The acceleration we’ve seen in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) over the last few years needs no introduction. More and more of our clients are asking us what they can do to become a more inclusive organization not only for their existing workforce, but in their hiring policies. Before you can understand what action you need to take, you will need to know yourself and where you are on your own journey.
We’ve broken down 10 key areas that will help you improve your understanding of DEI in your organization and how you can better support your colleagues.
1. Know your company’s strategic goals and vision
Understand what your organization wants to achieve in the coming months and years and think about how your DEI objectives can support this. Leaders need to communicate the company’s strategic objectives to the organization to ensure transparency, clarity and a common purpose. A company conference or other companywide event provides the ideal opportunity and will prove far more effective than an email or a policy document.
2. Understand your people
Everyone at your organization is individually important to its success and you need to cultivate an environment that will allow them all to thrive. Inclusivity is about making every person at the company feel as though they can belong, learn and feel wholly supported. A companywide engagement survey will allow management to better understand everyone’s needs and put in place the right initiatives and support. Make sure it’s anonymous and voluntary.
We continue to regularly run surveys to give our people the opportunity to be open and honest about their identity and what we’re doing on DEI. The results of the survey have been key to supporting our DEI efforts, and our DEI committee are on hand to discuss any concerns and elicit further advice from our employees.
3. Ask to be an ally or panel lead
We can only achieve what we want with the right level of people power. Your organization needs diversity of thought, different views and ideas, and these come from having enough people on board. Ask to join your DEI panel or to lead on a particular area of DEI that you feel passionate about.
4. Be culturally competent
Take time to learn about different cultures, races, religions and backgrounds represented by your colleagues. Our survey highlighted that we have a phenomenally diverse business, so ask your co-workers about what makes them who they truly are, be inquisitive and enhance everyone’s sense of belonging. Remember, no one’s expecting you to be an expert in every culture in the world or in different states of mind that you’ve never experienced yourself. If you make a mistake, just apologize. It’s okay!
5. Drive positive change in the organization, but own the change
Be an ally for diversity issues that aren’t necessarily your own. Talk to your colleagues about challenges they may have faced. Absorb, learn and understand. Voices are more easily heard when combined and people work together to solve challenges. Identify areas for improvement and change, but ensure these aren’t just criticisms of how your organization operates. Get involved and lead the solution to change.
6. Encourage diverse hiring in your team
Working in a diverse team can be challenging and rewarding. Different voices offer different perspectives and that ability to problem-solve. Work in a diverse team? Lucky you, the range of expertise and working methods that a diverse team can offer is brilliant. Diverse teams can boost problem-solving capacity and lead to far greater productivity. Your team isn’t currently diverse? Great that you can see that. Support with appealing to a wider audience and hiring for culture add, not necessarily culture fit.
7. Commit to the journey
Commit to continuous improvement. DEI work is a journey, not a destination. Our understanding of this area evolves all the time. Be willing to learn, accept feedback, and listen to those around you. Even the most enlightened can find opportunities for growth!
8. Own your behaviors
Treat people how they wish to be treated, not how you want to be treated. Some banter and chat might be comfortable for you, but don’t assume what is comfortable to them. Don’t tell offensive jokes that could alienate someone who is different to you. Be respectful and consider who is in the room, taking these principles into your community and your home.
9. Communicate and educate
Be patient with co-workers who do not yet appreciate the value of diversity or who may not always behave respectfully. Negative behavior comes more from ignorance rather than malice. A willingness to educate can really help, but ensure you don’t appear to be sanctimonious. Work with individuals one on one and approach these issues in the right way.
10. Understand the diversity elements you bring
Diversity has many different forms. It is not just focused on culture, race, and gender. It includes elements such as education, socioeconomic background, location, sexual orientation, thought, and many others. Each of us is very different and adds value to our organization because of these differences.
So to wrap up…
Ultimately, DEI is shifting as quickly as our understanding. There is no DEI utopia where everyone’s getting it right all of the time. The only way we can continue to properly represent the feelings of our people is to keep talking, keep thinking and keep moving. If you’d like to speak to us about how you can ensure a more inclusive environment where everyone has the support they need to perform at their best – and where you have the best chance of evolving with this everchanging area of our lives – please contact us for an informal chat.