DEI: Everyone has a stake in the outcome.

It’s all about humanity.

We approach DEI as being about humanity. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion all relate to human beings and how they are treated. 

DEI concerns how we desire to live in our society and how society allows or prevents that from happening. Everyone has a stake in the outcome.  Given that there are more than 20 Dimensions of Diversity, there is no generally accepted criteria for determining whether an organization is “diverse.” The objective of DEI is not to satisfy some mathematical equation; it is to create an inclusive workplace environment where all employees feel they are part of something bigger than themselves and, therefore, recognize, and are recognized by, the rest of the members of their reference group as equals – a culture of belonging.  

Connect the dots.

After decades of working with myriad organizations, we know that for DEI to “stick,” it must be aligned with an organization’s vision, mission, values, and goals. 

DEI Leaders must understand their organization’s strategic or business plan. It may be formal. It may be piecemeal. It may only be concepts shared by a few senior managers, but every organization needs some form of plan to operate. Failure to align DEI practices with an organization’s Goals is the single greatest reason why DEI initiatives flounder, never reaching their real potential.  A DEI Leader identifies what is important to the organization and connects the dots so that they can understand the value of DEI and how DEI enables successful achievement of identified organizational goals. They approach their role from a holistic perspective, viewing every aspect of their work broadly and strategically, considering the current and future impact on the entire organization. They offer sustainable solutions built upon DEI values and concepts that strengthen the organization for both the short-term and the long-term.  

Systemic, not check the box.

We realize that only sustainable DEI initiatives implemented systematically can become part of an organization’s culture. 

Most organizations that profess a commitment to DEI lack a plan for achieving it. Or, if they do have a plan, it is ineffective because it is not organic, strategic, or cohesive. As a result, the plan does not mesh with the organization’s existing culture.  Organizations struggle with DEI because they don’t understand how to make it part of what they do and how they do it. Instead, they frequently demand highly visible “quick wins” by picking “low-hanging fruit.” These “one-offs” often include awareness events and mandatory one-topic training. Such well-intended efforts may appear to “check the DEI box,” but neglect to use a holistic approach that embeds DEI values for the long run. The design and timing of DEI initiatives determine their success in becoming part of the organization’s DNA. If they are introduced prematurely, before the organization is ready, they may even weaken DEI efforts. And, if initiatives are not sustainable, they will eventually fall by the wayside. Sequencing and sustainability are essential elements of an effective DEI strategic plan. 

You’ve got to start where they are .

We’ve learned that to reach the best solutions, DEI Leaders must meet their organization where it is on the DEI Journey and lead them forward. 

While those individuals laboring to do DEI work may find it cathartic to exclaim: “It’s the twenty-first century! These issues should have been addressed long ago!” such an approach is more likely to engender resentment and resistance than progress. If you do not meet your organization or an individual where they are, they will remain entrenched behind their wall of non-receptiveness.

It takes more than passion.

We now know that a true DEI Leader possesses a particular skill set. Passion about DEI alone is not enough. 

Nor is the mere fact that one’s worldview is influenced by possessing Dimensions of Diversity different from the dominant group. All DEI Leaders need to have the education, organizational intelligence, and courage (including the ability to have uncomfortable conversations) required to lead an organization through the DEI process to a culture of Belonging. That includes organizational savvy, a strategic perspective, holistic vision that includes a DEI Lens, tactical skills, and business acumen. They must also understand and be able to explain U.S. history as seen through a DEI lens.  

It’s an inside job.

While we advise others about DEIB, we recognize that for initiatives to take hold with an organization, INTERNAL DEI Leaders are required to ensure that DEI sticks. 

Our lessons learned advising approach for entities is to enable internal holistic systemic change leading to a culture of belonging.  Systematic and sustainable DEI initiatives are only achieved organically from within an organization. Engraining DEI values and practices into an organization’s DNA takes time and is an ongoing commitment. While external DEI consultants may have a role to play, their time with an organization is limited; they are not the permanent solution for achieving sustainable inclusiveness. Internal DEI Leaders are immersed in the organization’s operations and culture, forming relationships with their coworkers. They experience the organization every day as it evolves, not as part of a limited engagement, and are positioned to help the organization hold itself accountable now and into the future.  

Read our latest thinking for your organization's DEI journey

1.1 Why Most DEI Initiatives Don’t Translate Into Sustainable Systemic Change

Most organizations neglect to educate themselves about the breadth of DEI and its valuable impact upon the workplace, and society in general, forging ahead without a cohesive and sustainable plan. It is time for a new way of thinking - a holistic process that weaves the principles and practices of genuine equity into the fabric of the organization.

“To become part of an organization’s DNA, DEI initiatives must be sustainable and implemented systematically.”

—Making DEI Stick