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Diversity Equity and Inclusion Initiatives – you can’t just check the box

By August 8, 2022May 30th, 2023No Comments

The Pitfalls of Superficial DEI Initiatives

Since the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent explosion of Black Lives Matter demonstrations, many organizations have been spending millions of dollars with consultants and other resources in hopes of starting Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

The truth is that many of these organizations do not actually understand why they want to do this. Countless organizations fail in their efforts because their leadership views DEI initiatives as a box to be checked off.

Assessing Organizational Readiness and Deepening the DEI Lens

Many organizations simply are not ready for DEI training. In fact, spearheading DEI programs before addressing organizational culture and ensuring a culture of trust and openness can create serious conflict amongst staff members.

From my experience as a consultant on DEI, it is useful to survey your staff to see how ready your organization is to employ a DEI initiative. Surveys should include your leadership group, staff, and your Board of Directors. If people in your organization aren’t ready to proceed, you may need to do some preliminary work to assure that people are ready.

How to Examine Your People, Policies, and Practices

In addition to assessing the readiness of the people in your organization to take a serious look at DEI, you need a candid assessment of how diverse your current organization is. To do a deep dive into DEI, your agency must be willing to examine its People, Policies, and Practices. When implementing policies, there are many questions to reflect on:

  • Are you using a racial equity lens to ensure that marginalized individuals are included?
  • Are individuals who are impacted most by your policies or practices included in the development of these policies and practices?
  • What will you do to increase representation within all your staffing levels including the Board of Directors?
  • Are you creating training opportunities for all individuals within your organization that allows for all to have opportunities for promotion?
  • How are you bringing in more diversity to your organization?
  • Do you have DEI interview questions?
  • Do you have diversity among your interviewers?
  • Are you ensuring your hiring managers are successful by training for implicit bias?
  • How are you uplifting the communities that you serve?
  • Are you hiring from the community?
  • Does your staff reflect the community you serve?
  • Do you take the time to research your vendors to make sure you include the BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) communities?

Take some time to reflect on the questions above. Are you ready to answer them honestly, and deal with what those answers say about your organization?

A serious DEI effort usually involves a significant culture change. As such, it must happen from the top down. To be effective, leadership needs to be willing to have courageous conversations and hold staff accountable for not following the initiative.

And lastly: don’t try to do this on your own without consulting with individuals who already have experience with this complex subject. DEI is not just a box to be checked off.

Irwin Batara, MPA, currently works as the Interim Chief People and Equity Officer at Neighborcare Health Centers in Seattle. Mr. Batara has been a Director/Chief of HR since 1993 and has run DEI/Race and Social Justice initiatives in multiple agencies including consulting on HR and DEI.  Mr. Batara is highly active in the Seattle community with DEI efforts including past membership with the Race and Social Justice Change Team for the City of Seattle and consulting with various nonprofits in the Seattle area. He is also a board member of the 501(c) Agencies Trust.

(Image by Freepik)

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