Diversity in the workplace

No matter how cautious or forward thinking, few organizations had plans in place for simultaneously dealing with a global pandemic, an economic shutdown and political and social unrest.

Our natural instincts lead us to stick with the basics, set aside the nonessential and ride out the storm until conditions improve. But if the status quo does not include an organizational commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), we risk missing this rare opportunity to drive real and lasting change within our organizations and throughout the nation.

There is a cost to prioritizing DEI. Change exacts a price in time, resources and comfort levels, so many organizations “perform” DEI functions instead of doing transformational work. This is notwithstanding research proving diverse organizations make better decisions, fewer blunders and achieve better bottom lines.

DEI is gaining momentum. Organizations are recognizing the value both in terms of corporate culture and ROI. Positions like mine, as chief inclusion and outreach officer, have become critical to leadership in public, private and nonprofit institutions.

Each organization defines this work differently. This is our interpretation.

  • Diversity is the measure of demographic differences and represents the numbers — how many and what percentage relative to board composition, upper management levels, suppliers, workforce, etc.
  • Inclusion is the action that enables belonging — how we involve and listen to and incorporate diverse team members in an honest and complete fashion that values every member.
  • Equity is the goal, never static, never fully realized but always sought. Center for Social Inclusion says, “Racial equity is a condition that would be achieved if one’s racial identity no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, how one fares.”

After establishing meaning, the real work begins. How do we achieve equity? My recommendation is to bring your A game.

  • Address DEI. Consider what true diversity, equity and inclusion would look like across the board, in every aspect of your enterprise. It includes all the processes, systems, policies and procedures.
  • Assess. Where, precisely, does your company stand on your numbers, your actions and other metrics?
  • Agree on a plan of action. Based on your assessment, determine what you need to do, and how you will accomplish it. Remember in this, and every step, to model the behavior you want others to emulate. A top-down approach may not be the best route to equity.
  • Advance your plan throughout the company. Announce it. Advertise it. Engage your workplace in it.
  • Acclaim your efforts. As you build successes, claim them. Celebrate as you continue to move forward. Keep your momentum.
  • Analyze your progress. Build a scorecard. We know that what gets measured gets attention. Evaluate your metrics.

Your “A” game will pay off. It is a measure of the value you place on achieving diversity, equity and inclusion. Your honest and best effort is the price of the ticket. If you are not uncomfortable somewhere along the line, you’ve aimed too low or stretched too little.

DEI is continuous work. When you have approached, met or exceeded your goals, rinse and repeat. It took 400 years to get here. If we stay on track, I believe we can accelerate to equity.

Lamont Mackley is chief inclusion & outreach officer at JumpStart