On April 28, 2022 Gain Grow Retain and ThriveNetwork joined forces to bring DEI specialist Camille Kelly to our combined audiences.
One of the issues with DEI is that it can feel like something that has to be done without a lot of confidence in HOW it should be done. Although the information presented here is not a new version of Unconscious Bias training, it allowed for conversations and practical tips for application.
So what exactly is DEI? It turns out that while many organizations look at those easy to measure metrics such as gender, age, race, and ethnicity, there are so many more dimensions to diversity that end up being more meaningful, and ultimately, give us a stronger foundation of commonality and the typical metrics.
Take for instance the video “All We Share”. Although participants are grouped by more traditional metrics, throughout the video these additional dimensions are used to show how people from one group have commonalities with those in other groups that they might have missed, if they kept a narrow focus on who they were. The main point is
While there might be physical/cultural differences amongst us, there really is a lot more we have in common.
Keeping in mind a partial list (there are so many more!), the following questions were used to help us understand more about what we bring to the table:
- Religious beliefs
- Marital status
- Parental status
- Working Style
- Geographic location
Questions to ponder once you have chosen the top three that describe you most:
- How comfortable are you bringing those diverse dimensions of yourself to work?
- What could be done to make you more comfortable being ‘you’ at work?
- How can your diverse dimensions make you a better partner to your customers/colleagues?
Creating an Inclusive Work Environment
- Get your executives involved – in order to make this an organizational change, the top level must be onboard
- Prove safe spaces for your employees/team members to have the opportunity to speak and have an outlet
- Don’t rely on your diverse population to carry the load alone. Everyone should play a part in coming up with and implementing solutions. To focus on those in the diverse group only creates a lot of pressure and causes you to miss out on a wealth of viewpoints and ideas
- Celebrate employee differences through cultural days, AMAs, or other opportunities to show that the organization cares beyond a token acknowledgement
- Create meeting guidelines and processes to acknowledge the issues some might have with the traditional format. For example, some cultures do not see non-leaders engaging in conversation with leaders as a strength, but as a sign of disrespect. How can your team help acknowledge and accommodate situations like this?
- Communicate progress to your staff rather than just strategy. Whether good or bad, what was done and how did it go?
- For Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)/Diversity Councils to help build a more inclusive work environment
Equity vs Equality
Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they have very different meanings.
Equity – when each individual or group is given the resources or opportunities that they need
Equality – when each individual or group is given the same resources or opportunities
While both seem to be a good thing, only Equity meets the needs of the individual rather than the general needs of a group. Think bicycles. You wouldn’t give a young child an adult-sized bike to learn on as that would make a difficult process even harder. You also wouldn’t expect someone who doesn’t have the use of their legs to be happy if given a traditional bike. It would be useless to them. So too are the needs of all of us. Often met by a tool, but a tool designed for their specific needs.
An unconscious bias is just that; a lens that allows you to make decisions and judgements, usually based on your own experience that you may not even be aware of. This can apply to work decisions including team creation, hiring, individual growth, etc. It is no wonder that understanding that we all have these, and that they impact our conscious intent means that without an understanding of how they affect us, we are likely unintentionally leaving people out or passing people over for opportunities.
So how do we manage these “tag-a-long” ideas?
- Think before we speak, especially during a decision-making process
- Listen; to our customers and our colleagues, looking for opportunities to hear where they are coming from
- Become a part of the solution – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and helping make meaningful and lasting changes will occur through empathy, support, and openness
- Make diversity important in your life outside of work. DEI isn’t just a workforce issue. Our interactions outside of work can make a difference too
- Be vulnerable and have the ability to move away from being a perfectionist or feeling like you need to have it all together. You won’t. It is impossible for anyone to
- Ask “how can I contribute?”
- Be open to learning more
- Ask questions, don’t make assumptions. Not sure whether something might cause an issue? Ask!
- Give yourself grace – no one is going to have all the answers. You are going to do some things wrong – acknowledge the error, address it, and move on. Don’t let the fear of doing something wrong prevent you from moving forward. It is a journey!
In the end, it is important to note that DEI isn’t about quotas or checking boxes. It is about recognizing that diverse dimensions create diverse needs that need to be met in the work environment. None of us like feeling that we don’t belong, or worse, that we don’t have the same opportunities as others. How amazing would it be if our organizations prioritized this issue in a way that leads to lasting and impactful change?
Previously - CSM for SmashFly (now part of Symphony Talent).
Currently - founder of CKC Solutions, a DEI consulting firm.