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When DE&I is an "Initiative," It's at High Risk for Being Cut

When DE&I is an "Initiative," It's at High Risk for Being Cut

Business leaders are largely in desperate situations right now. They’re either struggling to keep their business alive or scrambling to keep up with newfound demand, with very little in between.

DE&I work is at high risk in either scenario, because both create an all-hands approach to producing and selling, forcing people and culture initiatives into the backseat - or, even worse, onto the chopping block.

[Related: Expansion: The Missing Link to Sustainable Diversity and Inclusion]

Those at greatest risk are companies who have looked at Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work as an initiative or a project, something that is done outside of day-to-day operations. Even in healthy and stable times, treating this work as an initiative dulls its impact, because the real work comes in the INTEGRATION — that’s the whole point of the work in the first place. The longer it is kept separate, it can be treated as a nice-to-have, with no real force behind it to drive change — and resources that can be redirected at any time.

If you’re in this situation, the time to act is now. Advocate hard for incorporating what you know needs to change to create greater diversity, inclusion, and equity in your workplace. This is an incredible way to advocate for your people in the midst of so much other change. And because people are already in change absorption mode, they will be more willing to work in a new way to integrate DE&I into how they operate.

Without this, there is risk that your work to date gets scrapped…and an even more significant risk that your company will fall back on old, bad habits that end up taking you backward in your DE&I progress.

[Related: The Neuroscience Behind Habit Change]

In times of uncertainty, most people dig in their heels to their old comfort zones, and that can include some unintentional bias that plays out in retention, staffing, promotion, and compensation decisions. Once that creeps back into the picture, you’ll be set back into re-undoing that bad behavior just to get back where you are today, and today probably still has a lot of opportunity for improvement.

So keep pushing, and push hard. Get those DE&I efforts integrated now. Even if you have to pilot to prove it can work right now, do it. Get people who are hungry for the change behind you and enlisted as active participants. Build up a grassroots PR plan to build positive momentum. Get it in play, show the better results it delivers (be sure and track those as you go!), and use that to get the go-ahead on more.

If you can come out the other side of this with DE&I embedded in the way you recruit, hire, staff, promote, and assign your employees for new opportunities, you will deliver a major win for your company - and your fellow employees - in the immediate and long-term.

[Related: Why Recruiting Entry-Level Women Can't Solve Your Gender Equity Problem]

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Throughout her twenty-five-year career, Michelle Bogan has mentored colleagues and clients, founded and led women's groups, and helped promote many women and men to leadership positions. In 2018, she founded Equity for Women to advance the mission of empowering women at work.


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