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Webinar Recap: Your Company’s DEI Journey -- Let’s Make a Plan!

Are you invested in creating a culture of inclusion, equity and belonging at your company? Do you have a desire to do better but aren’t sure where to start?

These are the questions we asked when offering our webinar.

Last quarter we hosted a frank conversation for CEOs and other executive leaders working towards Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (and Belonging) at their companies. We were lucky to have four DEI experts on a panel to share insights, common misconceptions and recommended action items: Pattie Money, Yolanda Chase, Leanne Smullen, and Bill Hawthorne (all Bolster members that you can learn more about here!)

Below is a recap of the discussion and key learnings from the conversation (you can watch a recording of the conversation here).

It’s Never Too Early to Start.

  • The thing this panel most often hears CEOs say is: “I wish I would have started this work earlier.”
  • It’s key to think about structures you can put in place from a company’s earliest days because you “can’t turn a large ship around easily.”
  • Systems run in the way they are designed. To get a different outcome from the status quo, you have to be intentional and get aligned on a DEI vision.

Pipeline Is Not The Problem.

  • Check your assumptions before you know them to be true, especially when it comes to statements about not being able to find talent. The talent is there, and it is possible that you don’t know where to look or that you are only tapping into your own network, which is likely a reflection of you and not the broader population.
  • Invest in organizations that help to build your talent pipeline and put money towards the development and advancement of individuals.
    • Some resources: community colleges, coding schools/bootcamps, HBCUs, and organizations like Apprenti, Code2040, GirlsWhoCode, and many others.

Embrace a Culture of Learning.

  • DEI work often needs to start on a personal level before a company is ready to put a plan in place.
  • If you make a mistake, own up to it and learn in public. This is especially powerful if you are the leader of your company.
  • Internally, remember that you don’t have to “call people out” and shame them. Rather to cultivate a culture of learning, you can “call them in” about something they weren’t aware of and use it as a learning opportunity.
  • Address microaggressions and unconscious/implicit biases before they become rampant.
  • DEI is not something to “check the box on” and be done with. The work is continuous and you can always find ways to improve.

Executive Buy-In is Critical.

  • Executing on a DEI plan without buy-in from the executive team won’t stand the test of time.
  • The DEI plan should be built on the premise that anyone can do the work and is welcomed (and encouraged!) to get involved.
  • A DEI working group is a great way to involve employees with a passion for this work.

Below are some action steps you can take to (start) moving the needle at your company:

  1. Include unconscious/implicit bias (or “bias busting”) training as part of your onboarding process.
    • Educate your team about biases and how to intervene when you see them happen.
  2. Have the CEO meet with every onboarding class to talk about their DEI culture. This sends a message about who they are and how they would operate as an organization when it comes to DEI — simple and costs nothing.
  3. Look at your people data (pipeline, NPS, diversity, inclusivity, compensation, equity, etc.) to determine where you can do better - it will show you where you have barriers that you need to address. Data is your friend.
  4. Invest in a DEI diagnostic assessment — this is the data to determine where you are on the DEI continuum as your strategic starting point and benchmark as you go.
    • Tangential (but important) - you can use this assessment for vendors to evaluate their alignment to your intentions and goals and ensure those who you spend money with also value DEI - One tool for this that was suggested is privva.

If you only take away three things from this post around DEI:

  • Educate yourself on how to be anti-racist and build an Anti-Racist culture in the company.
  • Establish a learning environment – make feedback and learning from mistakes part of the culture.
  • Leverage data to guide all big decisions through a DEI Lens.

Where is your company at in its DEI journey? If you’re looking for a professional to help, consider starting with a diagnostic assessment. You can sign up for Bolster’s on-demand talent marketplace to find the perfect expert to help you with this and put a plan in place.

-Micah Mador, July 1, 2021