When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, two of the most frequent questions I am asked are:
- How does an organization begin its diversity journey?
- Once an organization embarks on its diversity journey, how do they sustain the work?
I decided to present on these very topics as the keynote speaker during the Chesapeake Human Resources Association James W. Rouse Excellence in Diversity Awards event. I will outline just a few key ideas I shared – questions for organizations to consider:
Map it Out
In terms of how to begin, start with “Why?” It is important to get specific about why diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are important to your organization/community. What is the business case? What are the benefits? How does DEI work align with your organization’s mission, vision, and values? What makes this work effective at organizations is making sure that it is true to your organization.
Who on the executive team is going to speak up and “champion” these efforts? While it would ideally be the president/CEO, it may be someone who has the president’s/CEO’s ear. Having a champion on the executive team allows DEI efforts to move forward on a variety of levels. Whether it’s helping to communicate the value of DEI among other leaders and board members, accessing budgetary support, and/or supporting DEI programs and other initiatives, the executive champion will serve as a valuable ally to this work.
Organizations do not have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to diversity efforts. Explore what similar organizations are doing. As a diversity professional, I do my best to support other organizations embarking on this work. We learn from each other and use each other as resources. You do not have to go it alone.
While I brought up several other considerations about how organizations can embark on their diversity journeys, I emphasized that sustainability is about strategy. DEI must be embedded into the fabric of the organization, ideally through its strategic plan. Embedding DEI efforts as part of an organization’s strategic plan ensures that DEI is a priority for the organization overall. It does not allow anyone to take the work lightly and forget about its value.