4 Ways Companies Get D&I Wrong (And How to do it Right)


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This month we covered “Diversity & Inclusion,” which is a huge topic to unpack. We highly recommend you circle back to our previous weeks and watch in order to get the whole scope of what we’ve covered:

  1. Diversity & Inclusion: What If I Say The Wrong Thing? (Week 1)

  2. Representation & Inclusion in the Workplace (Week 2)

  3. How Unconscious Bias Impacts Teams & Business (Week 3)

Minimal, superficial efforts ≠ conquering D&I

There is no simple box to check when it comes to D&I.

This week I’m tackling things that I think companies get wrong when it comes to D&I work. Actively participating in broadening your awareness and continuously working toward doing better is what it’s about. Here are a few pitfalls:

  1. Tokenism: “We hired an Asian person, we solved diversity!” This work is not about just doing one single thing to check the box and say, “Okay we did it.” There is no simple box to check when it comes to D&I. It’s important for companies to adopt a comprehensive, ever-progressing mentality and take action around building inclusivity in their organization. That does include an intention to hire a more diverse workforce, and there are also many other ways (some that I have talked about this month) that companies can make honoring and seeking diversity of background, thought, abilities, personalities, and strengths a priority. This work is not just about visual diversity, it is also about equity and inclusion.

  2. Diversity & inclusion is not your marketing campaign. D&I is not just an opportunity for brands to capitalize on for profits with a superficial show of support. For example, during Pride Week, it’s a bad look for companies who have never given a damn about diversity and inclusivity, or have a sordid history with it, to suddenly show up on twitter like, “Hey! We're gay too!”

    Yes, I do think it’s important and positive for companies and brands to use their platform to strengthen these conversations and build awareness. However, showing up for five minutes to the party with a rainbow label on your fill-in-the-blank product is pretty problematic. It’s exploiting a marginalized group of people and their struggle just to capitalize on opportunities for profit in a vapid way that is far from meaningful. Show up and stay for D&I work, put your money where your mouth is.

  3. Isolated efforts that lead nowhere. A lot of companies over commit to training and doing an isolated event without any follow through. Bringing somebody in who talked for an hour or two to educate your team is wonderful - but what happened after? Did you do any meaningful work to integrate it and make changes?

    Companies who make grand gestures without looking critically at their systems, policies, procedures, and making real changes are missing the point. Prioritize diversity, prioritize inclusivity, and take tactical steps throughout your organization that actually demonstrate your dedication to it.

  4. Not asking questions. There's a feeling for organizations, leaders, and companies to have to have all the answers, to get all of it right. One of the best things they can do for these conversations is just to show up asking questions, and be willing to listen and learn. If organizations truly want to do better, they can start by asking their people and teams these kinds of questions:

    1. What does diversity and inclusion mean to them?
    2. How can they do better as an organization?
    3. What are our blind spots? Who are we excluding, where are we missing the boat?

    Most importantly here, companies need to be ready and willing to receive the feedback they receive and open to evaluating what they’re doing now and making changes.

D&I is not about covering your ass.

The companies who are diving in, making meaningful progress, and prioritizing D&I are going to leave the ones that aren’t in the dust.

Ultimately, work around diversity and inclusion is not about covering your ass. It is about recognizing and honoring the advantage, value, and necessity of creating an inclusive, diverse organization.

The bottom line: There is an extremely strong business case for doing this work. I’ve covered a number of reasons why this month. The benefits when it comes to higher engagement, retention, performance, innovation, as well as keeping and attracting better talent, etc. are backed up by exhaustive, comprehensive data (links below). If a leader or organization approaches these conversations with an eye roll, they lose. There’s an unlimited number of reasons to take tangible steps on this today. The companies who are diving in, making meaningful progress, and prioritizing D&I are going to leave the ones that aren’t in the dust.

More Resources: 

This article was created by keynote speaker Galen Emanuele for the #shiftyestribe. Free leadership and team culture content centered on a new focus every month. Check out the rest of this month's content and subscribe to the Shift Yes Tribe at http://bit.ly/JointheSYT