Three Steps to Ending Diversity Fatigue
Diversity fatigue occurs when there is confusion and disinterest in the diversity activities that are taking place at an organization. While there are many possible ways to respond to diversity fatigue, we are recommending that you begin by looking at the following three areas and assess your organization’s performance in each.
This blog post series explores key causes for diversity fatigue and it outlines steps that organizations can undertake to address the fatigue and to jump start their diversity programs with renewed energy and focus. For more information about the causes of diversity fatigue, visit the first post of the series Diversity Fatigue Blog Series: Seven Causes of Diversity Fatigue.
1. (Re)Develop a Strong Business Case for Diversity
A business case for diversity should focus on the real and practical implications that diversity and culture have on your business goals, operations and human capital. This involves both straightforward thinking as well as outside the box thinking. Look closely at the goals that the organization has set for the next 6 months, 1-year, 3 years and ask your self how diversity can help to achieve these or might stand in the way of any of these? A business case for diversity that will drive actual results and help combat diversity fatigue constructs an argument for the importance of diversity to an organization. If your business case for diversity does not do this it is contributing to diversity fatigue.
So, how do you develop a great business case for diversity that combats diversity fatigue?
- Study and understand the changing demographics of employees and customers, now and in 5,10,15 years
- What are the key activities that take place every day at your organization that are affected by diversity? How can these be improved and measured to demonstrate value/cost of diversity to your organization?
- When you are in social spaces at your organization (lunch room, break room, etc.) listen closely to what employee are talking about, complaining about – what makes you cringe or smile?
- Know the purchasing power of targeted groups of customers so that you can show executives and employees that real money is on the table (hint, depending upon what demographics you are looking at it can reach nearly a trillion dollars)
- Explore current trends from your employee engagement surveys and see how the core diversity concepts of building respectful, inclusive workplaces can help to address business goals
2. Senior Level Engagement and Support
Senior executives focus a good deal on strategy and short and long term goals. For them to actively engage and support diversity and inclusion initiatives, they need to clearly see how D&I work is helping to achieve specific goals and strategies. Having both a business case for diversity and diversity plan with both short and long term goals will help to effectively communicate the importance of diversity to senior executives. The goals contained in the plan must also demonstrate a clear connection between the diversity work being done and how this will help drive specific business goals. When executives don’t understand how diversity is impacting their day to day responsibilities and don’t see a clear path to addressing this impact, they will stop caring about diversity once the initial push and enthusiasm have died down.
Effectively engaging senior leaders in diversity work means you also have to make it easy for them to engage. Asking them to attend events is great, but it is even better when you provide them with talking points about your diversity work, recent success stories and key focus areas so that they can share these with employees. Making it easy for them to talk about diversity helps to engage them and to make them advocates for the work.
If the leaders of your company are not talking about and supporting diversity at your organization, diversity fatigue will eventually set in. Managers and employees take their cues from the higher ups and if they do not think that the higher ups care about diversity, then why should they care? Making it easy and natural for senior leaders to support and talk about diversity is the key to their engagement. When senior leaders have a clear understanding of why diversity is important to the organization and in particular to their set of responsibilities, they jump at the chance to be visible supporters of diversity. This may require creative thinking on your part, but it will make the difference between diversity work and diversity results.
3. Manager and Employee Engagement
Creating an organizational culture that is infused with respect and inclusion requires the engagement of all employees and managers. A respectful workplace is built upon the thousands of daily interactions that happen among employees. In order for the culture to shift and change employees need to both understand why D&I is important to their work and also how to modify their behaviors and interactions so that they are creating a respectful and inclusive workplace. This requires communicating a clear business case for diversity, the goals diversity and inclusion are seeking to accomplish, and constantly educating employees on the practical steps that they can take to become part of the process. In essence, they need to know “what’s in it for me and what do I need to do?” If the diversity activities that have been planned for employees closely align with business goals that employees are contributing to or responsible for, then they will care about and be engaged with the activities.
Another key factor is the engagement of managers. Managers are in many ways the keepers of an organization’s culture. They are the ones supervising, managing, and correcting employee behavior and they need to have very clear knowledge about their role in this change process. Too often managers are left to fend for themselves and to instinctively know what they are supposed to do and why diversity is important to their teams. Managers need to be actively involved and consistently supported with tools, training, communication and support so that they can play the critical role they need to in helping to sustain efforts in the long term. If you have not done so already, create a profile of the diversity and cultural competence skills that managers must possess in order to work effectively at your organization. Make sure that this profile is added to and reviewed by relevant parties. Then take this profile and create a professional development plan that works to educate and equip managers with those necessary skills. Incorporate the skills into reviews and hold managers accountable. This will help diversity become an integral part of their job and clearly communicate the value that diversity has to the organization.
If your organization is experiencing any of the signs of diversity fatigue and would like assistance in understanding and applying the three steps outlined here, contact Harmony at 617-795-1688 or email our office at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on diversity fatigue and effective diversity initiatives visit our website: www.CultureCoach.biz