Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices are becoming increasingly important for businesses to understand and adopt. DEI initiatives promote inclusion, foster a diverse workplace by minimizing discrimination, and create an environment that embraces people of all backgrounds. Unfortunately, many organizations are unprepared to address the challenges associated with DEI initiatives. Resistance from staff members who do not understand or appreciate these efforts can be a major obstacle to success. In fact, some might even argue that many individuals are experiencing some level of “DEI fatigue.”
For non-diverse individuals, the term DEI fatigue can be associated with a feeling of frustration and exasperation resulting from a lack of understanding of the objectives or goals of a given initiative, as well as from facing accusations of injustice and inequality for some historic events for which they played no part in. For DEI practitioners, the term DEI fatigue can be used to describe the exhaustion and discouragement that often arises when individuals or organizations attempt to tackle DEI initiatives. In both cases, these feelings are valid and must be addressed to further the progress of DEI work.
Fortunately, with the right resources and support, organizations can tackle DEI fatigue head-on. These organizations can begin by offering robust strategies. Because DEI is not a “one-size-fits-all” initiative, it should be tailored specifically to the mission, vision, values, and goals of the organization. When DEI is executed by a well-thought-out strategy that aligns with the organization’s existing business strategy, separating the issue becomes less of the work while envisioning every aspect of the operation through an inclusive lens becomes the main focus and the greatest value add.
Once the strategy is clear, the organization can now begin designing the appropriate programming. In this case, programming refers to all of the custom work to move the strategy forward. This work might include redesigning hiring initiatives, performance and talent review processes, and learning and development programs that explore how principles of diversity and inclusion can best guide decision-making processes. It might also include designing or redesigning an intentional succession planning to ensure a pipeline of qualified, diverse talent for the organization’s most critical roles.
“When DEI is executed by a well-thought-out strategy that aligns with the organization’s existing business strategy, separating the issue becomes less of the work while envisioning every aspect of the operation through an inclusive lens becomes the main focus and the greatest value add.”
No good strategy or programming can occur without the appropriate training. While training should include topics like unconscious bias and cultural agility, employees and managers should also be trained on new or revised processes and procedures as a result of dismantling and rebuilding broken or inequitable systems. Training should provide an opportunity for individuals to focus on communication, accountability, and problem-solving skills to ensure that equitable systems remain sustainable over time. Additionally, training should emphasize the importance of continual learning and practice, so that employees and managers are equipped with the skills and knowledge to engage in challenging conversations and make informed decisions when navigating situations related to equity.
As HR professionals work to champion the progression of DEI initiatives, here are three steps for consideration:
Let the data do the talking. HR professionals can use data to tell the story of performance by creating metrics, dashboards, and visualizations that show how different aspects of the organization are contributing to increased productivity, better job satisfaction, and higher-quality products. Data-driven stories can help HR professionals demonstrate return on investment (ROI) for their initiatives, as well as provide a clear connection between the DEI initiatives and the success of the company. Showing concrete evidence of how potential changes in processes or operations have led to improved outcomes will help stakeholders understand why investing in DEI is important.
Educate others on the importance of DEI initiatives. To ensure people understand the importance of these initiatives and to leverage the greatest success for this work, HR professionals should strive to create a comprehensive program of education around DEI topics. This can include workshops, seminars, webinars, and other forms of training to teach employees and managers the importance of embracing diversity and creating an inclusive workplace. Additionally, educating others on the benefits of DEI initiatives such as improved morale, productivity, creativity, and wealth, will help create an environment where everyone feels seen and valued.
Recognize personal bias when it occurs. Recognizing personal bias is paramount to creating an inclusive workplace. HR professionals can help create a culture of self-awareness by cultivating an environment where people feel comfortable challenging their biases and assumptions. People should be taught how to recognize signs of personal bias in themselves and others and feel empowered to address anything that could lead to discrimination or a hostile workplace. By equipping employees with the skills they need to confront their own biases and those of others, they can create a space where everyone feels safe, respected, and included.
While the journey toward DEI can be challenging, it is worth it. We have made so much progress, yet there is still so much work to do. Toni Morrison once said, “If you can only be tall because someone else is on their knees, then you have a serious problem.” Our individual success should never be predicated on someone else’s failure. This alone continues to serve as the strongest case for diversity, equity, and inclusion in today’s competitive global market.