DEI – It’s like riding a bike.
I often I tell people that I do this work so that I ultimately don’t have a job. It often elicits looks of confusion or nervous smiles, but I’m serious. Any ‘good’ DEI professional knows their job is to empower others to do the work of DEI without their guidance. You should look at us as training wheels. We help you build confidence in DEI topics, serve as support when you feel you are about to fall, and should be removed once you are comfortable enough to ride on your own. That doesn’t mean you won’t fall or hit a bump or two. But like riding a bike, you don’t return to training wheels when you fall. You brush yourself off, learn from the mistake, and carry on.
I want leaders to begin riding their bikes without training wheels.
Where does DEI live?
I’ve long shared my thoughts on where DEI should NOT be within the organization (you can check out my previous blog posts here and here). Part of my strategy in not having a job is to provide leaders at all levels of the organization with the skills, tools, and resources they need to operate with a lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion, regardless of where they sit in the organization.
But just like with the bystander effect, when everyone thinks someone else will do the work, no one does it. So how do we combat this? By including metrics that everyone is responsible for meeting as a part of their performance evaluations. It depends on the organization, but that can vary from hiring percentages to psychological safety scores, retention rates based on demographics or other DEI-based criteria, and customer and community engagement. All of this data is captured by the office of the Chief Diversity Officer. They set the criteria but they are not responsible for meeting those numbers.
The Manager’s Role in DEI
Managers are in a unique position as they are the ones who can connect with both the top-level executives and the employees at the bottom. They have the widest belt within the organization and can influence hiring decisions, compensation, promotions, and even employee retention.
When it comes to hiring, managers have the ability to request talent acquisition to go beyond the traditional network and find diverse candidates. They can challenge biases and ensure that the organization is attracting a more diverse pool of talent. Additionally, during the performance review process, managers have the final say in promotions and can advocate for deserving employees from underrepresented groups.
Furthermore, managers have a significant impact on employee satisfaction and retention. A recent Gallop study indicates that 70% of employees are more likely to stay in an organization if they feel connected to their manager, trust their manager, and feel that their manager is an advocate for their growth and development. However, many managers may feel ill-equipped to navigate issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. They may be unsure of what to say or do, leading to silence and inaction. This can create a sense of disconnect and devaluation among employees, especially those from marginalized groups.
To address this, organizations must support their people managers by providing them with the necessary tools, resources, and training. But training alone is not enough; there must be a focus on application and implementation. Managers need guidance on how to have conversations around these topics, how to challenge biases, and how to create an inclusive and equitable work environment.
In this episode of DEI After 5, I sit with consultant Martine Kalaw to discuss where DEI should sit in the organization and the manager’s role in supporting and uplifting DEI in the workplace. You can also check out her book, The ABCs of Diversity: A Manager’s Guide to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the New Workplace. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases via the link provided.
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