DEI – how can you stop ticking a box and start making an impact?

As organizations increasingly recognize the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), there’s a growing realization that simply checking boxes isn’t enough. In this article we’ll explore actionable strategies to shift from superficial compliance to meaningful cultural impact in DEI initiatives.

Research suggests that over three quarters of employees want to work for an organization that prioritizes diversity and inclusion.1 Generation Z and generation Alpha in particular have high expectations of DEI and gender liberation within the workplace.

And yet, there is still some resistance to fully leaning into DEI. This could be largely because it can, in some instances, be difficult to link DEI to quantifiable business returns.

However, I believe there’s now enough research to support the fact that truly inclusive workplaces do in fact have a direct impact on business outcomes – higher employee engagement rates, improved staff retention being just two examples. Indeed, pre-pandemic analysis from McKinsey2 suggested that

‘The most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.’

What is stalling progress in DEI?

KPMG3 carried out a diversity and inclusion survey to understand why DEI progress has stalled in some organizations.

‘The most often cited reason for slow progress is a lack of knowledge on how to proceed, which opens the possibility of more progress as proven practices come to light.’

Lack of measurement and socialization are cited as reasons that progression in this area may be stalled. So, how do you take DEI training from a tick box exercise to something that generates real, impactful cultural change and helps deliver on wider business goals?

Incorporate DEI into long-term business strategy

The last thing anyone wants when it comes to DEI is for actions taken to be viewed as tokenistic. While things like diversity calendars have their place, they don’t always contribute to the long-term future of the organization.

For long-lasting impact, leaders need to consider DEI training’s place as part of an overall business strategy. Looking at every arm of the organization, where will DEI fit into the development and contribute to the long-term goals?

Let’s use the example of a sales team. If your overarching business goal is to generate X% more revenue in 12 months, could DEI training help contribute to this? Could increasing diversity within the sales team help you reach a new customer base? Would improved diversity training build better synergy amongst the team and encourage people to stay with your organization for longer?

Putting firm DEI KPIs in place will help you to quantify the relationship between diversity and inclusion training and your other business goals.

Train inclusive managers

For cultural impact to ripple through an organization, it has to come from the top down. The way you train managers will have a significant impact on this.

There needs to be safe spaces where any unconscious or conscious biases can be challenged and topics like microaggressions can be discussed freely and without judgment. Only then can real progress be made and managers develop a greater self awareness that they can bring to their teams on a day-to-day basis.

In addition to improved relationships between managers and team members, prioritizing inclusion training for managers may save your organization costly reputational damage.

I think the biggest takeaway from discussions around DEI is the urgent need for organizations to connect their DEI with overarching business goals. This cultural shift has to be central to organizational strategy if we’re to see true, authentic, long-lasting cultural change.

Are you ready to level up your training?

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  1. What Are the Benefits of DEI in the Workplace,
  2. Diversity wins: How inclusion matters,
  3. The DEI challenge: Measuring progress,,proven%20practices%20come%20to%20light.&text=Making%20inroads%20on%20DEI%20has,for%20a%20decade%20or%20more.