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What’s Involved In The “How” Of Implementing DEI Programs?

Updated: Jul 31, 2022

Why corporate diversity programs fail & what to do instead Joan C. Williams | TEDxMilehigh:

An effective organizational DEI program implementation plan is built on a foundation of stakeholders’ trust. Employees in particular must trust that the c-suite executives, and managers have a deeper interest in DEI other than to satisfy advocates and external change agents. Executives must be able to clearly define “What” is contained in their company’s (DEI) Policy. The plan must describe who, what, why, when: and how the plan will be administered, implemented, and monitored by senior leaders.

Nonetheless, the “HOW” is the subject of the rest of this article. The “How” of the DEI plan is key to putting the organization on a path towards transforming its culture and achieving positive system changes in the workplace. If leaders are well led and have a process for getting to the “HOW” that is respectful, and resourced, - the organization’s DEI policy, procedure and decision-making can breathe life and vitality into the workplace.

So, let’s take a brief look at a process to develop a DEI program. We must note that any program/plan must be both strategic and operational. The process must begin with assessments and end with full participation and buy-in from senior leaders and employees – in some cases the buy-in might even extend to external stakeholders – say, for example customers or voters etc.

Leaders should keep in mind that the goal of these assessments are to understand the full range of DEI and bias issues impacting their organizations. When implementing DEI programs managers, the executive team and workers need to understand what these programs are and, what they are not, as well as what the implementation challenges and benefits are in making DEI and cultural awareness an important part of their organizations culture.

One way to ensure effective implementation is establishing non-attribute feedback loops. Non-attribution feedback policies and methodology is extremely important when implementing DEI policy. Such feedback loops must remain through the post-implementation phases so leaders can regularly evaluate the workplace environment. Organizations are dynamic entities and workforce diversity changes over time. Manager experience also changes and underlying factors surface, i.e., misreading a personnel or work environment situation, the realization that a policy is outdated and/or ineffective all of these realities can occur. Managers must evaluate their changing environment and they cannot do so by themselves… They need good feedback.

Next, once the organization has a plan implemented it must track key statistics and emphasize how both employers and employees are benefiting from DEI. Such an environment fosters trusted workplace engagements, innovation, and productivity. In culturally diverse workplaces, all workers are treated with respect and given the chance to express themselves. They are comfortable with being their authentic selves. Management can advance DEI in the following ways:

● Leaders’ behavior must be respectful to everyone irrespective of race, sexual orientation, and religion.

● All participants must be able to contribute their ideas and voices since diverse perspectives can lead to better solutions to problems.

● Making sure that employees feel part of the routine conversations, happy hours, and lunch tables.

Finally, just having a policy or a strategic plan to implement DEI will not transform your workplace. If managers really want to have a workplace climate that effectively promotes DEI and cultural awareness principles, they will have to ensure an all-hands-on-deck approach – they have to be engaged with the workforce.

And managers have to be proactive and understand all aspects of overseeing a diverse workforce in this era of turbulence and demands for equity and systemic social change – it’s easy to say that is an HR problem – but is it really?

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