In recent years, major companies have pledged billions of dollars to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. They’ve hired DEI directors, held inclusion-focused trainings, and have reformed their hiring practices to be more equitable. However, some initiatives never really got off the ground, while others had a promising start but quickly faded away. In some cases, DEI directors, Employee Resource Groups, or DEI-focused committees never received the resources they were promised. This lack of support has translated into a lack of progress, which has led many people to feel burned out or discouraged. The problem is widespread enough that it has its own term: diversity fatigue (aka DEI fatigue).
Diversity fatigue is a very real issue that has become increasingly prevalent in the workplace. Many DEI advocates and practitioners are becoming exhausted because they do not have adequate support or resources to effectively do their work. A recent study shows that company executives are endorsing DEI efforts 18 percent less than they were two years ago. Additionally, some DEI practitioners feel as though their companies are only interested in making symbolic changes rather than meaningful, long-term improvements.
How can we fight back against DEI fatigue? I suggest trying the following six strategies:
Pinpoint the Cause of Fatigue
Before you change your approach or request additional resources, it is important to understand the cause of DEI fatigue in your workplace. Are you (or others involved in DEI work) experiencing a lack of support from the C-Suite? Are you short on time or resources? Maybe you’re struggling to convey the importance of DEI to the workforce, as a whole? Whatever the case, it’s crucial to have a good understanding of the root cause(s) of your company’s DEI fatigue.
Create a Clear Plan of Action
After you’ve identified problems or roadblocks, the next logical step is laying out an action plan. This includes setting specific goals, defining strategies, and allocating resources accordingly. Think both long- and short-term, so you always have concrete goals to work toward. A well-defined plan can help guide your efforts and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Boost Enthusiasm Through Short-Term Goals
While it’s important to strategize for big-picture, systemic changes, that can be a tough sell. It can be difficult for people to see signs of progress, and they may grow impatient or skeptical. To drum up enthusiasm around DEI efforts, it’s a good idea to include several short-term, achievable goals amid your long-term planning. By focusing on smaller milestones, individuals involved in DEI work can stay motivated and maintain a sense of accomplishment.
Garner Support From the C-Suite
The C-Suite has the power and influence to allocate resources, drive meaningful change, and set the tone for the entire organization. By gaining their support, you can ensure DEI efforts are prioritized and receive the necessary backing and resources to succeed. Make an effort to regularly check in with the company’s leadership to keep them apprised of progress, current strategy, and anticipated actions.
It's important to set clear metrics and regularly track and analyze data to determine if you're making meaningful strides toward your goals. This will not only help you identify areas for improvement but also demonstrate the impact of your efforts to key stakeholders.
Foster Collaboration and Participation
DEI efforts should not solely rest on the shoulders of a few individuals or departments. It requires collective effort and engagement from all members of the organization. Foster a collaborative environment where employees feel empowered to contribute their ideas, perspectives, and experiences to shape DEI initiatives. Encourage participation in Employee Resource Groups and provide opportunities for open dialogue and feedback.
By strategically addressing a few key areas, organizations can combat diversity fatigue and make meaningful strides in their DEI efforts. It's important to remember that this is an ongoing process which requires constant evaluation and adjustment. Diversity, equity, and inclusion practices are not a trend, so it’s important to stay energized and receive the necessary support for this critical work.