In 2020, we saw many companies initiate DEI initiatives. However, as pointed out in a recent article in Forbes, “DEI efforts cannot be viewed as a Band-Aid for systemic problems.” Many initiatives seem to stall out, and what was once a shiny beacon of light sparked by leadership loses momentum and flairs out.
An article in Harvard Business Review recently focused on why employees don’t understand a company’s vision. Many of the points made in this article can also be applied to DEI initiatives and reveal why these initiatives so often fail to tread water.
Lack of Communication
Many times DEI initiatives are launched with much fanfare. Long statements are painted on the wall, t-shirts with slogans are handed out, and there may even be a big cake involved. Gearing up for a new initiative is easy; keeping the good vibes going is tough. Companies who have been most successful, like Deloitte, publish an annual “transparency report,” which showcases internally and externally their DEI strategies, challenges, and successes. Companies that struggle many times do not want to share these struggles. However, silence is worse than being transparent. Although DEI work is difficult, talking about challenges is part of the process, and will continue to let your employees see DEI as a priority.
Some DEI initiatives at first glance are heavy on dreams and ideology and low on practicality. For your DEI vision to take root, everyone on your team needs to find relevancy in their day-to-day work. DEI can’t survive if it’s an add-on or extra. When leaders relate DEI techniques to core business success, it becomes an added tool that your team will utilize. As said in the HBR article, “when we translate the vision from the boardroom to the hallways, teams know how to transfer your ideas to reality.”
The adage, walk the walk applies here. Companies that launch a DEI initiative must be committed to applying it in every corner of their business. This includes equipping managers and leaders to practice inclusive leadership and demonstrating how DEI can be used in their work. DEI initiatives that reach beyond feel-good statements have the most impact. Committees who are given resources and a leading voice to cultivate honest and authentic conversations around DEI practices help strengthen the fidelity of the initiative.
Lack of KPI
In business, we measure our success continually. However, DEI strategies are often pushed out without any solid KPI or strategies/metrics. For your DEI vision to grow and positively impact a business, it must be treated like any other business imperative. This includes building a strategy that will strengthen your core business, outlining your KPI, and sharing your successes/challenges.
Every business that launches a DEI strategy will determine if they are satified with a statement painted on the wall or strive to have a DEI vision that revolutionizes the way they conduct themselves.
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