silhouette of cheering fans at a hockey game

There is a lot of talk in organizations of all sizes about the power of incremental change. Everyone from self-help experts to business strategists seems to be embracing the idea that focusing on minute changes will add up to giant overall shifts. And it’s true. Enough grains of sand will create a mountain.

But diversity, equity and inclusion efforts can’t afford to rely solely on imperceptible change. We also need entrenched DEI work to move an entire system forward with measurable speed. Your bottom line requires it. Your employees deserve it. Society demands it. 

WMFDP | FDP Global empowers Fortune 500+ executives to create authentic DEI-fueled environments for their teams. Through cutting-edge learning opportunities, we help you examine your leadership’s goals and behaviors around diversity and inclusion. Our training events do not center on shame or blame. Instead, we use heart-led facilitated conversations to help you lead across differences for long-term, meaningful change. Connect with our team today.

D&I Must Permeate All Levels

Group of four adults sitting at an office table, collaborating on work, representing a diverse group.

First, the good news. Corporate diversity and inclusion efforts have skyrocketed in recent years. According to McKinsey and Company, “The rate of new CDO hires in 2021 was nearly triple the rate of hires in the previous 16 months.” Companies are paying attention to equity issues, at least on the surface.

The bad news is that many organizations haven’t moved beyond this surface-level “check the legal boxes” type of work. They may have written diversity statements and hired a chief diversity officer, but they haven’t made the deep shifts required to bring genuine inclusion to the workplace. They’ve added a few grains of sand but are far from seeing a mountain take shape.

But back to some good news. What we often see in our WMFDP | FDP Global learning events is an earnest desire to learn and do better from white male leaders. They are ready to move beyond this basic lip service and are willing to do the work. 

However, many people in positions of power feel scared to misstep and can unintentionally move their organizations in the wrong direction. Leaders end up choosing paralysis because they see it as less harmful than misguided action. The desire to do more is there. But the understanding of how to do more is often lacking.

image of middle aged white male executive, wringing his hands as if he is worried

Diversity and inclusion must be present at every level of the organization to move a system of inequity to one of equity and belonging. Mistakes will happen because they are part of the process. When white leaders accept this and prepare themselves for making errors, widespread change will be possible.

The NHL: Accelerating Efforts To Move a System

North American professional sports organizations are notoriously white, male and heterosexual at the owner and coach levels. By all markers, pro sports leagues are systems that seem impossible to move toward real equity and inclusion.

The National Hockey League, however, is ready to disrupt that narrative. 

Through highly intentional and targeted efforts, the NHL is leading the way in diversity and inclusion initiatives through all levels of their organization and their 32 teams. 

The NHL’s executives identified seven dimensions to focus on as they work to create an equitable experience for all:

  1. Leadership
  2. Education
  3. Employment
  4. Marketing
  5. Partnerships
  6. Participation
  7. Community Engagement

This breadth and depth of investigation and cultivation impact everything from how they recruit at the youth level to which vendors they partner with in their organization. By permeating each facet of the League’s operations, the NHL’s diversity efforts are poised to bring genuine change.

Two teams in the middle of a hockey game

In an ESPN article on the report, Kim Davis, the NHL’s Executive Vice President of Social Impact, Growth and Legislative Affairs, said, “When you give that kind of focus to this kind of work, it helps people get comfortable with what’s often uncomfortable.” 

More Fully-Expressed Identities In the Workplace

In particular, the NHL initiatives closely examine the workplace diversity, or lack thereof, within league offices and throughout its 32 clubs. Their report looks at the racial makeup of different departments, such as marketing and HR. 

Because it works in Canada and the US, the NHL faces two different sets of demographic collection protocols. To dive deeper than either federally-mandated collection policy requires, the National Hockey League implemented a broader workplace demographic study. 

This data collection tool allows employees to indicate the following information:

  • Multi-racial identities
  • Sub-categories, such as “Southeast Asian”
  • Military or veteran status
  • Non-binary sexual identity
  • Recent family immigration history
  • Age group
  • Languages spoken

This robust study more fully recognizes the intersectionality of the NHL workforce’s lived experiences than other tools. It provides a chance for employees to more accurately describe their identities as the NHL examines where and how to develop a more inclusive environment.

Expert Facilitation in DEI Can Help Move an Entire System

Group of seven adults sitting at a table in an office, listening to a woman at the front of the room who is presenting to the group

Moving an entire organization away from inequality and toward inclusion and diversity can feel impossible. How do we shift something woven into the very fabric of a country’s origins and makeup?

One critical step the NHL took was to bring in expert facilitators to help them make these systemic shifts. The WMFDP | FDP Global team was honored to work with the League in this capacity as we helped guide difficult conversations to bring heart-led change.

As noted in the report, “WMFDP explained D&I as an essential part of leadership development and pushed League employees to re-assess thoughts, feelings, mindsets, behavior, and impact in their personal and professional lives.” 

By working with outside facilitators, the NHL moved toward creating an environment that allows space for challenging conversations without fear. We know that blame and shame will never move hearts, people and entire systems. Inclusive leadership will.

WMFDP | FDP Global empowers today’s leaders to authentically embrace and celebrate the diversity of their workforce. Our unique learning opportunities equip you to navigate the inherent confusion and uncertainty that can arise when discussing diversity and inclusion. 

You and your team will leave these events with the tools and boldness needed to move beyond incremental change to move your entire organization forward. Connect with us today to learn more.