Learnings from Embedding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a continual learning process and strategies should be reviewed, measured and optimised on an ongoing basis. Reflecting on previous learnings is a great way to refocus efforts, avoid making the same mistakes and set the organisation up for DEI success.

As an expert in the DEI field, there are 3 key learnings that I experienced from my work in 2020-21, which I share below, along with a few tips that leaders can action in 2022 and beyond.

1.  Move away from Performative DEI by LISTENING

Don’t get me wrong, taking action is important. What I’m saying is, don’t forget the LISTENING part.

I continually see leaders taking actions to solve a problem they actually don’t understand or empathise with. They get called out for being performative and then wonder why.

Focus less on jumping to actions immediately. If you don’t know the root cause of the issue, then your actions will likely be seen as disingenuous and end up breaking trust with your employees. Listen, even if it means that you have to come to terms with the harm your organisation is causing others.

2. Don’t put DEI under Human Resources (HR) 

Please. No. Just No.

DEI touches every facet of an organisation. Throwing DEI under HR can dilute the work. It often becomes the first thing to be de-prioritised. Traditionally, HR has operated under a risk-mitigation model, there to protect the organisation & CEO.

DEI is all about risk-taking to create value. Until HR can grapple with its operating model and its diversity problem – According to Namely’s HR Career Report, 71% of HR employees are predominantly white – then putting DEI under HR is doing more harm than good.

DEI needs to be treated like any other function of the business that is necessary to perform effectively. HR and DEI need to be strategic partners to embed inclusion but they should not be lumped together.

3. Provide DEI with support, resources and budget

If you are “committed” to DEI, then make sure you are walking that talk. Provide your DEI leaders with the title, resources and budget it needs to be effective and successful like every other function. It’s not a “nice to have”.

Consider how you support and compensate Diversity Employee Networks. They are being asked to do mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting work that can potentially be re-traumatising. Without compensation, the only outcome from this will be built up resentment.

What can you do?

✔ Leaders, take time to rebuild trust with your people in 2022. Trust is the foundation for moving beyond performative DEI.

✔ Re-evaluate how you position DEI more strategically across your organisation to create value. Hiring someone on a two year contract conveys that diversity, equity and inclusion has an expiry date.

✔ Provide DEI leaders with the resources and budget to be effective.

✔ Bring in external consultants that have done internal DEI work to guide you to make more effective and long-lasting change.

Would you like support to effectively deliver on your DEI objectives? Reach out to us here to speak to one of our DEI experts.

Written by

Dawn Teo (she/her)
Senior D&I Consultant


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