What If Diversity & Inclusion Were Verbs…

…and we measured their progress through the lens of how people feel.

Companies are currently wrestling with how to create and weave more diversity and inclusion (D&I) through their organization and into their people operations. Some are jumping right in by establishing D&I task forces, forums, and in some cases, even creating a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) position that sits at the senior leadership table. What will be the outcome of these types of initiatives? Likely varied.

Here are some of the challenges I expect organizations to encounter on their journey to move the needle toward greater organizational diversity and inclusion.

  • Talking the same language: If you ask 10 people what D&I means to them, you’re likely to get 10 different definitions. These definitions are likely to have some overlap, and through discussion you might get a consensus. However, it might be presumptions to suggest that you could ever achieve agreement. How will organizations handle these differences and create a cohesive language?
  • Making it a priority: Sensitivity to this issue is personal. Diversity and inclusion affect each of us in different ways, either directly or indirectly. Someone may be sympathetic or empathetic to a cause but will he or she prioritized it against other competing business objectives? How will organizations keep D&I at the forefront of their missional goals, especially early in the journey when it takes a lot of energy to “figure it out” and align the organization?
  • Expanding employee self-awareness: Companies are a collection of individuals who come with their own personal worldviews, mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors regarding diversity and inclusion. On a continuum, employees are all over the line on their self-awareness to their biases. How will organizations help their employees expand their self-awareness on this issue?
  • Measuring performance: Companies prefer to measure performance using objective criteria. How much? How many? Hitting it out of the ballpark on diversity doesn’t necessarily guarantee a more inclusive culture. Companies can meet their diversity numbers and still have cultural silos and employees who feel alienated. How will companies measure inclusion—the ultimate goal—as opposed to diversity?

If you were sitting in the CDO position, what steps might you take? I’d consider:  

  • Open the conversation up to your entire organization and welcome their feedback on what diversity and inclusion means to them.
  • People learn through story telling. Let people tell their stories of exclusion and inclusion so others can learn.You might get some surprising answers through their stories.
  • Define inclusive behaviors and then recognize and reward them, so employees make those behaviors a priority. There’s truth in the statement: you get what you reward.
  • Ask people what they are comfortable committing to that helps advance inclusion. The more people talk and intentionally act upon on issue, the more their self-awareness expands
  • Refrain from defining metrics solely on hard objective numbers. When people are asked to share their stories of D&I, they’re more likely to share of exclusion, because of the pain they felt. Develop metrics that measure improvement on how people feel.

Personally speaking, I believe organizations will have greater success if they treat diversity and inclusion not as a program, process, or statistic. I believe the most successful companies will embrace D&I as a verb. For those who’ve read The 5 Love Languages, the message is that love is not a noun but a verb. Love is action, and diversity and inclusion should also be if we’re to move the needle.


About the Author:Sandra Dillon is a professional life coach with an extensive background in leadership and business consulting. She has a passion to help people be the hero of their own life stories. She administers assessments, designs, and facilitates workshops, and coaches individuals, teams, and businesses. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com or by visiting her website at www.shinecrossings.com

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