Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – A Real Business Advantage

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – It’s a Business Advantage

Businesses are facing changing times and our new question is: how is your businesses preparing for the future? At the end of the day change can happen to you, or it can happen for you! Never is that truer for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

Lou Radja joined SMPS Oregon on October 15th for a discussion about DEI in the workplace. He is the founder of Lou Radja Enterprises, through which he works to engage audiences around the world with topics including diversity, leadership, change management, and inspiring everyone to "Be More and Give More”. 

WHAT DOES DEI MEAN?

Diversity

Diversity is the makeup of the people in the room. Do these people represent different backgrounds, communities, and groups? For a company, diversity can:

  • Be a reflection on the company’s values (for better or worse).
  • Speak to the communities it’s serving. The 2020 census shows that the majority of our country’s population are made up of minority groups (we are a minority-majority country).
  • Influence employee prospects. Prospective and current employees will draw conclusions about the values and/or intentionality of a firm based on the diversity of the leadership.

To focus on building a diverse workforce, companies can put effort into reverse engineering their talent funnel. Companies should ask themselves, “how are we working with schools, universities, or STEM programs to make sure that kids of diverse backgrounds are entering our field(s) of study.”

Equity

Equity is guaranteeing fair opportunity for all. It is important to understand that people do not face the same challenges, and companies should not apply a one-size-fits-all approach to providing fair opportunities.

Inclusion

Inclusion is creating an environment where people feel welcome and wanted.

STARTING THE DEI CONVERSATION

Understanding what DEI means sets the foundation for starting a DEI-focused conversation within a company. Questions people often ask are: “Where do we start? How do we start? How do I begin the DEI conversation?” To that, Lou outlined an approach that anyone can use to initiate conversation.

Step 1. Make the Case

Start with why. Businesses have to stay profitable, so a DEI pitch should be tied to its success. The good news is that research supports this case. Research shows that diverse teams are 35% more profitable than non-diverse teams.

Step 2. Create a DEI group

The DEI Group should be representative, and diverse, with people of all levels and backgrounds. Notably, DEI is not just a women/BIPOC/LGBTQ+ issue, it’s an everyone issue; and allies can be recruited from all over.

At the get-go, the DEI group should do three main things:

  1. Call itself something with meaning (i.e., it’s more than just a committee).
  2. Set a charter/mission.
  3. Set ground rules for participating in the group. It is very important to make sure people can engage without fear of backlash or judgement. Some examples of guiding principles include:
    • Respect yourself and others
    • Speak your truth responsibly
    • Listen to understand (not to convert)
    • Disagree with the idea, not the person
    • Expect and accept discomfort
    • Keep confidentiality

Once these basics are set, the DEI group can tackle a variety of tasks. Lou suggests focusing on:

  • Doing a pulse check with the full staff and ask fundamental DEI questions such as: “do they feel like they belong? What ideas do they have to improve DEI? What are their impressions?” Ask for demographic data to get quantitative information about the company’s current workforce.
  • Incorporating DEI into the company’s value statement. Bringing it into the mainstream of the company conveys its importance to both employees and external audiences.
  • Building a DEI training curriculum.
  • Being intentional about making sure the company’s dollars are being spent to promote DEI. Does the company use minority and women’s companies for teaming partners, vendors and/or in your supply chain?
  • Leaning on employee resource groups/affinity groups within the company. These types of groups (women in leadership, working parents, black employees, latinX) know the issues they’re facing and can help identify initiatives and important topics.
  • Setting Moonshot Goals. DEI goals should be verbalized, measured and time-bound. Companies should identify the long-term goals around DEI. What do they want to achieve in 5-10 years?

During the Q&A session Lou shared some words of inspiration:

Be a leader and sell the vision to your company’s leadership and staff. Leaders do 3 things: Evaluate, Envision, Execute

Document your effort and contribution and include it as part of your, or the individuals’, performance review. You are helping your company and there are tangible profits that come from it!

It’s not our resources that limit our decisions, it’s our decisions that limit our resources. Get creative if you have a limited budget. There are a ton of resources available to support DEI initiatives. In fact, there’s a group of DEI practitioners in Portland who meet monthly. SMPS Oregon has an article listing some of those resources.

Let people know what your intentions are and people will support you. Anyone who is part of a marginalized group is never alone; find your community so you can support each other and exchange ideas. You are a trailblazer to the people who are coming behind you and before you. Every bit of progress you make can help your community a ton! Take comfort in that. If you want to go fast, you go alone; if you want to go far, you go together.

And he left us with this CALL TO ACTION

  • Let’s take care of our children, they have a long way to go.
  • Let’s take care of our elders, they have come a long way.
  • Let’s take care of ourselves, we have to do all the work!

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