In our workplace today, issues involving diversity, equity, and inclusion are being brought to the forefront of many organizations. The topic of how to implement DEI training has become a hot-button issue in our polarized times.
Stephen Paskoff, president and CEO of ELI, was recently interviewed by Rose Scott on WABE’s Closer Look to discuss this topic in detail.
Linking DEI to Business Performance
In the interview, Paskoff highlighted that the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion are not new, and the issues we are facing today are closely derived from the Civil Rights movement.
The goal of early civil rights laws, namely, to build workplaces where organizations hire people based on their qualifications and fully incorporate them so they can do their best work, is central to today’s focus on DEI. The law is not enough to realize the promise of civil rights and DEI is a key element of realizing that result.
The critical point for leaders within an organization to understand is that in our workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion are business issues and that prioritizing DEI is a way to drive business results and drive positive workplace change.
Organizations that prioritize DEI look for the best talent they can find. It does not matter how they look, their background, race, etc. – the goal is finding the best talent. Hiring the best talent will lead to better results providing clear business benefits.
Genuine progress on DEI goes beyond simply hiring a diverse workforce. The employees you hire must be empowered and included, so they reach their full potential.
Where DEI Should Fit Within an Organization
One critical mistake many organizations make is to treat diversity, equity, and inclusion as a stand-alone topic. If DEI is not linked to the organization’s mission, vision and values, no amount of training, videos, or speakers will change the fundamental culture.
Paskoff stated, “Employers often make the mistake of not linking diversity, equity, and inclusion to their organization’s mission, vision, and values.” To leverage the business advantages that DEI brings, your organization must make the issues central to the core mission.
When viewed correctly, DEI training initiatives are treated as a journey, but far too many organizations treat DEI training as a one-and-done day trip. If your initiative stops after the event or once the video has finished, your DEI efforts will not be successful.
Talking about DEI as a once-a-year conversation shows you don’t take the issues seriously and are not committed to real change.
A Citizen of the Organization
An organization that fully incorporates DEI will have basic standards of civility and professionalism extended throughout the organizations regardless of their differences. “Treat people like citizens of an organization, with rights of behavioral citizenship in terms of how they are engaged, treated, managed, and advanced,” explained Paskoff.
How DEI Relates to the Culture of Safety in Manufacturing
Implementing actual change around DEI issues takes a sustained and focused effort. The way the manufacturing industry treats safety is an excellent example of how a deliberate effort can change the culture in an organization.
Safety is an enormous issue for manufacturing companies as a single oversight can cost a company millions of dollars in lost productivity, OSHA fines, and even lives. As such, manufacturing companies put a tremendous amount of effort toward creating a culture that revolves around safety.
How? They talk about it continuously and weave it into every aspect of their jobs. They bring it up at meetings and at lunch. They have safety guidelines posted, and employees keep their eyes open to make sure their fellow workers are following them—for their safety and the safety of the company.
It’s not confined to a single conversation or simply mentioned in passing. Safety is a topic they are intentional about discussing, and it has become part of their normal, everyday language. The manufacturing industry made safety an essential part of its culture.
The Importance of Operationalizing DEI
Like workplace safety, there is a clear business benefit to operationalizing diversity, equity, and inclusion within an organization. And, similar to the way safety is ingrained into the culture of manufacturing, a holistic approach is best for introducing DEI into the workplace.
Organizations must sustain the message with tools that allow it to be integrated into their daily activity. Essentially, DEI training should not be a single event. It should be an ongoing experience that is supported with resources that employees can use to utilize the skills they’ve learned and engrained into the natural fabric of decision and daily interactions.
The message itself must start at the top of the organization and filter down through all levels of the organization. Management should model civil, inclusive, and professional behavior at all times and hold employees accountable, which is critical.
How to Start a DEI Initiative
We are living and working during intense times. The issues surrounding DEI are real and affect your workforce, which in turn affects your results whether linked to the bottom line, safety, quality, innovation, public service or other mission critical enterprise outcomes.
It is vital for leaders within an organization to talk to employees to see what they are thinking. Spend time listening and hear how diversity, equity, and inclusion is impacting your workforce. You may be surprised.
If you want to take action and begin a DEI initiative, understand that it is about more than a single event. Getting DEI right, and making it central to your mission, will help you attract better employees, leverage their full potential, and gain an operational advantage.
If you’re looking for a professional training partner to help your organization embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion, reach out to us at ELI. We use our Civil Treatment Workplace program and DEI-focused content such as Inclusion NOW to create civil workplace cultures that result in lasting change.