In the spring and summer of 2020, many individuals protested racial inequality. This focus on racial disparities led many businesses to look at their diversity, inclusion, and equity (DI&E) policies. Some companies released public statements, others changed specific hiring and promotion practices, and others hired diversity and inclusion specialists to guide them through these workplace topics.
As we celebrate Black History Month this month, it is a good time for a checkup. Did your organization commit to making any DI&E changes? If so, how are those changes going? Is your organization reaching its goals, or have other things taken priority? It is easy to get off track- especially during a pandemic when so many businesses are in crisis.
The good news is it is always the right time to make positive changes. If your organization has not met its goals, now is an excellent time to evaluate obstacles in the way and how to overcome them. Here are a few obstacles I have seen:
- Exhaustion: 2020 was a challenging year. 2021 has not been much better. Leaders and employees alike are burnt out. The DI&E tasks before employers are daunting: Do we need to change? How do we change? What do we change? Those are difficult topics to navigate, and they take much emotional energy. I suggest setting specific goals and deadlines:
- Want to do a team member DI&E survey? Set the deadline for two months from now and designate a specific employee to implement the organization’s survey. At MBA, we use Culture Amp for our surveys- this allows us to conduct anonymous surveys, identify areas that need change, and see how we are doing compared to other companies around the country.
- Want to make sure your organization encourages DI&E? Add a floating holiday. It is an easy and quick way to allow employees to celebrate any holiday they want.
- Defensiveness: If your organization has received information that a particular racial group or other protected class in your company feels like there are issues in your workplace, it is hard not to take that personally or feel attacked. There is an excellent reason that federal law protects against retaliation: most of us do not take criticism well. Whether the concerns are warranted or not, I would encourage you to see things from their perspective:
- Listen to the concerns; and
- Do everything in your power to acknowledge those concerns and, if necessary, make positive changes.
- Office Politics: I think office politics can shut down change faster than any other obstacle. You might have individuals in positions of power at your company who do not value diversity.
- You may not be able to change their hearts, but you might be able to change their minds. One motivating argument you can make is to show how much more profitable companies can be when they embrace diversity. It is hard to say “no” to more money.
- Look for common ground. Are most managers in favor of starting a DI&E committee? Would most of your executive team agree that hiring someone to handle DI&E would be more comfortable for the company? Start with the common ground and build from there.
It is not easy to overcome obstacles like these but remember that you are not alone. MBA is here to assist you. Want to talk through DI&E? Contact your HR Consultant today.