What could a transformative diversity and inclusion agenda look like in your organisation?

Published on: Fri 11 March 2022 by Dumi Senda

Experiencing a positivity bump?

We are now heading into the second quarter of 2022 and naturally, at this time of the year, our minds search for pathways to unlock more meaning, purpose and impact, whatever our starting point. A ‘new’ surge of energy, enthusiasm, and optimism to ‘make the year count’ understandably pervades our workplaces.

But how do we harness and sustain the energy, enthusiasm, and optimism to transform our workplaces (and wider society) towards more meaningful equity, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I)?

Step 1: ‘Dream up’ the impact you want to create together

Our biggest holdback on ED&I is not our inability to achieve meaningful results, but rather our unawareness of the power our imagination can unlock.

Being intentional about having huddles in our teams and, where possible, across our organisations, to share our thoughts about the impact we envisage having together throughout 2022 helps inject purpose into our interactions.

‘Dreaming up’ the future we want enables creativity, which can unlock unexpected opportunities (beyond problem-centric approaches), as it is based on what is possible (limitless pathways to success) and not merely what is deemed feasible (limited pathways to success).

Your peoples’ insights as building blocks for your ED&I agenda

A good place to start building your ED&I agenda is collecting insights from people across your organisation; go-to methods include but are not necessarily limited to ‘listening sessions’, surveys, and focus groups.

Whatever method or mix of methods you use, ensure that you have provided the necessary protection and support to enable participants to share their views openly and honestly without fearing comebacks or backlash. 

Drawing on the insights shared, collate key themes that emerge and segment these into priorities that can be building blocks for your ED&I agenda for the year.

You now have the beginnings of an ED&I agenda that is informed by actual (not merely perceived) views, lived experiences and aspirations of people across your organisation.

Such a participatory approach is more likely to generate genuine buy-in and commitment for your ED&I agenda than a wholly top-down approach. However, the involvement and commitment of senior leaders in your organisation is just as important.  

Step 2: Take stock of key lessons from 2021

While it is tempting to look at the year’s agenda in isolation, there is immense value in looking back to the previous year to draw out key lessons that can inform your ED&I agenda for the year ahead.

Many would agree that 2021 was a year of big intentions and fairly tentative but well-meaning action in response (and sometimes in reaction) to ‘revealer events’ such as Covid and the murder of George Floyd in the previous year – which showed that we have a lot of work to do to achieve meaningful EDI in our organisations and wider society.

The tentative nature of our responses is not surprising, given that we were all plunged into a time of great uncertainty and frankly fear, particularly by Covid. Equally, the disproportionate impact of the pandemic and social injustices highlighted by global social movements like Black Lives Matter, Me Too and Stop Hate Against Asians is not lost on many people.

Of course, we do not all have the same starting point on any issue; for some people the issues Covid, Black Lives Matter and other events lifted a lid on were unfamiliar, while for others they related to their day-to-day experiences of the workplace and society.

Whatever our positions relative to issues of inequality, a key outcome of 2021 is that we made it our business to speak up and stand up for more equitable and inclusive workplaces and communities across the breath and width of our diversity. To borrow Bob Marley’s prophetic words, “those who feel it, [we did not] let them wear it [alone]”.  

Step 3: Take clear, defined, and measurable action together

The value of ED&I strategies is not in what they purport to achieve, but rather in the impact they lead to. A good place to start to ensure that your ED&I strategy provides a basis for meaningful progress and change is defining how you will measure the progress and change you desire.

Then outline a clear roadmap that spells out the tangible actions you will take. To remove ambiguity, ensure that responsibilities are clearly spelt out for all the members of your team and organisation.

At RightTrack Learning, we kicked off our year by defining our collective vision, then drilling down to individual responsibilities with corresponding timelines and measures of success. During a ‘team meeting day’ (held in person at a venue in Birmingham), we took turns to present our individual roadmaps and to give one another feedback.

Such a ‘team approach’ creates an ‘we are in this together’ feeling and gives members of the team insight into how what everyone is working on in their individual capacities contributes to the team vision for the year.

Bear in mind that there will be twists and turns along the way, including approaches that will not give you desired results. The objective is not to seek perfection but rather meaningful growth and progress you can look back at in a year and feel proud to have achieved as a team and organisation.

But do not wait a whole year to evaluate how things are going; at RightTrack, our MD Cluadia Cooney does weekly to two-weekly check-ins to find out what is going well and if there are any ‘kinks in the hose’ that we can work together to untangle as a team.

Finally, remember to celebrate your wins, both big and small. At RightTrack we quite enjoy seeing testimonials from clients revving about the impact they gain from our training sessions. Having a team WhatsApp group enables us to share such moments with one another and exchange a few colorful emojis to pat ourselves on the back.

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