There’s nothing like the start of a new year to prompt honest reflection on how well we met the goals and commitments of the previous year.
Often, when looking back at the progress of diversity and inclusion efforts, leaders find it hard to show evidence of lasting progress (if they’ve taken on diversity and inclusion in the first place).
The unfortunate fact?
Most diversity and inclusion strategies ironically lack a crucial element - solid strategic thinking underlying these efforts.
If you're struggling to make headway with your diversity and inclusion goals, read on.
While diversity and inclusion goals may be sincere aspirations at the start, they are often too narrow, vague, or lofty in nature.
Without the ability to measure incremental progress that tracks towards long term goals, diversity efforts can appear to have no real ROI, damaging ongoing commitment of diversity programs and diminishing the benefits in profit and productivity that come with inclusive workplaces. Worse, these efforts can have a one-note approach to diversity, which ignores the intersectional nature of diversity and inclusion issues and solutions in the workplace.
In 2017, we saw a number of big name companies, particularly in the tech industry, develop strategic plans for increasing diversity and inclusion. But in these cases it can be hard to see direct change in the way business practices create opportunities for underrepresented employees.
In many cases, those strategies can come across as ill-fated PR moves with little lasting impact, developed solely from the pressure derived from damning viral blogs or twitter hashtags.
The common thread is a lack of applied strategic thinking and systems analysis. We often start with grand goals at early stages of crafting diversity strategies and remain in reaction mode, lacking proactive, dynamic approaches to diversity and inclusion work.
Though we truly believe we want to achieve the goals we set out for ourselves or our company, we are woefully ignorant of the lack of necessary resources to do so.
Reality often contradicts our intended outcomes when our own unconscious biases and assumptions skew perspective of where the problems lie, with whom, and how to remove barriers and improve inclusive behaviors.
We designed the DICE Strategy Hack workshop to confront the ugly truth of ineffective approaches to diversity and inclusion. It’s time we face what a recent Diversity Report Card considers the biggest unaddressed problem in D&I - these efforts are not core parts of business systems, and thus they have no lasting results.
For D&I efforts to actually work, you have to invest in them financially the same way you would with other business systems.
A guest speaker once a year, the occasional online training video, and other short-term initiatives will never create the long-term change company’s say they want to achieve. In tapping into systems thinking, the DICE Strategy Hack tackles the common mistake of moving away from what we really want to achieve by focusing on cheap, short-term accomplishments instead.
I can’t emphasize how often we hear from potential clients that there is no budget for diversity programs, or that they are only looking for a small, one-time event to “tackle diversity issues.”
Let me be clear: If this is your strategy, you will never achieve your diversity and inclusion goals.
In 2018, let’s resolve to make diversity and inclusion efforts more than the occasional activity, training, or initiative.
Let’s commit to investing in workplace inclusion the way we invest in sales performance, market research, or product development. Doing so will result in the same outcome as those other investments - increased efficiency, productivity, and profit. And DICE has the tools to capture that ROI in real-time, over the long-term.
Creating or working off of a diversity and inclusion strategy that doesn’t tackle the real pain points your company is dealing with or has no real financial and mental investment backing it up is like signing up for the gym in January to lose that resolution weight, then quitting in March because you refused to prioritize working out, buying healthier foods, and practicing self-discipline.
Save yourself the end of year heartache by reflecting more honestly on the underlying strategic thinking (or lack thereof) in your diversity strategy and acknowledging the substantial investment it takes to accomplish the goals you’ve set out for your company.
New year, new workplace? Well, not necessarily, but there is an opportunity to start making an impact where you are, right now. The secret to ensuring your diversity and inclusion strategy is engaging and producing results this year is by leveraging the power of questions. Here’s what I mean.
Questions have a powerful impact on the brain. Regardless of your knowledge or comfort level with an issue, what is really cool about the brain is that as soon as questions are asked, the brain starts figuring out the best answers.
Not only are we programmed to solve problems, but we do so even when we aren’t actively trying.
The brain keeps working in the background, even when we are not consciously aware of the questions taking up space in our minds.
Knowing that questions resonate with people and have the power to shift perspectives, use questions to engage more minds. Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.” The goal is to find ways to involve all levels of the organization to solve any challenges you have around creating an inclusive and diverse environment.
Inquiry sparks insights, discoveries, breakthroughs and paths forward on any problem, project, or idea.
Asking questions of your employees demonstrates a genuine interest in understanding a different viewpoint and helps build connections between people with differences. Research also shows that we can “hack” our brains to ask more empowering questions to get to more effective, creative, and powerful solutions.
Look, as leaders - as DICERs, our job is not to have all the answers. It’s to know the right questions and to set the stage to create the space for the magic to happen, for the questions to be asked. After years of trial and error, we’ve came up with a simple process to jumpstart the learning in your organization.
We call it the DICE Leadership Model: CREATE. ENGAGE. EMPOWER . REPEAT.
Create the brave, safe space for dialogue, creativity, and innovation (check out our DIY page for tips). Engage all levels of an organization in idea-generation, problem-solving, and decision-making (everyone has a backstory and can contribute). Empower employees to manage risks, take action, and lead from where they are (give them the keys to the car). And finally, repeat.
As I’ve mentioned before, the key is momentum - diversity and inclusion is not a check the box exercise. It’s something you live, breath, and feel at work.
The DICE Leadership Model helps you uncover a collective wisdom that is empowering and solution-oriented. An organizational culture that is curious will foster creativity, engagement, and encourage new perspectives. The best teams and organizations are built from unique, smart, and motivated individuals who can work effectively together. By convening people with different experiences, organizations find creative solutions to new, cross-cutting, and complex management challenges.
This year, be a convener.
Back in college, my professor gave us a special project. We were to join an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, observe the program, and report on what we learned.
At the beginning of the meeting, everyone introduced themselves and admitted they had a problem they needed help with. It was an unforgettable visual that has stayed with me through the years.
What’s important to making any progress is admitting that a change is needed.
Many organizations have taken this important step by admitting that they have a problem with diversity and/or inclusion. Some have even taken measures to promote diversity and inclusion within their organizations. While taking action is essential to reaching company goals around better work environments, it’s not enough if the workforce doesn’t go beyond the whole and address each individual.
A poignant part of the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting was the vulnerability of each participant to not only admit that they needed help, but to share details of their struggles and dreams for their futures. They’d looked at the darkest parts of themselves and had bolstered their resolve to improve.
Leaders must also help each employee realize their weaknesses around and contributions to a lack of diversity and inclusion within the workplace.
This includes the understanding that our friend and associate groups could include more diversity, that we have unconscious and conscious biases that need to be addressed, and that inclusion isn’t only our boss’s job, but part of our own.
Supporting a flourishing diversity and inclusion program includes making everyone responsible for its success. By gaining buy-in upfront, companies get input from all levels of the organization, dedicated people to promote and participate in programming, and “wins” that go viral across the organization.
Unlike that Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, I no longer have the luxury of being an observant bystander. In fact, we all have an important part to play in creating workplacse where everyone feels like they belong.
Let’s start talking about the taboo topics that make us uncomfortable including the fact that we all can do a better job celebrating and respecting diversity and promoting and practicing inclusion. Lasting change doesn’t have to happen all at once. Small steps taken regularly can make all the difference.
Make the decision to take a brave stance to improve workplaces for everyone (yourself included) by improving the way you view and interact with others.
The future is in your hands.
Give us a call if you need help making your diversity and inclusion resolution a reality. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s smart business, and you can’t afford to keep D&I on the back burner any longer.