5 Mistakes Companies Make When Creating A DEI Program

5 Mistakes Companies Make When Creating A DEI Program

As we prepare for the New Year, 2022, there are myriads of agenda items on our mind, in no small part because the last two years have felt like waves after waves of crises. Few are more critical than the inequities that continue to exist in our workspaces. The cost of silence is very high. You can’t afford to lose out on the opportunity to make a difference, to grow, or maybe even inspire. Too often, diversity, equity, and inclusion become the silenced and invisible elephant in the room, with nobody willing to acknowledge its presence. If left to chance, diversity will often take a backseat when it should be the driving force that invigorates your teams. 

Organizations are exploring new ways to engage their more diverse employees as the conversations shift towards creating a more equitable, inclusive, and psychologically safe environment for all. Managers play a pivotal role in helping implement new DEI goals and initiatives, but without a 100% buy-in to this work, change will remain ephemeral. 

As you start your DEI journey, steer clear of these 5 common missteps: 

1) Avoiding True Allyship in the Workplace

Companies who engage in performative allyship” create public-facing images that actually fail to reflect, or even contradict, actual company practices. This is a quick way to face critique. Avoid this by backing your public presentation with concrete and transparent internal or external action. Particularly in DEI, action speaks far louder than words. For instance, post a rainbow logo during Pride month and check to ensure your employee insurance covers transgender healthcare, or release a press release in solidarity with #blacklivesmatter while also undergoing a Pay Equity Audit in your company. 

2) Insulating leadership from change.

Pipeline approaches to DEI theorize that increasing diversity among lower tiers of employees will, over time, result in diversity in more senior roles. While aspirational, in practice the theory fails both statistically and conceptually and deflects responsibility from the company structure itself. DEI requires organization-level change, and leaders cannot be supposed immune to this. Managers must make hires and intentionally recruit for all tiers of a company, and critically examine any potential disparities between demographics of their lower and higher tiers. 

3) Failure To Define DEI Goals

Knowing where to begin your company’s DEI journey doesn’t have to be daunting. Start listening circles and focus groups to better understand what promotes or detracts from inclusion and belonging. Try hosting 1-on-1 interviews to gain insight into defining growth opportunities. 

Utilize current demographic and engagement data to help clarify areas for possible improvement in your practices, such as hiring, implementing ongoing DEI training or creating ERGs (employee resource groups)

Conduct a 360 audit of your policies, process, and practices to identify gaps, threats, and opportunities to create more inclusion in a systemic way. To mitigate against bias and gain objective perspective, partner with an external resource to support this process.  

Having clear DEI goals will help your teams know what they are working to achieve.  

4) Moving Too Fast Towards Creating A “Woke” Culture

Revamping your systems to be more equitable is vital for the sustainability of any organization; however, moving at lightning speed to implement DEI can create unnecessary challenges. 

Be mindful of action bias and knee-jerk solutions. Work collectively to create a shared understanding for DEI and what it will look like for your organization. Slow down the process, get stakeholder buy-in, and grow together as an organization. 

 5) Thinking DEI Is an Easy Fix

If we’re doing DEI work because we need to “tick-it-off” on our DEI checklist your teams will experience the changes as performative and unhelpful. DEI commitments to creating belonging and psychological safety is a long-term endeavor that will need to be created, implemented, and sustained as more members of your team get involved. 

Your DEI goals and initiatives will become a living document that will support a more equitable and inclusive environment. Working collectively to create an organizational shift where DEI becomes a fundamental pillar will allow your company to grow and thrive. Change begins with an action. Start your diversity, equity, and inclusion journey today.