In a post-Affirmative Action US, I have heard a number of disconcerting reports related to the future of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work. DEI practitioners and HR professionals have been asked to remove any mention of the words “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion.” Company leaders are nervous about DEI programs being “too visible” or too pervasive. Extremist groups are celebrating the end of “woke, racially-based hiring and promotion.”
Despite this troubling news, employees are overwhelmingly in favor of DEI-centered programs. A recent study by Benevity revealed that 78% of respondents would never consider working for an organization that was not sincerely committed to DEI initiatives.
Although you might be convinced of the validity of DEI initiatives, your company leaders or peers might not be. How can you make the case for DEI and make sure your DEI program is still fresh and relevant? Try these 6 steps:
Think Big Picture
No matter how your company is treating DEI work right now, it always makes sense to align your endeavors with the organization’s big-picture goals and objectives. Make an effort to demonstrate how DEI initiatives support and enhance the company and add to its profitability, innovation, and overall success.
Lean on Data
Utilize data to support your case for DEI. Collect and analyze relevant information that shows the positive impact of diversity, equity, and inclusion on businesses. If you do not have much data from your own organization, it’s a good idea to point to studies and statistics showing that diverse teams typically produce higher profitability, innovation, and creativity. Present this data in a compelling way to convince company leaders and peers of the importance of DEI initiatives.
Get Leadership on Board
If your company’s leadership is lukewarm about DEI efforts, that doesn’t bode well for the future of the program. To drum up excitement around DEI and emphasize it importance, it’s essential to engage with your leadership team. Present data and case studies that demonstrate the positive impacts of diversity, equity, and inclusion (both in your company and others). Additionally, make sure to show the human side of DEI by sharing personal stories that reveal the positive impacts of DEI-related work. In short, it is absolutely crucial to engage in meaningful conversations with company leadership and address any questions or concerns they may have.
As someone working in the DEI space, it is essential to stay current and continually learn about the latest research and studies, employee sentiments/demands, and best practices in the industry. This will help you stay on top of your game to tackle the challenges many of us are currently facing in this space. Consider attending advanced training sessions, networking with other DEI professionals, or participating in a conference, such as Uplifting Impact’s Inclusive Leaders Summit.
Review Hiring Practices
In a post-Affirmative Action US, it is possible hiring practices will come under scrutiny. Make sure your hiring process is inclusive, bias-free, and emphasizes both character and identity (a recent Uplifting Impact article addresses how both of these traits play into an individual’s qualifications for the job). It is also important to recruit from a wide variety of sources and use inclusive language in your job listings, so candidates from all backgrounds will apply.
Revamp Employee Resource Groups
In today’s climate, companies might start to worry about the validity of groups, programs, and initiatives that focus on identity, such as Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Consider opening up ERGs to anyone who is sincerely interested in participating, regardless of that person’s identity. Revamping ERGs in this way demonstrates that inclusivity and allyship are key components of your DEI program.
Even though the end of Affirmative Action has caused some companies to rethink their DEI programs, I am optimistic about the future of this work. With overwhelming employee support and proven benefits, there is a strong case for companies to continue investing in diversity, equity, and inclusion. By taking the time to re-strategize before forging ahead, DEI professionals can ensure their programs remain relevant and continue making an impact for Americans of all identities and backgrounds.