Today’s employees see through the illusion of DEI efforts in the workplace. They aren’t buying it. They see the promise of diversity, equity and inclusion as an empty, unattainable dream buried under performative, stagnant compliance.
Workers have lost faith in their workplace’s ability to spark real change.
Instead of building momentum, DEI feels deflated and tired. Leaders check the boxes but rarely move into courageous and actionable inclusion. Efforts fail, and employees don’t trust their organizations to go beyond compliance.
Is this stagnation unavoidable? Can movement happen when these entrenched systems and habits seem adequate on the surface but leave employees, leaders and organizations frustrated and disillusioned?
It is changeable, and employees are watching for that change. They are looking for executives and workplaces that move beyond awareness and reactivity into learning, movement and culture creation.
They are watching for action.
The Action-Learning Leadership Accelerator Series from WMFDP | FDP Global empowers leaders to go beyond checking boxes to foster a culture of accountability and sustainable change. With deep dives into challenging questions, our facilitators guide your teams through real-world examples and practical steps for implementing action-learning in DEI initiatives. Connect with our business development team to learn more about this holistic DEI approach.
Stop Checking Boxes: Limitations of Compliance-Based DEI
There is no lack of research supporting the value of DEI initiatives to an organization:
- Disengaged and unhappy employees cost American corporations up to $550 billion per year. Developing an inclusive place of belonging keeps workers happy and engaged.
- Higher rates of gender and racial diversity in a company’s workforce directly relate to higher profitability.
- Employee retention issues are plaguing organizations of all sizes. Collectively, employers are losing about $1 trillion annually due to employees choosing to leave their jobs. With 80% of employees desiring a diverse workplace, DEI efforts are crucial to the bottom line.
Even with these stark numbers, many businesses are stuck doing compliance DEI from the 1980s and earlier. Chief Diversity Officers see how and where their organizations operate from a stuck framework, but often, their CEOs and CHROs don’t. They have boxes to check, and then they move on.
Hired a woman. Check!
Hired a Black man. Check!
Hired a gay person. Check!
Created a CDO position. Check!
These performative steps were crucial to getting the ball rolling several decades ago, but they don’t create the inclusive culture employees crave and need. While many CDOs actively try to move their organizations from checkboxes to culture change, C-suite colleagues and leaders can be the biggest impediments to this process.
When you approach DEI efforts from a compliance mindset rather than a structural one, you face many limitations and challenges. You don’t learn. You don’t stretch. You don’t grow.
Proactively Create Your Culture
When leaders engage in active learning, they grow an equitable space. They proactively implement heart-led DEI efforts into the core of their organization’s makeup.
As this article from the Harvard Business Review points out, compliance-based DEI is like the scaffolding of an organization. Action-learning DEI is the structure. While the scaffolding holds up a company’s facade, it does nothing to create and sustain the inner workings of an organization.
Leaders who proactively seek knowledge, insights and learning opportunities create an equitable work culture. Being vulnerable enough as a leader to take the initiative and act on inclusion builds a space where employees feel a sense of belonging and safety. And workers who feel safe and included tend to stick around, protecting your bottom line and HR investments.
Transforming DEI from Compliance to Culture
Knowing you need more structure and less scaffolding is one thing. Implementing authentic, culture-changing initiatives is another thing entirely. How do we make it happen? How do we build a workplace that allows for a multitude of voices, identities and needs? How do we do this critical work to move from DEI compliance to DEI culture? Here are the first steps.
Start with your leadership.
An organization’s C-suite team must commit to unified, unapologetic diversity, equity and inclusion for change to happen. From the CEO down, everyone needs to make DEI efforts an integral part of the company’s DNA.
This commitment moves well beyond checking off boxes and complying with regulations to fuse DEI into the fabric of the organization. It involves vulnerability, boldness and a willingness to have challenging conversations.
The leadership must be ready and willing to support their CDO with action and genuine collaboration. Creating a Chief Diversity Officer position is the scaffolding. Empowering them with cash and collateral to achieve your organization’s stated DEI goals is the structural integrity companies need and employees demand.
Inspire your leaders to leverage their influence for change.
Creating a safe, inclusive workplace is everyone’s responsibility. All employees should confidently understand your company’s DEI policies and efforts and have a clear path to address concerns and issues.
Those in leadership roles have spheres of control and influence that allow them to effect meaningful change to their company’s DNA. They have a say in policies, procedures and goals that the typical employee does not have.
Inclusive leaders look at the systems and setups within their organizations to find the crossroads of what they can change and what they want to change. Each person will have varying passions and skills that speak to different parts of the DEI journey. Leverage those passions and skills, combined with access and influence, to move the needle forward.
With the leadership’s buy-in and vocal direction, all workers can feel heard, seen and safe. Employees begin to see your DEI efforts as less of an illusion and more of a reality.
Engage expert facilitators to help.
Culture change is exhausting. Attempting it on your own will leave you spinning your wheels, butting heads and ready to quit. Instead, work with expert DEI trainers and facilitators who can help you navigate your organization’s intricacies and needs in these crucial efforts.
With facilitated support, your company will make greater strides more quickly to effect the cultural shift your workplace deserves. Workshops and learning opportunities that meet you where you are will move your team and organization to where you want it to be: diverse, equitable and inclusive.
Grow a network for change.
Our current inequitable systems have had centuries to grow, multiply and take hold. We won’t dismantle them overnight. We can, however, make some changes every day. While we work for quantum-leap systemic overhauls, we also make incremental shifts each day to move the needle on inclusion.
Action learning requires the establishment and maintenance of a robust network of individuals. Just like electricity needs conduits and pathways to be effective, so do leaders. We need connections and networks of like-minded, motivated people working for diversity and inclusion to move the work forward.
This profound work is often awkward and disorienting for leaders, so be patient. It can be messy and confusing at times. Building your network for change means that you have support and understanding during the messiness.
The bigger your organization, the slower things may move, but also, the more impact those shifts will have. With patience and consistency in your DEI efforts, change will arrive. Eventually, your efforts lead to that crucial flip of the switch when this work becomes standard and ingrained, no longer on the periphery.
Leap from Compliance to Culture with WMFDP | FDP Global
You do not have to do this work alone. You shouldn’t do this work alone. Transformative DEI efforts are deeply personal but also must work within your organization. Navigating all this change is a hefty load to carry on your own.
WMFDP | FDP Global walks alongside you to help carry the load.
Our custom, cutting-edge Action-Learning Leadership Accelerator Series offers a learning cohort within your organization. We guide you through the big work of moving away from performative, check-the-box efforts and into significant, culture-changing initiatives.