How to Make DE&I@Work Work

How to Make DE&I@Work Work

Conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion have become part of corporate narratives today. There is ample research on why this matters and reasons for smart organizations to embrace diversity, equality and inclusion (DE&I) that is much beyond compliance, policies, and headcounts.

In all these years of working in corporates, I have been privy to discussions and debates on various aspects within the DE&I canvas. While the need for organizations to make DE&I a brand and business imperative cannot be disputed, related programs lose steam midway. Have you wondered why? I do. Here are some of my observations –

Firstly, any serious effort needs to address the real challenge and what it aims to solve. The problems may not be the same across organisations, hence cannot have a one-size-fit-all approach. Mandating diversity trainings, facilitating listening sessions, or celebrating special days become mere tactics to create awareness, and often do not bring real changes.

A buzzword
Understanding the true meaning of the DE&I term is a must when starting out on this journey. In my view, diversity, equity and inclusion are intertwined. Acknowledging heterogeneity, creating fair opportunities and cultivating an environment of being ‘accepted to be included’ can be the guiding definitions. But to sustain, it should evolve through a systematic approach to reach the farthest corners of the organization.

Most often, treated as standalone ‘projects’, it tends to be looked at as an initiative with an end-date. DE&I is a journey with a larger responsibility aimed at changing behaviours. Therefore, thinking that people will understand and behave appropriately cannot be left to chance, making it important for those with positions of authority to constantly lead by example, making it a conscious enterprise-wide effort.

The diversity label
Let go of naming conventions such as "diversity hiring" that can create more apprehensions rather than acceptance. Any descriptor that hints at a preference for a particular section can be detrimental to building a more inclusive culture. The idea should be to identify and fix the barriers by getting buy-ins from relevant stakeholders rather than give rise to more dilemmas and personal biases.

So next time, when someone asks you for ideas to run DE&I sessions in their organizations, ask them why they want to have a DE&I strategy and how it fits within their organizational goals. It’s time we dug deeper and adopted a more systematic and coherent approach.

(Note: Based on my personal views and observations.)