Survey Says: Your Employees Think You’re Not Doing Enough to Support DEI

50% of employees polled say their organizations are not doing enough to support DEI

Ask folks in your organization if you’re doing enough to support diversity, equity, and inclusion and see what kind of responses you get. If you’re like me, the answers are extremely polarizing. When I took a poll of my network on LinkedIn posing the question “Do you believe your organization is doing enough to support diversity, equity, and inclusion?”, only 21% of respondents indicated “yes”. 50% indicated “no”, and 29% fell in the middle indicating “somewhat (could be doing better)”.

Some think we are talking about it too much, others think we’re not taking nearly enough action. We’re not walking the talk. Overwhelmingly folks feel that we could be doing more and that even the small, incremental steps do actually make a difference when they’re done consistently. 

You can’t make everybody happy with DEI work

Inclusion might feel like it’s making sure everyone’s engaged, happy and performing at their highest level. Ideally, those things are already happening, but it’s unlikely they’re happening for everyone at the organization. Lived experiences, comfort level with this conversation and the conditioning of someone’s experiences over the course of their lifetime is very hard to undo in a workshop or even a series of workshops. 

Most folks are in what I call the “magic middle”. They want to get DEI, but they just don’t get it yet. Rather than berating them with the business case and facts and figures, and even emotional stories, I think the better entry route is through empathy and perspective taking. Asking folks to think about a time when they felt different or didn’t belong or felt marginalized because of an aspect of their identity. Or if they know someone that has experienced the adversity of diversity, that relationship can be a channel to activate empathy for others. This helps meet people where they are it in their education along the ally journey.

Leaders model what’s really important in an organization

I facilitated a series of workshops for a client last year. Like many of the opening kick-off sessions, it was well attended and senior leaders were actively participating, including the CEO. Over the course of our time together though, attendance numbers started to trickle off, senior leaders were not regularly attending, and the client was frustrated with the lack of progress. Why does this happen?

People learn very quickly what’s really important in an organization through the actions of their leaders. If we say DEI is important, yet leaders then question a DEI training on the calendar, expect folks to work late to work on DIY projects, or get upset when someone doesn’t get their “regular work” done – employees get the memo. You have to wonder if this was another critical issue to the business, like a new product launch or strategic priority, would it be this under-resourced? Would we question people when they spent time on it? Would we still expect them to get all of their other work done while adding it to their workload? 

If DEI is important, give people resources

Resources don’t necessarily mean money. LinkedIn for example pays their ERG leaders, and that’s a great best practice. But resources for ERG leaders can also mean flexibility, development investment, or valuing it on performance reviews. Bottom line is people make time and resources available for what’s really important. 

Programming is one piece of the DEI mix. Systems need to be addressed, measurements need to be put in place, and listening sessions need to be conducted, ideally before training. However, most organizations are building the proverbial “plane as they learn to fly it”. So they’re diving deep into training and education while their systems are being worked on. This method is okay too because progress and consistency is valued more by employees than perfection.

Another client I’m working with took the time to address the systems and conduct focus groups with their team to figure out what the real issues were first. They built a simple scorecard with 9 metrics that they wanted to track – from hiring to promotions and separations, to inclusive leadership behaviors. They then built a holistic training program around those 9 metrics. The metrics were based on feedback from employees and assessing the systems that were holding under-represented folks back. The metrics were designed to be easy to track progress as training and education progressed, showing the impact and ROI of the DEI training. 

The story underscores the importance of 3 things we find to be true with our clients that have higher success levels with DEI. They’re intentional, they’re consistent, and their senior leaders are actively engaged. 

Challenge your organization to do better. If 50% of folks think we’re not doing enough, there is such an opportunity in this competitive talent marketplace to invest in DEI and attract and retain top talent. 

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. You can also check out all of our other virtual and live program offerings.