If diversity, equity and inclusion drivers and constraints are a secret, how will you manage it? You can’t; you must expose it.
Here are some improvement ideas and processes to build a sustainable D&I culture:
Unconscious bias: Unconscious or implicit biases are judgments and preferences made without conscious awareness. These automatic preferences or stereotypes constrain and contribute to a lack of workplace diversity. Unconscious or implicit biases — such as race, gender, sexual preference or disability — are judgments and stereotypes without conscious awareness. These norms of behavior exert enormous influence over enterprise decisions and choices, whether unconscious or not.
Biases impact the way organizations recruit people, mentor employees, make promotional choices, give performance reviews, pay, offer development opportunities, accept and listen to people’s ideas, decide policy, conduct marketing campaigns, and treat customers. All are critical components for organizational growth and development.
Keeping it psychologically safe: Inclusion’s science tells us that feelings of exclusion and rejection register in the brain as physical injury. Yes, that’s right. It hurts to feel excluded, and it’s not without consequence on business results. I can admit that there were times when I had great solutions to issues in my career but held back because the environment was psychologically and career unsafe. The leader was more interested in the source of the idea than the solution. Companies creating a safe environment where employees feel that they can safely come to work as they are without fear will reap innovation and creativity.
Avoid the shame game: The shame game is not the tool to fix diversity and inclusion. Shame, instead, causes leaders to retreat or get defensive and avoid engaging to be a part of the solutions. Effective organizations leverage white males and majority representation; shaming is not a viable solution. When shame happens, it ignites the fight or flight mechanism in our brain — and constrains productive, transparent conversation that enables D&I.
What will it take to engage white and majority leaders?
As a Black male in corporate America, we leveraged white males and majority leaders. I had an internal strategy to educate them on asking, listening, showing up, speaking up, and taking action as a champion for D&I.
Some leaders are afraid to engage because they don’t know how or what to do. They are afraid that they will say the wrong thing naively and are uninformed due to a lack of education, experience and understanding. They then do nothing, which is the worst action. D&I strategies should educate allies to foster acceptance. Organizations will not create and sustain a diverse and inclusive culture without influential decision-makers’ support.
Be SMART with employee resource groups: ERGs are business partners. They flourished with SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely).
Examples of ERG SMART goals (each ERG):
- Learning and professional development: one event per quarter
- Recruiting and membership: one event per quarter
- Community and engagement: 700 hours per ERG annually
- Networking: one event per quarter
These SMART goals create an organic platform for diversity and inclusion.
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