DEI Best Practices

Top 10 Ideas for DEI Leaders

2020 was a wild year, and 2021 has also been an intense year for diversity and inclusion. Following the fancy corporate statements and donations to nonprofits, 2021 saw deeper commitments to diversity. I was pleasantly surprised by the consistent, intentional focus on DEI, and even greater support by senior leadership teams.

What actually drives diversity and inclusion?

Having done this work on the front lines for the last seven years, I have seen a slow progression from one-and-done, check-the-box DEI training to a more sustained, holistic effort that touches all aspects of the company’s culture. While the shift may be slight inside some organizations or non-existent inside others, increasingly organizations are seeing culture as a competitive advantage. And diversity and inclusion is a huge part of culture.

3 Keys to Success

We believe there are three major components for organizations to be successful with DEI long-term. 

  • Intentionality
  • Consistency
  • Senior leadership engagement

Being intentional means that DEI is embedded in everything you do. It’s not a standalone effort, it doesn’t belong to just the Diversity Council or ERGs, it is baked into culture and how decisions are made. Some examples of intentional diversity include:

  • A hiring manager needs to fill an open position urgently. The candidate pool for the position is not diverse. The hiring manager decides to extend the deadline and diversify efforts to increase diversity in the candidate pool before hiring someone just to fill the role.
  • The senior leadership team is beginning a journey to learn more about diversity and inclusion. One senior leader says something problematic. The team calls that person in and helps them better understand, instead of ignoring the problem or hoping it will go away.
  • DEI is a part of the cultural values. Instead of hiring or promoting based on ‘cultural fit’ it’s more about ‘cultural add’.  Decisions are based on the perspective that’s missing that this person could bring to the team.

Consistency is required for people to believe that DEI is truly important. All too often people are used to seeing a once-a-year training or a required sexual harassment or unconscious bias training. Neither one of these approaches have demonstrated any credible success over the years. People believe what they see consistently over time. For beliefs and behaviors to shift inside an organization, it has to be a constant drip.  Here are some clues that your organization might be consistent with DEI:

  • There is an organization-wide DEI training event. Many leaders attend. Afterwards, members of the management team ask people what their takeaways were during one-on-ones and in their day-to-day interaction on Slack, Zoom, etc.
  • An Employee Resource Group develops a new education program and they invite allies to attend regularly.  Many majority group attendees join to learn more about how they can support underrepresented groups on an ongoing basis.
  • Your organization prioritizes and communicates DEI messages not just when it’s in the news cycle or an event has triggered communication.  It’s consistently done throughout the year.  Perhaps some leaders are doing a “snackable” DEI communication to start every team meeting. 

Leaders model everyday what’s expected from the team with their own behavior. If the senior leadership team is not deeply committed to diversity and inclusion and is not talking about it on an ongoing basis, it is clear that it’s not important. Here are some vibes that senior leaders can put out there to signal they want to be allies:

  •  Your White male CEO makes consistent vulnerable communications about his own ally journey and what he is learning and unlearning.
  • Being a part of the organization’s Diversity Council is an incredible privilege and honor. Members take it seriously and know it increases their visibility to the senior leadership team. 
  • Your Chief Diversity Officer has been promoted to a critical senior leadership team role in the business (perhaps CEO?!?). 

10 Approaches

I don’t have a magic wand or crystal ball for DEI work. What I can tell you after nearly a decade doing this work is that intentionality, consistency,  and leadership team support matter. 

If your organization is struggling with any of these, I highly recommend that you take an intentional look at 2022 as an opportunity to be better. That’s why we developed the Lead Like an Ally virtual self-paced DEI training program. It is a Choose Your Own Adventure approach, done in the psychological safety of your own private learning space, packed with proven resources. Your organization can even measure results and utilize discussion boards to get people to interact and learn from each other between sessions.

Consider these main learning objectives as ideas for your own ally journey.  All are linked to free videos and resources sharing more information.

  1. Build Your Ally Plan
    • Craft your “why”
    • Write out your vision statement
    • Cement your plan
  2. . Influence Others as an Ally
    • Express empathy
    • Demonstrate vulnerability
    • Show trust
  3. Lean Into Candid Conversation
    • Leverage the 3 D’s framework
    • Challenge with care
    • Be a coach
  4. Know Your Ally Role
    • Explore mentorship
    • Develop sponsorship
    • Advocate for others
  5. Facilitate Inclusive Meetings
    • Improve psychological safety
    • Be intentional
    • Manage difficult situations
  6. Uncover Unconscious Bias
    • Know the science of bias
    • Look out for microaggressions
    • Call people in
  7. Interrupt Gender Bias
    • Navigate the gender tightrope
    • Avoid the maternal wall
    • Stop the Tug of War & Prove it Again biases
  8. Unpack Racism
    • Understand your role in the system
    • Accept your areas of privilege
    • Signal you want to be an ally to BIPOC
  9. Be an Ally for LGBTQ+
    • Research what you do not know
    • Embrace gender as a spectrum
    • Share your pronouns
  10. Drive Systemic Change
    • Build a DEI strategy
    • Create a DEI measurement plan
    • Engage a DEI council & ERGs

What’s next

Want to do better, and not sure where to start?  That is why we developed the Lead Like an Ally virtual self-paced training program, perfect for organizations struggling with accountability for diversity.  If you want to be intentional with diversity, contact us for a guest pass here.  You can try out the content for free for a few weeks and get your team to try it out too.