How to Move Beyond…

By Rina Goldenberg Lynch

This month, we have been looking at the second stage of the Diversity Journey Roadmap©, where organisations understand the need to be seen to value EDI, but haven’t yet taken steps to effect real change.

The question then is, how can we move on from this ‘window dressing’ to the next steps, recognising that a lack of Diversity is a real problem and implementing measures to increase it? One of the problems often associated with this stage is that we don’t always know when we are using initiatives that look good but don’t have much impact. For example, my blog last week explored three popular initiatives that are subscribed to with the very best intentions but turn out not to be effective EDI interventions. We need to do better than this to bring about real progress.

Moving on to Effective EDI Interventions
In order to move away from ‘window dressing’ and bring about real change in your organisation, it’s a good idea to begin by asking the following three questions:

1. What are we trying to achieve with Diversity? 
The difference between where you are now (Window Dressing) and the next stage is that you’re currently looking at EDI as something you have to do, perhaps due to pressure from employees, colleagues or suppliers.

As soon as you realise, however, that you want to embrace EDI because you’re missing out, that’s when you’ll be able to progress.  To do this, you’ll want to ask yourself the question: How is improved diversity going to support my organisation’s mission and vision?  After all, doing Diversity for the sake of Diversity is an exercise in wasted resources.

Understanding how greater Diversity among your employees and leaders will support you in achieving your company’s mission and vision will allow you to determine your EDI ambition, your EDI True North.  And that will give you something concrete to aim towards; it will not only address pressure points from the various stakeholders, it will also set wheels in motion to improve your business for the future.

2. Where are we now?
Once you know what you want to achieve with improved diversity, having set that EDI True North for your organisation, you’ll want to find out where you are now relative to your freshly articulated EDI ambition.  There are a number of ways in which you could go about this.  One example is a qualitative analysis of inclusion within the organisation.

Our Inclusion Diagnostic©, for example, takes a close look at the level of inclusion in a company through a series of safe space focus groups in which we ask employees some difficult questions.

The outcome of the Inclusion Diagnostic is a clear understanding of the state of inclusion at the company.  It highlights where the sticky points are and allows you to focus resources where they’re most needed.

When it comes to digging deeper, we offer a word of caution:  Leaders might be surprised – possibly shocked – at what is uncovered. In one organisation, for instance, when we conducted our Diagnostic to explore the problem of an enduring lack of female progression, the results included accounts of experiences that pointed to a work culture full of unconscious bias, blind spots and microaggressions.   While this shocked and embarrassed the leadership, however, it gave them the insights they needed in order to know what needed to change.

3. What are the priority areas?
A thorough diagnostic will identify which areas might need immediate attention, which areas will have the biggest impact, and which areas will require the least or the most investment.  In the example above, for instance, we identified clear themes of behaviours and processes that made it more difficult for women to be valued in the same way as their male colleagues.  We then quickly prioritised the challenges that needed to be addressed to improve inclusion.  A process was ultimately put into place that made it easier for women to be promoted and allowed the organisation to reap the benefits of greater Diversity in their senior teams.

Having identified your priority areas for action from the diagnostic work, the next step is to propose a strategy and a set of initiatives to resolve the biases and obstacles to inclusion that you now know about.   I recommend aiming to set a 3-year strategy for EDI. This will give you time to invest, act and see real change. Setting targets with short-term deadlines can be dispiriting as you may not see dramatic results immediately.  That said, there tend to be several ‘quick wins’ – simple resolutions to identified problems that were previously not noticed (for instance a lack of design for members of underrepresented groups, such as not enough toilets or ill-fitting uniforms or a lack of feminine hygiene products) that, once implemented, will convey a welcome message that change is on its way.

Answering these three questions before you embark on new EDI initiatives will help to ensure that your actions are well-targeted, properly funded and more likely to bring about meaningful and valuable change. This will ensure that whatever initiatives are implemented, they won’t just look good, they will bring you closer to your EDI ambition. That ambition in turn will deliver the Diversity benefit that supports the mission and vision of the organisation.