No matter the industry DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) seems to be in the ever-growing spotlight. Companies of all sizes are starting to evaluate their strategies, policies, and commitments to creating diverse and inclusive workplace practices. Yet few DEI myths still persist and continue to hold back DEI efforts.
While the topic is in the headlines, proactive approaches to addressing DEI have been slow. This can be attributed to many reasons like leaders not possessing enough knowledge, sense of urgency, resources, and motivation for these topics, or thinking of DEI as a side activity rather than it being at the very core of the organizational strategy. But the companies neglecting this might sooner than later start to see the consequences of inaction.
So it seems investing in DEI is critical and time-sensitive, but how should it even be done? Inklusiiv’s DEI consultants Maija Koponen & Yesmith Sánchez, answer the most frequently asked questions and debunk a few popular DEI myths.
DEI myth 1: Training leaders and employers on DEI is enough of an investment.
Ensuring leadership buy-in is a crucial early step in setting up your DEI work. In fact, it is probably the most important step for successful and sustainable change in the long term. Targeted trainings for leaders is a good way to build awareness and kick start your DEI initiatives.
However, to ensure DEI success, leaders need to be upfront and visible in all stages of the work and involved especially in communicating their key DEI-related messages across the whole organization. Leaders can’t just attend a training session. Instead, they have to be actively involved in advancing the work. This means committing their own time and also staff and financial resources where needed.
It is important also to consider the involvement of leaders at different levels: not just senior leadership, but also managers and team leads. Team members often want to hear about upcoming changes from their closest manager. Ensuring the people in the right places can champion your DEI work on an ongoing basis can make all the difference.
However, training leaders and employees alone are not enough. Awareness ought to be followed by integration. Embedding DEI in the day-to-day activities across the whole organization is equally as critical for success.
Thus it’s important to allocate time and resources to train those in the workplace who are interested in driving forward inclusive initiatives. A structured way to do this is through employee resource groups (ERGs).
DEI myth 2: You don’t need to invest resources to ensure your DEI work is successful.
Resources are needed in every project, and DEI is no exception.
1. Motivated and knowledgeable people
If you have a team member who is passionate about DEI, see that as an opportunity to equip them with the resources they need to do the job. Advancing DEI is not easy, and this requires specific skillsets and dedication from your team – it’s not something that can just happen alongside other things without concentrated effort.
People who do this work need recognition for their efforts. You cannot rely on volunteers to achieve the changes alongside their existing role requirements. So if you are setting up, for example, an ERG or a DEI working group, think about how are you going to reward and recognize the efforts of the people involved.
One of the main DEI trends for 2022 was to seek external help in order to support setting and achieving goals. Do not let it be the burden of underrepresented groups and/or of motivated employees to drive DEI change alone. If they need external support, do your best to get it for them.
Like any other area of work, DEI work will need some budget to allow for real changes to happen. If you are not willing to commit any budget to DEI work, what does that communicate about how serious you are about reaching your DEI goals?
Nothing good comes rushed. Similarly, DEI initiatives require time and patience to get the results you hope for. While individual processes and practices can be improved in a matter of months, changing the culture of an organization might take years.
4. Senior sponsorship
It takes a team effort to move the needle. Executive sponsorship communicates importance and urgency. When leaders actively demonstrate their backing for DEI efforts with specific goals, it allows for the whole organization to align.
DEI myth 3: You can invest in DEI without data.
You can certainly get started with DEI topics without data. But it won’t get you far if you’re hoping for real tangible change.
If your company is in the early stages of DEI work, focusing on awareness-raising and creating space for conversations can be the right step to take. Don’t let a lack of targets prevent you from starting these important conversations.
However, once you have got people talking about these topics, it’s then a good time to explore what your DEI status quo is. Once you have built up engagement and understanding of why these topics are important, people are also more likely to take part in insight-gathering activities. They are also then better equipped to provide valuable information that might help you drive the change forward.
In the long term, setting clear DEI goals and measuring progress e.g. with DEI surveys is the core way to make sure you are on track. Data will help you monitor whether the initiatives you have launched are having the intended impact. At the end of the day, DEI simply loves data!
Did any DEI myths surprise you?