By Jackie Glenn, Glenn Diversity Inclusion & HR Solutions
We are living in historic times — the level of national attention directed towards matters of equality is the highest we’ve seen since the civil rights movement of the sixties. The concept of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is dominating conversations across our social circles, from friends and family to workplace colleagues. A new wave of change is forming, especially in corporate America. Long-existing concerns in the workplace have been brought to light and companies are eager to shift their stance. As organizations dive into the process of building equitable and inclusive environments, I encourage them to consider two critical concepts: an open attitude is key to success, and transformation doesn’t happen overnight.
At the higher level, executives choosing to undergo a DEI makeover may be aiming to keep up with the times. It’s good practice to ensure that your company is current and respectable, and seeking out a professional to guide the process is a great strategy. Before rushing to bring in a DEI expert, I implore you to take a moment to reflect. Are you ready to welcome a new outlook? Are you prepared to truly listen and absorb? Are you willing to walk the walk? If not conducive to accepting new information, then any DEI efforts will go to waste. In my 30-year experience, I’ve often witnessed clients book a workshop but brush off the actionable items that are needed to make lasting change. However, tangible results bloom when there is intention behind the thought.
To help maintain the open mind necessary for success, look deeper than the typical PR reasons for seeking a DEI stamp of approval. Assume the viewpoint of the talent you hope to acquire — employees are thinking about where they’re going to build their lives. Anyone would want to feel comfortable, welcome, and at ease in the hub where they will spend the majority of their days. If you get the superficial stamp of approval but aren’t open to enacting the solutions that are advised, you’ll draw talent in and then lose them once they realize it’s a facade. A toxic environment is hard to disguise. From a financial standpoint, take into consideration the bottom line benefits of successfully implementing these practices. Higher employee satisfaction means higher productivity and higher profits. The outcomes are real and measurable, but only if you follow through. Attendance to a single workshop does not equate to a boost in profits, especially if you’re unwilling to shift your policies and corporate culture. Whether it’s smiles or dollar signs driving the decision to pursue an inclusive environment, the key is to be open and intentional.
Corporations may view DEI as a single task to check off the list. They had a conversation, attended a guided session, and now identify as an inclusive entity. However, the work is not done in a day. With the guidance of a DEI expert, you’ll be oriented to strategies that need to be adopted in order for the words and policies to become common practice. Shifting a company’s culture is no simple task — it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. Remember that DEI initiatives should be taken one step at a time. Creating an inclusive workplace is a journey, not a sprint. Consistent and mindful actions make a great impact over time. Periodic self-audits and reflections are essential to success. What needs to be tweaked and shifted in order to continue strong? What resources are most helpful? It’s important to find what works and take it slow to ensure that your progress won’t unravel.
A welcoming and prosperous workplace is within the grasp of any enterprise that chooses to embark on the journey towards diversity, equity, and inclusion. The key is to continuously remain open to growth and follow through day by day.
Jackie Glenn is a best-selling author, speaker, 30-year veteran in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space, as well as the former Chief Diversity Officer and VP of Global Diversity for a Fortune 500 company. She is currently the owner of Glenn Diversity Inclusion & HR Solutions, a boutique consulting company that offers consulting services, curricula, and content that effectively evolves corporate cultures.