Written by Erin Mahar
June 18, 2021
Salary.com’s Director of DE&I, Lenna Turner, hosted a special speaker panel, “How Practitioners are Moving the DE&I Conversation Forward,” featuring panelists from Chevron, WarnerMedia Studios, and Reddit. They talked openly about their struggles, strategies, and solutions in building a more inclusive workplace and inspired all of us with their insights.
As a result, many attendees asked hot-topic questions regarding tips on managing DE&I efforts in their organizations. The panelists respond with three tips for successfully managing DE&I in your organization:
1) Start the Conversation
“How do we start the conversations without being accused of being racist or discriminatory?”
Having difficult conversations about race, gender, disability, and other forms of bias is about people who experience bias having a voice and being heard, and people who don't know what that experience is like listening and learning. We walk through the world differently based on our gender, skin color, age, accent, and many other factors. It's important to notice that just because you have never seen or experienced something, it really does exist and is often unfair and unjust. When we can talk and listen without being defensive and blaming, all things are possible. When we are too scared of doing it wrong to have the conversation, nothing is.
“Many employees don't know what to say to their underrepresented colleagues when a public event happens. I'd be interested in what companies do to encourage dialog amongst employees in the moment and how specifically that is communicated (outside of scheduled training).”
Many companies report that providing an ongoing platform for employees to share their stories/backgrounds, thoughts, and feelings ….to be heard; encouraging a listening environment from their majority colleagues. This may be fostered through ongoing dialogue with Diversity councils, Employee Resource/Affinity groups.
“How do you create space?”
Work on the foundational things. Create an atmosphere that employees feel safe, included and trust the environment. Having conversations, formal programs and informal. Small groups can build a circle of trust. Targeted webinars on building trust, be willing to pivot. Work on structural changes (i.e. hiring practices etc.), understand missing perspectives, be willing to have tough conversations.
2) Guide the Process
“As an HR Manager, I have been asked to lead our DEI work for the organization. My senior management team has been doing the pre-work on definitions, statement of intention and goals as a first step to then go to staff to assess how we're doing in those cultural dimensions. Any advice on how to manage this approach effectively?”
That sounds like a great start. The thing to be careful about is to not be limited by goals and definitions. You need them to guide the process. But the goal is not to meet goals; it is to stay focused on how things are and what needs to change. This requires building trust so you get a clear picture of what it's really like for people working there and being willing to make room for difference and make changes. So, while you are going through this process, stay open and curious and be willing to revise or reset your goals as you learn more about what will make a difference.
“Do minority or marginalized people need DEI training and awareness?”
Yes, we all have bias, conscious and unconscious that we need to realize and work on in order to understand how that impacts the decisions we make and the way we interact with others in a fair, open and equitable manner.
“Are you in favor of forming DEI committees among staff when doing this work?”
DEI committees and focus groups can be useful tools in getting a clear picture of where you are and what needs to happen. It can also end up being a roadblock if 1) there isn't enough trust among staff and management for candor on the part of staff and willingness to see problems on the part of management; 2) it becomes all talk and no action; and 3) the time and work of these committees are not considered "the work," so that the people involved don't have to do all of their regular work and give time to this on top of it.
“Without Fortune 500 resources how would you recommend companies go about D&I initiatives?”
Start by evaluating your demographics and culture, prioritize where to start, and do as much as you can with what you've got. We have a series on Improving DE&I for Small Business that has additional information and resources.
3) Prioritize Allyship
“How do your organizations approach Allyship while still respecting the safe space of particular ERGs?”
Part of being an ally means taking a back seat and not being in charge. It also means using your power and resources to help others succeed. So, create a process that is led by your ERG's for open discussion with leadership about where things are and what needs work. Then listen, agree on next steps, follow through to ensure that change is happening. If you treat your ERG's as experts and ask them to give you guidance, you are not interfering with their internal work and space and you are supporting them in constructive ways.
“Our leadership team is committed and supportive. Our biggest challenge is employee engagement. We can't seem to get our employees engaged. Any suggestions?”
It sounds like your employees may not think that DE&I applies to them. They believe they aren't racist or sexist or ableist, so that work is for other people. It's very common and really convenient, especially since we are all so busy.
Another common problem is that organizations make involvement in DE&I initiatives extra work on top of everything else employees have to get done. It's seen as administrative or as a nice to have instead of a need to do.
Start with how the organization is treating the activities or other DE&I work and see if you can shift the perspective. Have managers insist this is important and needs to be done as part of "the work." Then treat it like that in evaluating quotas, billables, and other productivity metrics. If it's that important, people will do it.
Watch a recording of the DE&I panel, “DE&I: Moving the Conversation Forward” to learn more about taking on diversity, equity, and inclusion in your organization, or get a free 30-minute DE&I consultation with one of our experts.
Download our white paper to further understand how organizations across the country are using market data, internal analytics, and strategic communication to establish an equitable pay structure.