ATD Blog

Gaining Traction With Your Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Many diversity and inclusion (D&I) and learning professionals plan to refocus their approaches, shifting from episodic programming to sustainable practices. Faced with the reality that D&I has simply not progressed to a significant degree, it is clear that change is warranted. The evidence includes gender pay disparities, racial inequities, slowed career advancement for underrepresented groups, and stalled employee engagement.

There are multiple reasons why D&I is not showing desired results, which include:

  • being under-resourced and underfunded
  • seen as “nice to have” but not critical to business success
  • too siloed within organizations.

Arguably, these constraints are not likely to improve in the short-term, making it incumbent upon D&I professionals to find ways to multiply impact—and that means making smarter choices.

Successful D&I leaders have learned that having a strategic focus on investing resources that have greater buy-in throughout the organization is the best path to producing measurable change. By leveraging organizational design principles and building stakeholder ownership, D&I can become a powerful force, despite real constraints.

Here are some key recommendations.

Align the D&I Strategy With Organizational Imperatives

Identify the pressing organizational challenges and strategies and align with relevant drivers.

Strategic Imperatives

Implications for D&I

Driving growth

Leverage diverse thinking to overcome status quo

Improving reputational capital

Demonstrate progress in overcoming inequities

Opening new markets

Create relevant products and positioning through knowledge of diverse needs

Driving compliance

Understand varied learning styles/motivators for implementation

Enhancing innovation

Create inclusive environment for new ideas to be heard and sponsored

These are just a few examples designed to illustrate that strategic imperatives often have corresponding D&I implications.

Obtain Sponsorship

No D&I program or initiative can succeed long-term without a sponsor. While there are many times when a bottom-up approach with local support should be fostered, these will need to obtain sponsorship to truly have impact.

Sponsors provide the funding, visibility, credibility, and link to other organizational imperatives that are foundational for sustainability.

Multiply Impact With Local Partners and Other Functions

With many D&I functions consisting of a single person or a handful of professionals, it is essential to create D&I ambassadors and local action teams that create a multiplier effect on your key initiatives. Moreover, working with others on the ground who know best how to translate enterprise-level plans into actions that best fit local conditions, priorities, and cultures enhances the quality of ideas and successful implementation.

Focus on the Critical Few to Drive Change

In organizations marked by competing priorities and internal noise, an initiative prioritizing a few laser-focused actions is more likely to take hold than many scattershot programs and activities.

In addition, be sure that all D&I programs have clear linkages and together weave a narrative about the commitment to build D&I. This prioritization is easier to communicate to key stakeholders (such as frontline managers, executive leaders, and individual contributors) versus a multitude of D&I initiatives that are harder to reinforce.

Communicate “What Good Looks Like”

Sometimes our internal constituents are very motivated to become more inclusive, but not sure what to do or where to start. Provide a D&I toolkit that demonstrates what good looks like, what resources are available, and how to self-assess and make continuous progress. This should be translated into the day-to-day behaviors, as well as longer-term commitments, that are meaningful at all levels.

Make Success Tangible

With sponsorship in hand, determine what measures of success are meaningful to various stakeholders, functions, locations, and levels in the organization. Plan to report out on success outcomes, in both the short- and long-term—this maintains interest, builds accountability, and creates a virtuous cycle that increasing the chances that future D&I programs will be funded and supported.

With these tips, you can begin to build a D&I program that maximizes limited resources while making true business impact.

Want to learn more?

Plan to attend the ATD LearnNow: Leverage Inclusion to Drive Engagement workshop Marjorie will deliver in Alexandria, Virginia, on December 12-13, 2018. Key learning outcomes for the 1.5-day event include:

  • Review the current state of D&I practices in your organization, and opportunities for greater impact and increasing employee engagement.
  • Create a strategic plan for D&I that aligns with your organization’s business imperatives and establishes governance.
  • Obtain sponsorship for key initiatives.
  • Assess and create plans that build stakeholder buy-in (internal and external).
  • Gain traction for D&I through change management.
  • Build an inclusive culture (including self-reflection, learning, application, and reinforcement).
About the Author

Marjorie Derven, a director at HUDSON Research & Consulting, has worked with many leading organizations to design change management strategies and initiatives that integrate organizational effectiveness, DEI, and learning to create solutions that drive meaningful change.

She formerly served as chair for TD Editorial Board and as a Senior Fellow at The Conference Board in the human capital practice. With 20+ years of consulting experience with top-tier companies across multiple industries, her areas of expertise include emotional intelligence, diversity and inclusion, global leadership development, talent management, and organizational research. Marjorie has published dozens of articles and is a frequent presenter at global conferences. For more information, contact [email protected].

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