Where did the DEIB initiatives go?
I wrote this on LinkedIn earlier today and also wanted to save this post for ye olde blog. Check it out:
Leaders, if you still haven’t hoven inclusion and belonging (I’m usually DEIB, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging for the rest of this) into your KPIs, OKRs, or just yearly initiatives, you’re massively and will continue to fall further behind. LinkedIn has a lot of thought-noise. And while I don’t have the resources or time to run extensive studies between what leaders think they’re doing and what employees are asking for, it’s great to see some data confirming what I already have been seeing since a few months after May 2020, when racial disparity became more “mainstream” (article from HBR below). What I do have is years of work with DEIB councils and initiatives, speaking with teams, middle managers, and executives, and heavy research for my book.
I’ve spent years speaking at corporations, building DEIB programs, and giving out (free) advice. There is evident reluctance and also disinterest from leaders when it comes to DEIB work. They’re comfortable with performative stuff—celebrating a day/week/month and occasionally written communication to teams. Still, they struggle to make process changes because it’s uncomfortable for them, or everything else is a priority.
Here are some common issues I’ve observed in my own DEIB work with other companies:
- Defaulting to performative work because it’s easier than the hard work
- Not utilizing hiring freezes to revamp their exclusionary hiring practices (especially now, it’s the best time to analyze and improve your hiring process in an equitable way that doesn’t mess with existing candidates’ interview processes).
- Focusing only on some aspects of race and gender as are deemed the majority. At the same time, lesser represented races and gender, as well as caring about disabled applicants, hires, and employees in hiring, onboarding, and retention is almost wholly ignored.
- Similar to how “soft skills” are primarily ignored in tech, they see DEIB as “soft skills” because it doesn’t change the bottom line or financials, which with a bit of research, they’ll see that it does matter.
- They focus on hiring but expect existing employees to focus on retention.
- They’re not investing in DEIB consultants who can run valuable audits, research, and embed into teams in the same way they’ll invest in software.
- They need to think of DEIB as they develop annual AND quarterly KPIs, OKRs, and any other business acronym.
- They’re willing to fill lower roles with marginalized team members but need to check their bias regarding representation in senior leadership or executive roles.
But I’m not just here to mention what’s wrong. Please start with the article below, and then, dive into chapters 4, 5, and 6 of my book, Inclusive Design Communities, for more actionable ways to get started (no, it’s not just about design, just the experience and lens through which I analyze things).
Article with the study from HBR