Organizations define Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) goals and start off on their journey with optimism. However, at times, they see little observable change in the culture. Despite doing everything by the book, they do not see any substantial movement towards the goals defined.
If your organization seems to be ‘stuck’ in a DEI stalemate, it might help to consider the following pointers.
Asking the right questions
To know how your employees feel at the workplace, they must be asked the right questions at the right time in what they consider to be a safe space. Many companies are unable to solve problems faced by employees because they are not aware of such problems existing. Is your organization going the extra mile to unearth the challenges faced by minorities? Does your organization capture details such as sexual orientation and provide an environment where this question can be answered honestly without fear of judgment? A company must know who their employees are in order to identify groups that require additional support.
Calling out unconscious bias
A Women’s Employee Resource group is a must have in an organization. However, there are more layers to be uncovered when it comes to dealing with unconscious gender bias. Are administrative tasks shared equitably between genders in your organization? Historically, undefined administrative tasks such as scheduling events, setting up meetings, clearing shared spaces and taking notes during meetings would be ascribed to women. Is the shared responsibility of ‘office housework’ being spoken about openly in your workspace? If not then it is important to understand the importance of addressing the subliminal impact of such actions on the confidence of women in your workforce.
Planning and documentation
The creation of an organization’s DEI strategy often involves setting up meetings and deciding on abstract goals such as increasing diversity at the workplace. This is often followed by ad hoc events and the creation of temporary committees which are ineffective. Does your organization have a concrete action plan to achieve DEI goals? Is there a DEI Policy in place with a documented process to enforce it? If yes, are your employees aware of it? Many organizations fall short on the planning and documentation of DEI efforts even though they deserve to be treated with the same rigor displayed in the execution of other business goals.
Training the leaders
Are multiple DEI training sessions organized for your leaders and managers? Are they sensitized to the challenges faced by different employees based on their gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation? It is observed that employees in a position of power are often unaware of inequities existing in the system. They might also be unable to acknowledge the possibility of themselves being recipients of some advantages due to systemic inequity. This creates a glaring blind spot. If leaders do not see the problem for what it is, they will not see the need for any type of rectification in policies and processes. DEI-related training sessions and reverse mentoring programs can make a difference in this space.
Does your organization have dedicated employees managing DEI programs or are existing HR employees simply double hatting? Significant strides can be made in achieving DEI goals by setting up a dedicated team which has access to an adequate budget. Often companies expect employees to perform tasks related to DEI initiatives and ERG management over and above their existing roles and responsibilities. However, having a core team that owns the complete management and execution of all DEI programs can prove to be extremely beneficial. Hiring full-time DEI professionals can drive real change.
Asking such difficult questions might be uncomfortable but quite necessary. Deliberating on them in a well-represented forum might help bring to the forefront the underlying issues plaguing your DEI strategy.