DEI isn’t DIY

In the name of wanting to do better without dipping too far into a budget, many organizations are opting to take diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives into their own hands. This seems to make sense. After all, if the Property Brothers can renovate entire houses on their own, anyone who runs an organization should be able to figure out how to make things more equitable, right?

Except the Property Brothers are professional realtors and contractors, and even they have help to fill in for their shortcomings. Unless you have lived and worked in the trenches where microaggressions have affected the way you show up to work, it’s nearly impossible to see where they might currently be present in your organization today.

Before you start searching for DEI quick fixes, we compiled the most common tips available and explain how they could potentially cause more harm than good.

QUESTIONABLE TIP #1

Define what DEI Means to You

This would be okay if we were talking about defining your goals, your values, or your mission statement. However, when it comes to defining the standards of your DEI strategy, it can be dangerous to only think of it in terms of you. DEI isn’t about a single person or their single opinion. It’s about all people and all of their experiences. It’s about creating a space that understands a diverse set of needs.

In order to define what DEI means to you, you have to define what it means to all of you. The entire organization. All the individuals that make it up. And how those individuals work and act together. Leaving it to a select group of upper managers doesn’t provide the diverse points of view needed to create a definition that will make the changes you’re searching for.

QUESTIONABLE TIP #2

Hire More Diverse Employees

This is typically one of the first actions most organizations gravitate toward. The idea is if you hire more diverse talent, then the diverse talent automatically fixes all the gaps. At the very least, it seems like a good start.

While we do encourage all organizations to have some form of diversity hiring initiative as part of their strategy, this is not the first step to take.

Let’s say you get a pool of new diverse talent. They’re excited to work with you. They’re ready to go. However, the only thing that has changed is the faces of the people walking into your organization.

Without implementing a strategy to change how those diverse employees will be welcomed, treated, and viewed, any microaggression trends and culture gaps will still be present. As a result, the new talent you just hired doesn’t feel welcomed. They don’t feel like they can show up authentically. And you don’t have the culture that will maintain them as part of your team.

QUESTIONABLE TIP #3

Watch this TedTalk/video/slideshow

Have you ever watched a single episode of a baking show walking away confident about whipping up a croquembouche without issue? You might have an idea of what it’s like. You might even be able to pull off a few of the steps. But you’re probably not going to end up with a perfect pastry tower. 

Even though you might walk away with a slightly stronger understanding after watching a TedTalk, it’s like learning how to bake a complicated French wedding cake from a single FoodNetwork episode. You loosely get what it is. But there’s no real education on how to implement it in real life.

TedTalks, YouTube videos, and slideshows can be great resources (when vetted) in addition to a customized implementation strategy. But they are not a supplement to learning from professionals who have created a system to find particular gaps in an organization and strategies to fill them.

QUESTIONABLE TIP #4

Be Willing to Train

This piece of advice is usually given when it comes to new hires. Be willing to train diverse hires who have never had the opportunity to be in a position like this before. Be open-minded with who you hire. Maybe the diverse talent just needs a little training to “fit in” to the organization.

However, it’s not necessarily only the new employees that need training.

You need to be willing to train your entire team. Hire professionals who can help the organization see where there are gaps and train all your employees on how to fill them through organizational culture and better habits over time.

The training that’s needed to make actual change is bigger than assimilating new employees. In fact, all that encourages is for those new employees to show up masking how they believe they want to be seen. Training an entire organization encourages new employees to drop the masking habit and show up as they are, allowing them to work happier, better, and stronger.

Culture Isn’t Found on a Pinterest Board

As tempting as it is to save time and money by cutting and pasting together a DIY DEI strategy, it’s safe to say that it can potentially do more long-term harm than good.

If you have ever had the pleasure of DIYing nearly anything (wedding decorations, wreaths, home improvements) you have probably found that after you’re done, you have actually spent more money on supplies and more time troubleshooting than you could have by paying a professional.

DEI isn’t a Pinterest board. It’s a piece of culture in an organization. Don’t make the mistake of throwing more time and money down the drain troubleshooting people’s careers. Get it done the right way with the help of professional hands.

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