There’s no single best strategy for embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, but what’s important is that you and your leaders begin forward motion that will sustain success. Here are six strategies to take to overcome inertia with your DEI efforts:
1. Start the conversation. Sometimes it’s difficult to begin. Leaders need to open the door, set the tone, and send the message that DEI is important. Look for opportunities to embrace diversity and take action when witnessing excluding behavior, and then reflect on the impact of that activity. Use that momentum and authentic experience to drive the organization forward.
2. Increase accountability and transparency. Be up front about what you are doing to increase DEI, so teams won’t feel that not enough action is being taken. Align your efforts to the most important areas through a continuing transparent conversation. Consider who has the most critical role in driving DEI at your workplace. (Hint: it’s your leaders.) How explicit is it that your leaders are accountable?
3. Develop inclusive leadership skills. Do your leaders know what to do? Being aware of unconscious bias or the business case for DEI is an important step, but without action, it’s not enough. Leaders need a holistic approach to learn the tools, frameworks, and skills to bridge the gap between theory and practice. One of the keys is teaching your leaders how to create an inclusive environment. There are innovative and blended learning approaches you can use to engage leaders—head and heart—with DEI efforts.
4. Notice the diversity (or lack of it) during discussions and decisions. While anyone can be disadvantaged because of unconscious bias, those who are disproportionately harmed include women, people of color, people with disabilities, people who speak with an accent that’s different than the majority, introverts, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Bias has very real consequences that affect hiring decisions, as well as performance management, delegation, and succession choices. (Hint: Pay attention to who is at the table and diversify your seating chart.)
5. Pay attention to how all people are treated. Hybrid and virtual workplaces highlight growing challenges for our DEI efforts. A study by Future Forum shows that some minority groups have reported virtual working to be a relief, because home is a safer place with reduced discrimination and microaggressions. Accenture points out that introverts can feel lost behind their screens, which makes them feel unsupported and compromises neurodiversity. Flexible working brings huge benefits, but it also risks widening the diversity gaps and creating new ones.
6. Act as a vocal ally. Being an ally turns you into a catalyst for change. We all observe disrespectful or excluding behavior and see opportunities to improve DEI. Intervene when you notice unfairness. Acting as an ally becomes even more critical when supporting historically excluded groups that face unique challenges. Embracing diversity in the workplace is to advocate on behalf of others and contribute to creating fair conditions for everyone.
Learn more strategies for incorporating more diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in your workplace by reading DDI’s blog.