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The new year brings new ideas. After the tumultuous years of 2020 and 2021, which saw an increase in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts across organizations, In 2022 there was a slight decrease in activity.
Compare with younger workers under the age of 35 who are considering a new job, 80% say that DEI is very or somewhat important, which is 20% higher than previous generations. The workforce and customers of the future want more action from organizations.
2023 comes with renewed energy with headwinds of burnout and slow system change. Consider these ideas to drive DEI more in your organization.
Related: How to Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Your Workplace
1. Discuss power and privilege
The “P” word can be daunting to discuss, but it’s essential to understand in order to understand DEI and the power of allies. Privilege is an opportunity to be an ally to someone other than yourself. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or that you didn’t work hard for your achievements, it just means that the hardships you faced weren’t related to any part of your identity (race, gender, LGBTQ+, age, disability, etc.)
All humans experience challenges, it is important to know that some identities experience more challenges based on factors beyond their control. Our favorite way to introduce this is through a privileged occupation with statements where people can identify and learn more about their unique privileges as a positive source of strength to help others.
2. Expanding diversity beyond race and gender
Too often, DEI programs focus solely on race and gender and alienate the majority group (white males) who feel they are not part of DEI. When we bring in more layers of identity — neurodiversity, mental health, LGBTQ+, disability, age, social class, education, housing, body size, and more — we bring more potential allies into the conversation. We also see more clearly the benefits of diversity when unique perspectives are welcomed and listened to, leading to higher rates of innovation and better business results.
3. Including neurodiversity
An estimated 15-20% of people worldwide identify as neurodiverse. Neurodiversity can include ADHD, Autism or Asperger’s and many more diagnoses. Neurodiversity means cognitive differences where people’s brains work differently than those that identify as neurotypical. Incorporating neurodiversity into DEI work helps maximize the full diversity of the workforce, especially younger people with higher levels of diagnosis and awareness.
Related: 6 ways to lead on neurodiversity in the workplace
4. Try bite-sized DEI efforts
Many well-meaning organizations jumped into DEI work in 2020, only to find out it’s a long game. Centuries of inequality will not be resolved overnight or even in our lifetime.
Breaking DEI down into smaller pieces of learning, communication, and experiences strung over time creates a more sustainable impact. Some examples include regular communication, training, guest speakers, and leadership discussions – in fact, DEI is posted wherever important topics are regularly communicated.
5. Measure DEI
Without knowing the baseline, it’s hard to know where to start or how to show the ROI of DEI. Consider a validated survey approach, which searches payroll data, demographics, and employee engagement data, or focus groups or listening sessions to determine current status, issues, and opportunities.
6. Make sure you are fully engaged in leadership
It won’t work without leadership’s full commitment to DEI. That means all leaders at all levels of the organization should be well-versed in DEI issues and be prepared to engage in regular conversations. Most executives feel ill-prepared to discuss diversity issues and avoid participation as a result. This can be accomplished through leadership retreats, ongoing DEI topics on existing agendas, or book discussions on key topics.
Related: Diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are not complete without this essential dimension
7. Usage Including Language
One of the biggest opportunities for teams is knowing how to surface DEI issues without inadvertently offending or hurting anyone. It is essential to have ready-to-use expressions to prompt people with helpful language to speak out on issues of race, gender, disability and LGBTQ+. People want to know what to say and what not to say so they can get better. There are many useful ones workout programs that can help and daily communication and reminders help encourage people to be more inclusive.
8. Implement intersectionality
Kimberly Crenshaw coined the terms over 30 years ago and many still do not fully understand the concept. For example, women of color or people with disabilities who are also gay do not experience one form of diversity – they experience multiple dimensions at the same time. It is impossible to be a woman one minute and a person of color the next. Discussing these intersections during Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Pride Month (and throughout the year) is important.
9. Deal with burnout as soon as possible
People in marginalized communities are more likely to experience burnout and leave the workforce at higher levels. The main causes of burnout his unsustainable workload, perceived lack of control, inadequate rewards for effort, lack of a supportive community, and lack of fairness or mismatch of values and skills. This can be addressed by allocating time for DEI work, compensating people for DEI leadership work in addition to their day job, and making DEI part of performance management.
10. Take responsibility for toxic behavior
A toxic work culture is the leading cause of negative turnover. If the “always on” ideal or traditional employee model is rewarded, even if the employee’s behavior is toxic, that indicates that DEI is a nice-to-have, not a must-have. Having toxic employees on the team disrupts team dynamics and lowers the psychological safety needed to drive DEI.
There are many more DEI issues than these, but these ideas are intended as a starting point. Consider sharing them as a team, brainstorming other ideas, and prioritizing a few to focus on for 2023. DEI is a long game – one that needs nudging along the way. By continuing to emphasize the importance and commitment to DEI, organizations achieve more.