Human-shaped paper cutouts with diverse colors holding hands
Talent Published Date, 2023

Real And Sustainable DEI Initiatives Require An Organizational Shift

Created By: Jessica Shatzel
February 14, 2023

As employers across industries step up their pursuit of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) the challenge of making DEI real and sustainable has become more and more apparent. Organizations are increasingly recognizing that a diverse and inclusive workplace is good for business and essential to attracting and retaining top talent. By embracing DEI, employers are finding that they can tap into a pool of talent they might have otherwise missed out on.

But with the uptick in efforts to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces, organizations are also discovering that addressing and honoring the unique needs and perspectives of a diverse set of workers can be complicated. Employers are learning that implementing strategies that help ensure workplace inclusiveness and equity—strategies that don’t leave DEI hires frustrated and employers wondering what went wrong—is easier said than done.

Elle Arlook, who heads up APCO Worldwide’s Equity & Justice practice, says DEI should be both systemic and an ingrained behavior at all levels of the organization or business. “It’s got to be something that becomes second nature. And so, to do that, that requires practice,” Arlook told The Grio. “I always like to equate DE&I to a muscle, right? If you’re going to build muscle, you’ve got to work out; you’ve got to practice; you’ve got to, you know, keep at it. It’s not something that you can do one time and say: OK, I’ve done it. I’m inclusive.”

Oftentimes, the problem stems from an organization’s rush to embrace DEI without first investing in establishing a workplace culture that fosters behaviors that advance the goal of creating an environment that welcomes and values diversity and inclusiveness.

While helping to develop robust diversity and inclusion strategies for our nonprofit partners, we’ve seen several common challenges that have limited their ability for truly equitable workplaces. Below are examples of three of those problems, as well as solutions to help your nonprofit begin to see success in its DEI efforts:

Problem: Hired new diverse team members who left the organization shortly after.

Many organizations actively recruit diverse new hires in an effort to meet metrics and quotas related to representation. On its face, this appears to be an appropriate next step for a more diverse and inclusive workplace, but in actuality, more work needs to be done. Hiring more diverse team members without changing workplace culture increases diversity without creating inclusion, and puts a bandaid on the real issues within your organization’s DEI strategies.

Solution: Create a workplace environment that acknowledges the full spectrum of human differences, identities, and needs.

Problem: Limited budget to invest in diversity and inclusion strategies.

Nonprofits with limited resources are especially vulnerable to coming up short in their efforts to advance DEI. When commitments are not met the end result is often diversity hires leaving after a short period of time, and HR departments and staff feeling as though they’ve failed to meet their organization’s goal of creating a diverse and inclusive workplace. The responsibility of creating a diverse and inclusive workplace should not fall solely on the human resources department and needs to be an organization-wide effort. Allocating budget and resources from each department within your organization will help your ability to invest in these efforts and see sustainable results.

Solution: The entire organization needs to be dedicated to diversity and inclusion initiatives and budget needs to come from every department.

Problem: Looking for diverse leadership without addressing systemic issues.

Nonprofit organizations want to see diversity within their leadership but often have a difficult time finding candidates who meet the requirements for these roles. We can not expect to see this type of diversity without addressing underlying systemic issues like the lack of access to education and opportunities that prevent diverse team members from obtaining leadership positions. Organizations must create professional development opportunities, invest in emerging leaders, and look within to train passionate and dedicated employees.

Solution: Create opportunities and be willing to invest in and train passionate and dedicated team members.

DEI will remain a priority for most nonprofit organizations because they understand that making workers of different races, genders, ages, religions, sexual orientations, and backgrounds feel respected and valued strengthens an organization in a variety of ways. DEI brings a wider range of perspectives and experiences to the table and that alone is extremely valuable in today’s workplace.

Orr Group can help you build from your values to promote policies and practices that promote DEI. Get in touch today to learn more.

Jessica Shatzel is a Director and Head of Talent at Orr Group, specializing in executive search, recruitment, and a variety of human resources support for our clients.

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