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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Practical Solutions


Organizational leaders have been challenged by today's new normal. Many employees are remote or working within a hybrid model, which increases the need for improved internal team communications. Those with in-person teams often need help with staffing. Feedback is expected more frequently; however, one must take high levels of caution regarding how feedback is presented. The direction is for supervisors to be more inclusive, accommodating, flexible, and respectful. The goals haven't changed; however, you may have fewer people to help you achieve them.

With new challenges to contend with, it's not surprising that many leaders get quiet when topics of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) enter a conversation. We have found that many simply don't have a true understanding of workplace DEI today. Companies are quick to say they are committed and care; however, they often come up short on organizational application. It seems too big, too broad to conquer. Even more concerning is that some are scared to initiate any internal reviews or bring other staff into support efforts, believing that doing so may bring about negative consequences. Organizations of all sizes need neutral, non-judgmental guidance.

Before we break it down and offer some solid educational foundations; let's address a few facts head on. First, know that DEI is not a fad that you can wait out. This is a way of the workplace today that, when embraced effectively, does indeed benefit everyone in the ecosystem. Yes, the organization reaps as many rewards from firm DEI commitments and policies as the employees do. It's not a one-sided coin. Also, it's not optional. DEI commitment is just as much a social standard as a human relations management concept. And, while all organizations are not equal in their current practices and policies, embracing DEI does not have to complex or costly. Many organizations already embrace some stellar guidelines and programs; they still need to bring them all together to provide what can be considered a solid framework for DEI commitment.

It helps to first understand the basic terms and what is officially meant by them. Here are some great definitions that can offer a solid foundation.

  • Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ, encompassing the characteristics that make one individual or group different.
  • Equity is the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people while striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups.
  • Inclusion is the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued so that they can participate fully.

You can't do it alone. The collective sum of the individual differences that your team brings to the table comprises your culture, enables you to achieve your goals, and should be greatly appreciated. It is essential to foster an environment where discrimination is not tolerated, and respecting others is highly valued. It's up to leadership to enforce policies and lead by example. However, being a mentor is complicated when a workforce is remote, large, or often changing. So, how can diversity be embraced, and a culture of respect be fostered?

First, never assume that your team knows how to be inclusive and appreciative. Most receive training for the job, not working with others on and in the job.Consider offering your team a positive playbook, an interaction cheat sheet that outlines expectations as to how interactions with team members, supervisors, and even external partners should sound, look, and feel. Outline samples of how to best communicate concerns to supervisors and how supervisors should respond when the protocol is followed. Please keep it simple. When rules are understood, they can be followed, and it's amazing how a team can be transformed.

Policies often have systems around them which is why there is often fear of change. However, many are not so intertwined with issues, and updating is much easier than expected. Often, doing so enables a company to quickly showcase flexibility, embrace inclusion, and sometimes even motivate staff to embrace DEI models. For example, many companies are modifying holiday schedules. Instead of having seven specific days for everyone, they let individual employees choose the six or seven "holiday" days they would like off to accommodate their holiday celebrations throughout the year. Others are empowering staff members to communicate where improvements may be helpful. A recent study found that employees for whom English is their second language can understand directions more clearly when cameras are turned on in video conferences. Sometimes, little changes can make significant differences; however, everyone has to feel comfortable offering suggestions and there has to be a simple and clear system of how positive feedback can be offered. This brings us back to the importance of rules and procedures. Like rules of the road, when everyone knows and follows them, driving is smoother and safer.

Most organizations rely on their internal team and a network of partners that enable them to achieve their goals. Who are you working with? Are those companies as good to their people, public, and communities as you are? Are you offering the same opportunities for new partners to come in and support your needs? Have they embraced DEI?

Working with diverse partners is a great way to prove your commitment. Look for certified businesses that have been reviewed, screened, and officially categorized as a minority business. For example, Business Builders Marketing is certified as a minority-owned business through The State of Illinois Business Enterprise Program. We are considered a Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). We are registered with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, and the Illinois Procurement Gateway, and are designated as a Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB), through the WBENC (Women's Business Enterprise National Council). These certifications were not easy to obtain, and the screening process was extensive. When you work with us, you have access to a great marketing firm and an alliance with a stable, minority-owned firm. Dollars spent further showcase your commitment to DEI. If you receive state or federal funding for anything, this may no longer be optional as you may be required to document your diverse spending as a requirement of continued funding. Experts say that government will continue to encourage diverse relationships and that it is fueled by public opinion. If you don't have proven, diverse partnerships, it's time to form some new relationships.

No matter where you are on the DEI spectrum, practical solutions exist that can work to benefit everyone, from leaders and employees to vendors and the community. Every organization is unique, and plans will differ accordingly. External perspective can be extremely valuable in this area and consultation is often recommended. If we can be of assistance, schedule a complimentary consultation today.