The very idea of a key usually evokes the thought of a physical object that opens and closes something. Yet, a key also lends us access to a slew of spaces, protected information, databases and most importantly, a key can open our minds and hearts to new ideas. In today’s workplace, sound communication is an essential key that will open roads to the discussion and lead teams to engage and collaborate seamlessly as one. Communication can break down the walls of bias and unlock true cultural change within your organization.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) are three powerful words with significantly different meanings. Many companies have struggled with executing DE&I goals due to poor communication and a lack of understanding the differences in those three words. Current employees to shareholders and very importantly, prospective employees must clearly understand your DE&I message. In many cases, DE&I has been a topic either shied away from or poorly executed, leading to hostile work environments and damaging company culture.
It is now time that we invest in changing and challenging our workforce.
Having served in key human capital roles at multinational organizations that vary in size from 60B in revenue to a small business with less than 15 employees, I developed trust by modeling my devotion to DE&I as a leader, and that trust is gained by listening. Hearing directly from your employees will reveal your strengths, weaknesses and gaps. I suggest companies invest in a range of employee feedback activities such as DE&I town halls, 1-on-1 and small group sessions, exit interviews and more. There is no proxy for direct communication on key topics that are paramount to your company’s success.
Shape Your Culture
To activate DE&I change, effectively develop and execute a strategic roadmap. Embrace this arduous process, yet never bite off more than you can chew (as my great grandmother would always say). Moving too fast compromises your communication strategy, leading to employees’ loss of interest. Communication and locks are equally complex when you juxtapose the two - poor communication and a vanished strategic plan can lock employees down. Yet, successfully implementing a strategic DE&I roadmap unlocks employee potential.
Think Outside The Box
Selecting the right DE&I leader(s) for your organization is fundamental. I always encourage organizations to seek diversity in thought and experience. Seek leaders who understand your business model, have diverse job experiences, and those who understand Diversity and its tenets that lead to Inclusion and Equity. Today, organizations may fall short by fully tucking DE&I within a Human Resources portfolio; doing so often leads to employees addressing the topic transactionally. Select leaders who are knowledgeable about DE&I (both personally and professionally) and understand the vital role of Human Resources. Ask candidates, have you effectively created DE&I cultural change throughout your career - if so, how? And ask yourself, can this candidate face the workforce challenges of today and tomorrow? Rather than implementing rubber stamp processes with an antiquated approach, think outside the box. Our current environment requires it.
It is essential for us to embrace that we all are unique and have different life experiences; this apparatus makes us special. Now is the time companies must engage in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion communication and action, as it is the key to unlocking an inclusive approach and an equitable solution to being the change we want to see.
My approach to DE&I encompasses a trait I owe to being an athlete. “When you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.” In short, be proactive, not reactive. Engage your strategic DE&I plans through solid communication and invest in leaders who are ready to unlock the complexities that challenge our workforce and drive cultural change.