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Why creating a DEI team is only half the battle

Why creating a DEI team is only half the battle

You know that focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion is important for your company. You’ve probably seen the stats a million times already. Having a diverse workforce is essential if your business is going to thrive, not to mention being the right thing to do for your staff.

As leaders, we respond to this. We start paying attention to DEI issues. We ask questions. We do some research. We decide we need to make a real commitment, so we appoint a Chief Diversity Officer and build a DEI team.

That’s great work. We’ve taken the problem seriously and devoted resources to fixing it. So our job is done, right?

Unfortunately not. DEI isn’t a problem we can solve in one easy step or even in a single, difficult step. It takes a consistent effort by our whole organization if we want to help our teams achieve their full potential.

Let’s look at the steps you still need to take to build a genuinely diverse, inclusive culture, after you’ve hired your DEI team.

The following steps beyond creating a DEI team

Don’t just hire one person to steer DEI for your entire organization

Leaders are essential to DEI, but they can’t be the whole story. Diversity needs an entire team. This is essential if you want to create an open and inclusive culture and encourage people throughout your organization to get involved.

One of the major benefits of diversity in your workforce is that you get to hear various voices and understand different perspectives. But, of course, one person can’t do this, so why would you assume that one person can fulfill all your DEI needs.

It’s essential to have a whole team who can share the responsibilities around DEI. You want to include people who already have expertise and experience in addressing DEI issues and those who want to learn.

Where possible, you’ll want to include people whose lived experience is relevant to your DEI efforts. Having a diverse DEI team is both logical and valuable, but only if diverse team members choose this as their priority.

Diverse team members should not be expected to take on additional emotional labor or responsibility for educating the rest of your staff if they don’t volunteer for it. However, even if they do, this should also be included in their compensation.

📌 Top tip:
When forming your DEI team, include people whose lived experiences are relevant to your DEI efforts.

Set aside resources

Properly paying staff members for their work to support your DEI efforts is one way to show that you are willing to devote resources to achieve your DEI objectives. There will be others.

Making cultural changes within your organization to improve DEI isn’t going to be quick or easy, but you can make it easier. First, ensure that your DEI team has all the resources they need to overcome the obstacles they will face.

This includes having their own budget, giving staff the time to work on DEI projects, and using the right modern tech tools, like Headstart, to support inclusive hiring.

If you’ve made a business case for improving DEI within your company (and you should), you’re in a solid position to demand the resources you need to succeed. 

➡️ See Headstart in action with a demo today! ⬅️

Make sure DEI is a priority across the organization

We’ve already alluded to the fact that DEI can’t rely on a single, strong leader to create meaningful change. You do need a strong DEI team, but you also need to go further. You need to involve everyone.

There are many strands to DEI, but one of the hardest to achieve is culture change. This is because every single person in your organization makes their own contribution to your overall culture. Therefore, the more people you can get on board, the easier it is to create meaningful cultural change.

Every employee within your company needs to know that you value their contribution to diversity and inclusion and that you will support further efforts to make a more fair and equitable workplace.

Pay attention to the overt message you’re sending out about diversity and even more attention to the implicit messages. For example, having diversity training as part of your onboarding is excellent, but talking about it afterwards shows that you take your commitment extremely seriously.

Be sure you’re tracking progress

If we want to make meaningful changes, we need to have reliable data. We need to know where we started and where we are now to be able to track our progress. This lets us see which strategies are working, which need to be adjusted, and where we need to focus our resources.

If we want to achieve this, we can’t rely on a single metric. We need to gather as much information about DEI as possible. We might examine how diverse our recruitment pipeline is, whether our hiring practices reflect that diversity, and how quickly staff become part of the team.

We also need to look at diversity within our existing teams. We should be aware of salary gaps between different groups and whether some groups have better opportunities for mentoring or advancement than others.

Be ready to adapt

The very best data in the world doesn’t help us if we’re not guided by it. We need to examine where we’re succeeding and where we need to make changes. Importantly, we need to be flexible enough to make those changes when they’re needed.

Nobody’s perfect. We will try efforts to improve DEI within our organizations that don’t work. We might be confronted by world events, like the Black Lives Matter movement, which requires us to rethink some of our plans or accelerate others.

Being flexible, listening, and being willing to change course when you see potential improvements are all signs of a strong leader. They’re also essential if we want to achieve a more diverse workforce.

Trust your DEI team when they tell you it’s time to change direction.

✳️ Give your DEI team the best tools ✳️

Your DEI team has a difficult job, but it’s essential. They need all the support you can give them. So get in touch with Headstart today to give your DEI teams the best possible resources to set them on the path to success.

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