10 Steps to Building an Authentic Diversity and Inclusion Initiative
September 17, 2020
Authored by LP DEI Task Force Member
Organizations across the world are reacting to the blatant acts of Anti-black racism in society, and it feels like this time it is more than just lip service. The task of redesigning organizational cultures to be truly inclusive and equitable is daunting, and at the same time a huge opportunity.
If your organization is struggling to create a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative that is strategic and innovative while also creating meaningful change, you are not alone. Every organization in the world is or should be focused on how to include and advance marginalized groups within the workplace, particularly Black employees. The global movement towards racial equality has brought to the forefront an issue that is not only crucial from a business perspective but more importantly, imperative to the success of a business from an ethical standpoint.
But where should you start?
Companies are beginning to realize that building inclusive cultures is more effective than immediately modifying recruiting efforts to focus on Diversity.
To date, companies have focused on anti-bias training and diversity focused-recruiting metrics to solve underlying diversity problems, but that approach has not been effective. In order for someone to bring their authentic self to work, they must be as confident showing up at the office (virtual or onsite) as they would at a social gathering among friends. Identity covers, codeswitching, and black fatigue is exhausting, and can result in negative health outcomes and trauma. How can anyone be expected to function at their highest and best use when these are at play?
It’s simple. They can’t.
So, what can organizations do to promote true inclusion? It starts with laying aside fear and shame and leading with vulnerability. “You cannot dismantle what you cannot see. You cannot challenge what you do not understand.” ― Layla F. Saad
One-on-one conversations and focus groups are a fine starting point, but will they really get you where you need to be? Organizations need to prioritize data, make significant policy changes and directly align these inclusion-focused efforts to the business strategy.
Step 1: Get your board or Executive Team to truly understand why transforming existing systems and policies is the right thing to do and how it will impact the organization from top to bottom. Encourage them to take a hard look at their own behaviors and how they are consciously or unconsciously preventing an inclusive culture.
Step 2: Partner with an outside consultant to facilitate open and honest discussions about race with senior leadership, the task force and later within the whole organization. LP has partnered with talented DEI consultants, who have been essential to these discussions at LP.
Step 3: Create a task force or committee that is dedicated to doing the work. This in itself presents challenges in getting everyone on the same page. Effective groups are those possessing humility, self-reflection and the ability to recognize internal implicit biases. There is a wealth of knowledge created by Black voices. Assign the group reading assignments followed by facilitated discussions. Encourage the group to immerse themselves in the work as this is the only way to get close to a semblance of understanding.
Step 4: Create policies outlining clear metric-driven standards tying equitable distribution of meaningful work to compensation of supervisors across all functions and departments. Include specific consequences that will be felt by those who do not adhere.
Step 5: Provide tuition reimbursement for DEI certifications and normalize discussions on the systemic oppression that continues to permeate every facet of society.
Step 6: Deliver subsequent training on effective ways to highlight implicit biases and microaggressions felt in the workplace. Empower employees to speak up when these are experienced, heard or seen.
Step 7: Promote transparent conversations about what is being done to create a more inclusive culture and later what will be done to ensure that representation of Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC) is experienced across all functions and levels, especially at the top and as part of succession planning.
Step 8: Vet existing relationships to ensure that the companies you partner with are dedicated to the support and success of BIPOC employees and share the results of this process with your employees on an annual basis.
Step 9: Send periodic surveys to the organization measuring inclusion efforts and asking for honest feedback.
Step 10: Change the check-the-box mindset across your organization. Normalize policy changes that will lead to increased retention of diverse employees.
At the end of the day, people are an organization’s most powerful asset, and inclusion is arguably the most important component to attracting and retaining an engaged workforce.