3 Strategies for Building a Next-Generation DEI Practice

3 Strategies for Building a Next-Generation DEI Practice

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As we near the end of Women’s History Month, posts, guides, and articles on strategies for advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives for women in the workplace are flooding our LinkedIn feeds. It’s a familiar mix– vague allusions to “improving company culture,” increased anti-bias trainings, renewed support for ERGs and BRGs, and increased executive accountability.

While each of these ideas once represented a promising start, in many cases, they’ve stalled out. The issues that working women face today are persistent at best and increasing at worst. Over the past year, 42% of women have felt burnout either often or almost always. But this can’t be a surprise when first-level management promotions are still out of reach, particularly for women of color, and microaggressions are still a daily burden.

The strategies we continuously see on social media are not actually effecting real change for DEI. What’s more, consumers and employees are increasingly aware of–and vocal about– the lack of power that these performative displays of solidarity have. So why continue down the same path? 

To effect sustainable change –for all marginalized groups– we need to start treating the root challenges, not their symptoms. Truly fixing the issues of microaggressions and representation gaps begins by understanding their upstream determinants. For DEI teams, this means successfully executing a combination of three related strategies: Final-Mile Integration, Smart-Network Management, and ERG Strategic Resets.

final-mile DEI integration

By -DEI-enabling- business processes and systems throughout the company’s many departments, organizations can create structural change with downstream effects. Do this by focusing efforts on specific, high-leverage enhancements that have immense impact over time.

DEI organizations should identify either areas of the business that could run smoother if the current processes prioritized diverse populations, or areas that may be harming or hindering these populations due to their current processes. Working cross-functionally with these external work streams, DEI teams should upgrade these operating models with DEI enhancements.

Guiding Questions

  1. What areas of business is the DEI team already involved in? 
  2. What areas of the company need to be DEI enabled? 
  3. Who do we need a working relationship with to make these changes run smoother?
  4. What can we accomplish now, in 1 year, in 5 years?

smart network DEI management

Smart-network DEI management expands the idea that internal DEI organizations need other business leaders’ help to create sustainable changes. The practices we recommend include introducing role clarity, co-accountability mechanisms, and incentives for collaboration.

Role clarity necessitates great thought in understanding what a business leader can realistically accomplish while continuing their current role. Role Clarity directly impacts co-accountability measures; only after both the DEI leader and the business leader agree on responsibilities can they delineate ownership of success. Incentives for collaboration deal directly with why business leaders would agree to an arrangement like this. Differences in relationships may lead to different incentives, but DEI leaders should think ahead about the range of options available.

Guiding Questions

  1. What relationships will we need to build to ensure implementation of ideas? 
  2. What processes can be implemented to encourage knowledge sharing? 
  3. What are the current roles of various managers and what can be tweaked to incorporate DEI enablement? 
  4. What does co-accountability look like and what skills does each stakeholder need to bring to the table?

ERG strategic resets

ERG strategic resets require first and foremost a unified vision, one that attracts and takes value from a wide set of stakeholders. This vision must combine both the need for flexibility at the local level and a clear understanding of what successful performance and contribution looks like. Enhanced ERG ecosystems also require shared management standards and strong ties between programming and DEI objectives. 

We recommend starting by shifting the center of gravity of your ERGs. Enhance their value by evolving the focus of their charters from purely culture to business performance. While these groups help with employee connection, DEI teams can utilize them to maximize contribution as well.

Minimizing stakeholder conflict and friction between different ERGs with regards to intersectionality are two other key considerations. Enhanced ERG programming engage groups in issues with which they may not identify while also bringing the members of different groups together around issues of common concern.

To get our complete vision for rethinking your ERGs, sample our guide to Writing a New ERG Playbook or read our article

Guiding Questions

  1. How (and how much) do ERGs contribute to the company’s overall DEI strategy? 
  2. Where do we see the greatest opportunities for ERGs to contribute to the business?
  3. Is there a consensus (actual or emerging) for making the kinds of changes to ERGs we’re proposing? Who are the advocates and who are the detractors?
  4. Whose support is necessary (“must-have”) or advisable (“nice-to-have”) for us to implement proposed changes to ERGs? Which individuals and groups should be approached for input? Who is in a position to help facilitate (or hinder) the changes?

enhancing the standard approach

We must make DEI fundamental to our companies in order to impart lasting change for diverse employees; progress means restructuring DEI as an integrated “organization within an organization” instead of siloing it within the traditional HR hallway. 

That said, mismatches between the DEI management toolkit– often weighted heavily towards standalone programming– and companies’ high profile DEI commitments threaten to derail progress.

Let ideascape’s five-service platform support you and your team to enact these changes. We’ve focused on upgrading the standard approach to DEI– enhancing benchmarking and best practice exchange– so that you can accelerate charter redesign, scorecard development, and team-capability setting. Schedule a meeting to let us take you through it.

more from our team

Know Before You Go: DEI Scorecards

Know Before You Go: DEI Scorecards

Scorecards are great for measuring progress towards achieving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) goals. The intentions and specifics behind DEI scorecards can vary from organization

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FREE guide to DEI in 2021 - 2022: strategic management themes

a compilation of observations and implications for DEI leaders