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April 16, 2024

“Balancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: The Key to Lasting DE&I Impact”

in your diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts, don’t over-emphasize diversity to the detriment of equity and inclusion, DE&I experts warn.

Companies should ensure that employees from underrepresented communities feel welcomed and put on the same path to success as their peers, according to Farren Roper, head of DE&I at Qualtrics, a management company with offices in Seattle and Provo, Utah.

“If you break the DE&I down into its component pieces, there’s ‘diversity,’ which is primarily impacted by hiring, but there’s also the ‘equity’ and ‘inclusion’ piece,” Roper said. “If you’re going to have any longevity of growth, it’s not only about the people that you bring in, but it’s about the people that you already have. [Employees] need to make sure that they have career advancement and a climate where they feel like they belong.”

There are different pathways for achieving DE&I goals, said Ella Washington, an organizational psychologist and DE&I expert in Washington, D.C. For inclusion efforts, companies should consider climate surveys and talk to managers and team members to see if their employees feel a sense of belonging.

“Attrition is still a big challenge in many organizations,” Washington said. “You shouldn’t wait until employees are leaving to ask them how they’re doing, what things they’re challenged with and what support they could use.”

Leveling the playing field so that everyone gets an opportunity to thrive at work is an important component of DE&I goals. For improving equity and inclusion, HR professionals should ensure that opportunities for promotion are fair and that everyone, especially workers from historically marginalized communities, has space for their voices to be heard, Washington noted.

“Part of making an impact is taking care of the diverse talent that you already have,” she said.

Measuring a company’s equity and inclusion accomplishments should go beyond the numbers of pay equity or promotion rates for women and racial minorities, Roper said.

“Companies need to look at the leading indicators of equity,” Roper said. “How are those employees being mentored or sponsored? How are you building your bench of hiring future diverse talent?”

Mentoring Helps with Equity and Inclusion Goals

Normalizing mentoring can boost a company’s equity and inclusion efforts, said Yalonda Brown, president of diversity initiatives at Engage Mentoring in Indianapolis.

She noted that mentoring offers access to meaningful relationships that:

  • Provide a sense of support.
  • Encourage open communication.
  • Create a sense of connection.
  • Facilitate career development.
  • Foster a culture of inclusivity.

“Mentoring, when leveraged as a tool to improve inclusion initiatives, fosters a work environment that is open and welcoming and promotes lifelong learning and career growth,” Brown said. “It is critical that companies put programs in place that work and have sustainable and measurable results.”

To keep up with DE&I goals, Brown said a company should implement the following seven mentoring strategies:

  1. Establish clear DE&I goals.
  2. Train mentors and mentees on how to prepare for and leverage a mentoring experience.
  3. Encourage cross-cultural mentoring.
  4. Create mentorship programs for underrepresented groups.
  5. Measure progress through surveys, focus groups or other avenues.
  6. Include DE&I goals in mentor evaluations and performance reviews.
  7. Foster a culture of inclusion.

The Pushback of DE&I

Organizations’ DE&I goals must be realistic and consistently implemented throughout the year as part of an overall business strategy.

After George Floyd’s murder, companies faced public pressure to invest in DE&I strategies. Some companies hired DE&I professionals for the first time, said Robin Pedrelli, co-founder and partner at VisionSpring Inc., a DE&I consulting agency in Natick, Mass.

But several years later, companies no longer feel pressured to commit to their DE&I efforts, resulting in a pendulum swing in the other direction, she said.

“Now, we’re seeing a war on ‘wokeism,’ so a lot of companies have given themselves license to pull back on DE&I,” Pedrelli said. “The companies that were authentic in their approach have been [implementing DE&I goals] for a long time; they haven’t been deterred.”

Organizations started advertising new DE&I goals that may have backfired on them, said Erica Colonero, co-founder and partner at VisionSpring Inc.

“When George Floyd was murdered, companies put out ridiculous, unachievable goals,” Colonero said. “A lot of companies don’t have a plan to get to those goals, so that’s why we’re seeing pullback [on DE&I efforts], as well.”

Recent reports also show that DE&I professionals are burned out, feeling low on morale and less committed to their organization.

"There is an overwhelming trend that DE&I leaders are tired, feel unsupported with unfulfilled or stalled activities, budget cuts, shifts in organizational priorities, and overall lack of power and not having a true voice at the table," Brown said. "There are cases where individuals committed to the work feel tokenized or that the DE&I goals were not tied to a core business strategy."

Quote from the author : Sarah Dolezal is a freelance writer based in Athens, Ga.

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