In the wake of the social justice movement and the COVID-19 pandemic, government organizations stand at the forefront of defining moments and enormous opportunities to improve civic engagement, organizational cultures, employee engagement, and talent retention worldwide. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has never been more important, both as a business driver and a way for government organizations to connect with their increasingly diverse workforces.
According to Brandon Hall Group research, almost nine in 10 organizations identify DEI as an important driver of business results.
Our communities are changing from being homogenous communities to having multiple values, perspectives, interests, and citizens’ communities. A lack of diversity in government leadership, equitable decision making, and inclusive initiatives can be roadblocks to delivering effective public policies and services. The lack of representation of the values and people of the community must be addressed within government agencies if they are going to be successful. As DEI issues come to the forefront, many organizations are beginning to question how they should make, implement, and assess policies to target underlying systemic imbalances.
But even though the Brandon Hall Group research found that 89 percent of organizations rank DEI as an important driver, there is a lack of executive-level leadership. It is critical that this leadership modernize for cultural change. The lack of executive leadership further complicates DEI evolution. Executives play a critical role as strategic DEI partners by designing, developing, and delivering programs to address increasingly complex DEI priorities. Executive leadership in government agencies needs to recognize the importance of building inclusive cultures that foster engagement, collaboration, and belonging that reflect a diverse workforce and deliver value for all stakeholders.
Based on quantitative studies and interviews, seven distinct DEI strategies emerged, highlighting specific approaches to developing and implementing successful DEI programs in government agencies:
1. Take a holistic approach.
2. Establish and demonstrate strong values.
3. Prioritize DEI efforts based on business needs.
4. Develop continuous learning experiences.
5. Measure, evaluate, and evolve.
6. Leverage technology.
7. Celebrate progress and success.
In addition, organizations seeking to fully leverage the power of diversity, equity, and inclusion must answer many crucial questions, including:
- How can we do a better job leading, managing, and funding DEI efforts to improve the impact in our communities?
- How can we do a better job creating awareness of unconscious bias and building a culture of self-awareness that empowers unconscious inclusion?
- How can we embed the values of DEI in all levels of the community we serve?
- How can we develop a diverse pipeline of professional and leadership talent, internally and externally?
The calls to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion at every level of government leadership continues as social movements rise across the country. In our communities, we work better together because of our differences, not despite them. When we draw on the wisdom of a government workforce that reflects the population we serve, we are better able to understand and meet the community’s needs. And research tells us that merely hiring a diverse workforce is not enough. These seven strategies will fuel more trust, accountability, transparency, and ultimately civic engagement.