Companies have increasingly recognised the value of DEI. Having diverse, inclusive teams creates a great corporate culture and a motivated workforce and can dramatically impact innovation and profits.
With such potential benefits, it makes sense that so many companies have big plans to improve their DEI. They’re willing to devote time and resources to make their teams more diverse and their hiring processes more equitable.
Unfortunately, these grand plans often fall by the wayside. It’s not always easy to pinpoint why our DEI efforts don’t have the results we’d hoped for.
Let’s look at some of the most common barriers to DEI progress and, importantly, how you can overcome them.
Five barriers to DEI progress
1. Not getting input on your DEI plans and progress from everyone
DEI isn’t something you can impose from the top down. It requires buy-in from your whole organisation, with team members at every level represented, listened to, and involved.
All too often, management drives DEI efforts, and they’re the only ones evaluating their success. This can make it difficult for us to recognise when our strategies are misplaced or ineffective.
Sadly, most of us are less perceptive than we would like to assume. Not only that, we’re unlikely to receive honest feedback from our employees if we don’t actively seek their contributions.
Often, our team members have the best insights into how effective our DEI efforts are. We know the kind of inclusive culture we’re trying to achieve, but they have hands-on experience with the culture we actually have.
Include your whole organisation in every stage of your DEI decision-making, especially when evaluating your success.
Our team members must be able to speak equally about the successes and failures they see. This ensures that we can accurately evaluate our efforts and helps create the psychological safety we’re looking for in an inclusive culture.
Talking to your teams about DEI isn’t always straightforward. Plan a strategy to allow open conversations about all aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion across your workplace.
2. Budgetary restrictions
We’ve already mentioned that many companies will set aside time and resources to improve their DEI, but this isn’t always sufficient or consistent.
This problem can be exacerbated during difficult financial times. When things get tough, DEI spending can seem like a luxury. It is often tempting for cash-strapped management to devote these resources to other, seemingly more urgent, priorities.
Although this is an understandable temptation, this lack of resources undermines our commitment to DEI efforts. It sends the message to our teams that diversity, equity, and inclusion are luxuries rather than core values within our organisations.
The best solution for budget constraints on our DEI progress is to highlight the business case for having a diverse, inclusive workplace. Given the clear benefits of improving DEI, it’s not difficult to point to the potential return on investment.
All parts of your organisation must understand the value that improved DEI will bring to their part of the business, so make sure to speak to a wide range of department heads, managers, team leaders, and even C-suite executives.
Prepare your business case in advance and include relatable examples. Look for companies within your industry who have made significant investments in DEI and the results they’ve achieved.
3. A lack of training
Often, organisations are genuinely committed to improving DEI and are both willing and able to devote the necessary resources but still fail to achieve the results they’re hoping for. This can be because they’re not entirely sure where to begin.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are vital, but that doesn’t mean they’re straightforward. There’s a lot to understand and an enormous variety of different needs to accommodate. It can also feel like a minefield, with considerable risks associated with getting things wrong.
Although it might seem like a different world, DEI is just like any other aspect of business. We need to research and understand the problem before we can create the best solutions.
If you’re feeling ill-equipped to take on the challenge of improving your organisation’s DEI, more education and training is the best solution. There are many different forms that this training might take.
Before you can formulate a plan, you need to understand the differences between diversity, equity, and inclusion. You’ll also want to be familiar with the main pillars of DEI.
Once you’re comfortable with the fundamentals, you’ll need to decide which aspects of DEI will be most important for your organisation.
Some common topics that can be important to understand include:
Unconscious and implicit bias
We often think of bias as being active racism or sexism, but it can be far more subtle than that.
Many of us carry unconscious beliefs and expectations about others based on characteristics such as age, gender, race, and more. These lead to unconscious and implicit bias in how we treat people.
Unconscious and implicit bias training helps us understand our own bias and see how we can treat others more fairly.
We all know that we should avoid prejudice, but do you know how to challenge someone’s prejudice in a way that encourages them to learn without becoming defensive while also setting firm boundaries and protecting vulnerable groups?
If you’re not sure you can achieve all of that at once, don’t worry. It’s a lot for anyone. Find training focused on challenging prejudice to give you the skills to feel confident in these difficult situations.
Awareness of social identities
While we all want to engage with the people around us as individuals, it’s also important that we are aware of the groups they are part of and how that might influence our interactions.
This means understanding that someone of a different gender or race, for example, will have different life experiences and may view the world through a very different lens.
As people, we are all far more complex than a single characteristic or feature. We have several identities that might impact how we approach the world. When we’re thinking about diversity in our workplace, we also need to understand how different characteristics can affect each other. This is intersectionality.
To improve our DEI efforts, we need to recognise that employees who are members of more than one disadvantaged group may be disproportionately impacted by prejudice and bias within our society.
4. Not measuring your DEI progress
DEI is often seen as a nebulous concept, which means that many organisations don’t focus on how they will track their progress and measure their success. Unfortunately, failing to measure DEI progress is a significant barrier to success.
Every organisation will need a subtly different approach to DEI. It is difficult to refine your approach and achieve optimal results without accurate data to guide you.
Measuring DEI progress isn’t as challenging as it might seem at first glance. Several key aspects of your business lend themselves to measuring your DEI success. Best of all, you’re probably gathering most of this data already.
Examine your recruitment data to see how diverse your pipeline is. Where do diverse candidates drop out? How diverse is your eventual hiring?
Your retention rate for diverse employees can give you insight into how effectively you’ve improved inclusion within your organisation. If diverse team members leave quickly, it’s time to ask why they don’t feel welcome.
How well distributed are your diverse employees throughout your organisation? Are there clusters of diversity in specific departments or at certain levels of seniority?
What is your gender pay gap? How about one based on ethnicity?
Set up programmes to assess how these metrics develop over time to better understand your DEI success.
5. Inequitable inclusion
Diversity means thinking about a wide range of different people and circumstances. Many organisations fall into the trap of focusing on just one or two disadvantaged groups without recognising the challenges that other people might face.
This is especially important when you’re trying to improve inclusion. When you focus on making space for one group, it’s important that others aren’t excluded.
For example, many companies focus their DEI efforts on race and gender but spend less time considering how to make their workplace more accessible for workers with disabilities or considering how to better support neurodiverse workers.
Listen to your staff about the changes that would make the most significant impact for them. This is especially important for the employees that may feel less represented by your inclusion efforts. Ask questions and create the space for team members to be honest about their needs.
Although listening to staff is an essential first step, it’s important that we don’t expect diverse members of staff to carry the burden of our DEI efforts. We need to proactively consider all types of employees, including those with disabilities, neurodiverse team members, and those with different religions, genders, races, and more.
Keep learning about DEI with crooton
Successful DEI initiatives offer an incredible opportunity for your organisation, despite the challenges. For more valuable insights and practical suggestions to help you make the most of your DEI efforts, check out our other posts about diversity and inclusion.
And for help crafting the best DEI strategy for your organisation, get in touch with the experts at crooton today!