As many organizations are looking to make cuts to save money, they are considering cutting their spending on their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Programs (DEI). But this may actually be the time to double down and invest more. The stakes are high right now when it comes to retention and culture and investing in diversity, equity, and inclusion sends a message to your employees that you truly care about them. Assessing what initiatives align with your organization and making public and internal commitments, is more important than ever.
Chandria Harris, an executive coach and the founder and CEO of HireCulture is an inclusion, career, and HR professional with a history of facilitating executive leadership training in manufacturing, health care, and nonprofit organizations. Harris spoke with The Playbook about why now the best time is to double down on inclusion efforts, and how the work can be permanent. Here are some takeaways from their conversation.
DEI Efforts are Changing
Being three years removed from the 2020 “racial reckoning”, it looks as though some companies are moving away from their initial commitments to DEI. However, Harris says as someone who works in this field every day, she is seeing DEI efforts changing, rather than disappearing. Companies are trying to figure out what they should be doing. In the beginning, DEI efforts were reactionary, but what Harris is seeing now is that companies are evaluating what their core initiatives are and what should be ingrained into the core of their organizations. Essentially, companies had to go through a re-set to determine how to do this work permanently, as opposed to in a reactionary response. The changes may be quieter, but they are happening.
The focus is ongoing permanent change
You may be asking; how do you do this work permanently in practice? Harris suggests adding inclusion into the fabric of their company, in ways where it can be scaled based on business plans and structures. Instead of mandating a single-day training or webinar on awareness, companies should be asking what pillars they can adopt to ensure that equity and inclusion become organic in all conversations and decisions. One example of this is leadership accountability. Without leadership turning the wheels of this change, employees will become content with the former status quo, all over again.
Speaking of leadership engagement, how do we move that needle to employee engagement, to reach the same levels that we saw in 2020? Excitement and buy-in were high when the work first started, and while that was exciting, prolonged support is what we now need to see to have the most impactful change. Having a localized DEI approach based on your company in those specific local states will be sustainable, as opposed to a large companywide approach that may not be suitable for everyone. Focusing on colleague interaction and day-to-day interactions will go a long way.
Harris points to some sustainable long-term practices that can improve efforts. Recognizing that we all live in a multicultural world is necessary. We also need to allow people to belong in their own spaces and ways. Leaders mustn’t assume sameness for all employees, as this can be harmful, but rather acknowledge that we live in a diverse world, and it can be difficult to coexist at times. Give people tools and techniques to exist in this world. Working on these ideas while addressing institutional systems is what will move the needle in a meaningful and lasting way when it comes to DEI.