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DEI Culture Change

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Culture Change Starts at the Top

How is Your Organization Making DEI Decisions?

Companies large and small will at some time employ both top-down and bottom-up approaches to decision making on any number of objectives. Leadership handing down companywide initiatives in a top-down management style is considered a more traditional approach.  Local teams, and lower-level management receive directions from above and dispenses it accordingly. A bottom-up approach involves the growth of small seeds of employee ideas upwards into an organization’s fabric as a whole.

The Spectra Assessment can provide a DEI baseline from which to measure progress.

But what approach is best suited for the introduction and implementation of Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives? Where should the buy in begin, and who should set the tone? Human Resources? CEO? Chief Diversity Officers? Everyone in an organization certainly has a role to play in progressing along the continuum between DEI compliance, awareness and finally true inclusion.  Achieving a truly diverse workforce culture is a journey, with no end. But where does it start?

DEI culture change

Can a Bottom-up Approach Work for DEI?

In recent years, bottom-up advocacy for greater DEI abounds. On the bright side, data from diversity, equity and inclusion research suggests that employees recognize at least the existence of DEI in the workplace. In a study by Dr. Ella Washington (diversity and inclusion expert at Gallup) “55% of the study group population strongly agree that their organization has policies to promote diversity and inclusion.” However, policy alone does not create diversity. The presence of policy does not guarantee commitment, buy in and or integration of policy into company culture. Survey results from Clutch, a business-to-business research firm, suggests “more than half (54%) of American employees do not believe that their company has successfully created diversity in 2020.” In addition to the employee’s awareness of a lacking, there is also the potential for an employee-wide lack of awareness of what a company is actually promoting in the interest of DEI. Mid-level leaders must ensure DEI lives beyond HR, keeping lower-level management and employees well informed of active DEI initiatives and how it affects their day to day.

DEI culture change

How do Employees View Change and DEI?

In the same Clutch research, employees were prompted to identify what DEI initiatives they hoped to see in the workplace. The polled participants selected “More racial and ethnic minorities in leadership (25%),” most overall.

DEI is more than diversity committees, trainings, and diversity hires. In order for a culture of diversity to feel organic and authentic it must be systematically woven into the mission, and vision of an organization as a whole. And that starts at the top. And the pinnacle of a company hierarchy is the board of directors.

No amount of diversity compliance training can compel an employee to believe their organization is embracing diversity when they look to the board and see no true diversity in their midst. Diversity cannot work within the lower ranks of an organization without intentional prioritization of diversity objectives within the boardroom.

Diversity initiatives fail, and criticism of these failures abounds. The composition of the board is rarely considered a contributing factor.

DEI Efforts Start at the Top and Includes All Levels

DEI culture changeWhile DEI should start at the top, real change is both top down and bottom up. Below are some considerations for professionals at all levels of a company hierarchy.

  • Board of Directors: Diversify the board. This includes women, racial and ethnic minorities, varied backgrounds, experiences and points of view. The composition of the board should be diverse beyond a token female or minority member. Create an environment that promotes meaningful discourse and engagement between all members. Be an example.
  • The C-Suite: Take the example from the Board of Directors and help set the tone for diversity in hiring practices company-wide. Collect data surrounding hurdles to diversity and then analyze to develop solutions. Draft policy that promotes inclusion, mentoring, outreach and sponsorship. Communicate successes, failures, and projects in the works to management below. Coach and mentor leadership.
  • Leadership: Diversify workforce within hiring practices. Talk openly about challenging topics with insight and sensitivity. Keep lower-level management and employees well informed of active DEI initiatives. Participate in mentorship opportunities.
  • Employees: Communicate and engage with leadership regarding what is going well and what is lacking pertaining to diversity. Promote inclusion. Participate in employee engagement surveys when applicable. Participate in diversity groups and/or chair a diversity committee if one does not exist. Seek out information on programming and mentorship opportunities.

Change is difficult. When there is buy in from the top, with upper executives walking the talk, the culture of an organization can start a subtle shift that can become the true change that is desired: diversity, equity and inclusion to power your organization forward.

If you’d like to begin changing your culture to be more diverse and inclusive, schedule a consultation with Spectra Diversity.


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