According to the recent 2022 Ethics & Compliance Program Effectiveness Report, 76% of high-impact E&C programs will be prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in the coming year. DEI has been a main topic of conversation among individuals in the workforce and a key dimension of ethical culture. But many E&C professionals and business leaders are still wondering: How do I implement effective and meaningful DEI efforts at my organization? This was the topic of discussion at LRN’s latest webinar “How to foster inclusion: The intersection of DEI and E&C.” The conversation was moderated by LRN Ethics & Compliance Advisor Dr. Arieana Thompson and included the following featured panelists:
- Maasha Kah: Senior Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Uber
- Gene Holloway: Founder and Executive Director of OrganizatIONal Empowerment
- Dr. Victoria Mattingly: Workplace Inclusion Scientist-Practitioner, Organizational Psychologist, and CEO of Mattingly Solutions
The group talked about what organizations are currently doing to ensure their DEI initiatives are effective and how they are evolving their business operations and culture in the process. For companies struggling to fill roles during the Great Resignation, a focus on culture to retain existing talent becomes paramount. LRN data shows that an employee’s desire to stay with their company is predicted by the organization having a culture of trust and a sense of belonging and inclusion—83% of those surveyed cited DEI as a reason to stay at their company. The panelists shared insights and best practices for building cultures of respect, belonging, and trust within their own organizations. Here were four major takeaways from the discussion.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts aren’t a zero-sum game
The webinar started with a poll of the audience asking about how advanced their organization was when it came to DEI programs. The results showed a wide range of developmental stages of organizational efforts:
- 21% of respondents said their organization has a robust DEI program.
- 34% said they have solid DEI foundations but like to go deeper.
- 42% said their DEI program is in the early stages of development
- 3% said they do not have a DEI program.
Panelists affirmed that, regardless of where organizations are in their DEI journey, being intentional about how they talk about DEI is essential. Holloway emphasized the importance of keeping the larger goals and objectives at the forefront, rather than isolating efforts down to the individual. The reason, he explained, is because employees sometimes misconstrue the purpose of DEI as an “us vs. them" or “check-the-box" effort—which is far from the case.
Mattingly and Kah concurred that elevating DEI from an individual level to a group level not only helps clarify goals, but also benefits the people organizations are trying to uplift. Mattingly shared a 2016 study published in the Harvard Business Review that spoke to this very issue: the study found that if there’s only one woman in a candidate pool, there’s statistically no chance she’ll be hired for the position. But fixing this type of problem isn’t simply adding more women to a candidate pool; it requires more intention. “You need to move from ‘How do we get the numbers to look great?’ to ‘How do we build a successful workplace?’” Mattingly said. Kah also talked about Deloitte’s Diversity and Inclusion Revolution model, which articulates how organizations can move from compliance-based DEI programs to more integrated programs.
Microaffirmations: What they are, and why they matter
The panelists talked at length about how business leaders can be more proactive in celebrating diversity and demonstrating inclusive behavior. Holloway brought up the use of microaffirmations as a way to promote DEI from the top down. Unlike microaggressions—words, phrases, actions, or nuances in behavior that communicate rejection—microaffirmations are gestures of inclusion. When it comes to DEI efforts, Holloway explained why it is particularly helpful for those with greater power or seniority to model affirming behavior.
Mattingly shared a personal learning moment that emphasized the importance of educating on the impact microaggressions while still encouraging the use of microaffirmations. She also noted that how we use microaffirmations requires self-reflection, as it’s possible they can reveal personal biases.
Emphasize positive outcomes in employee resource groups (ERGs)
Leveraging employee resource groups (ERGs) effectively was another area the panelists discussed in the context of achieving DEI objectives. Kah stressed that organizations must be intentional in how they structure ERGs, so that they can work towards positive outcomes for the business—and not become spaces of negativity. The key, she explained, is to focus on how these groups can help organizations celebrate the diversity of their teams and make improvements moving forward.
Representation is just one element of measuring DEI impact
As with most aspects of organizations, measurement is a crucial component to ensuring DEI success. The panel delved into the many ways in which organizations can measure DEI progress. Kah noted that Uber starts with measuring representation— by region, leader, function, etc.—to see where there are opportunities to grow certain voices and perspectives. But, she explained, they don’t stop there. Uber also measures varying degrees of employee and leadership sentiment to understand people’s sense of belonging, inclusion, upward mobility, and ability to share dissenting opinions.
Mattingly pointed out that there can be tendency for organizations to lump diversity, equity, and inclusion all together in the measurement process—which should be avoided. Instead, companies should consider how they can gather behavioral data that speaks to each element of DEI, and how they can build DEI into evaluations. Mattingly also reminded the group that communicating results to employees matters, as it helps show the company is taking meaningful action.
Holloway echoed that while representation data is foundational, it is not the only way to measure DEI impact. He stressed that organizations need to be willing to measure things over time—and that means allocating the right amount of resources to do so.
The key takeaway
Creating a culture of respect, belonging, and trust requires a commitment to developing, measuring, and evolving DEI efforts over time. Here are some additional links about how to create effective DEI initiatives within your own organization:
- How to ensure your DEI efforts are meaningful
- 4 tips to help create a world-class DEI training curriculum
- LRN’s new anti-racism course combats racism in the workplace
- LRN's new DEI course promotes gender equality at work and beyond