the different cultural groups that your direct reports, managers, and peers belong to?
    • Do you know how to find reliable sources of information about the different cultures you interact with?
    • Do you know enough about these cultures to recognize which behaviors may be culturally based?
  • Humility and vulnerability
    • How easy is it for you admit that you don’t know something about a specific culture, belief, or norm?
    • Which if any elements of your own culture do you wish were different?
    • If your words or actions make someone from another culture embarrassed or uneasy, are you prepared to take full accountability for your mistake?
  • Adaptation
    • Are you willing to adapt your behaviors when necessary, even if doing so feels odd or uncomfortable?
    • Are you adept at coaching others so they can also exhibit more cultural competence?

Becoming culturally competent isn’t a quick and easy task. It requires intention, commitment, and an open mind, but it’s necessary for fostering the kind of workplace culture where all talent feels welcomed, valued, and included, and can thrive.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Shirley Davis, PhD, is a seasoned HR and Diversity & Inclusion thought leader, a certified leadership coach, and veteran executive. She has been featured on NBC’s Today, USA Today, National Public Radio, the Wall Street Journal, Essence magazine, Fast Company, the Washington Post, and more.

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