“Our organization has a very diverse employee base and we need D&I training but we’re unsure of where to start.”
“My company understands that workplace diversity, equity and inclusion (D&I) are important topics for employee well-being and retention, but we’re feeling overwhelmed!”
“My organization wants to dive into these important topics but there’s so much to learn and we don’t want to make a mistake or do the wrong thing.”
Do any of these statements resonate with you and your organization?
The good news is, no matter how far along your company is on the D&I training spectrum, we all have to start somewhere. You cannot be good at your sport, hobby or instrument unless you’re willing to put in the time and practice to get better. D&I works in the same way. It takes time, education, training, self-reflection, hands-on practice, rolling out policies, assessing outcomes, making changes, and continuing to forge onward with greater awareness than you did yesterday.
There are a few things certain in life and change is one of them. This can be both refreshing and scary as heck. There will always be more to learn no matter what you think you know. D&I is not a subject area that you learn once and it’s done. It’s not a box you check and never worry about again. It’s an ongoing process that requires dedication, willingness and an open-minded approach. It also requires implementing small pieces that add up to big changes over time. It’s like a giant puzzle. If you add a few pieces to the puzzle each day, soon enough you will gain momentum and the puzzle will come together to create something significant.
If you’re feeling daunted by D&I, you’re not alone. I’ve had many conversations with individuals and organizations on this very topic. The consensus is, it’s a large subject area with many different streams of learning, viewpoints and implementation strategies. There’s no ‘one-size fits all’ and this leaves many companies feeling overwhelmed, uncertain and faced with decision paralysis. When we don’t know where to start, it can feel easier to stay neutral and do nothing at all.
I ask you this: if you wanted to make a change in your personal life, would you neglect taking action and never making change at the risk of being unsuccessful? OR Would you take conscious action (that first step), gain momentum, learn from your choices, and risk change for the better?
I hazard to guess that if it meant something to you, you would pick the latter. I read an anonymous quote that sums this up well, “the very things you fear become your limits.” The point is that when you take a step toward what you know you need and want, it’s easier to take additional steps which bring you closer to what you desire the most.
I encourage you to take the same approach and apply this analogy to workplace D&I. If you’re willing to scratch the surface, open the floor for tough conversations, cross-functional learning and leadership training with an open-minded approach, you would be amazed at the change that unfolds.
Here are 5 strategies you can use to get your company started with D&I:
- Start a DEI book club. Choose a book related to diversity, equity or inclusion. Invite your team to read it and meet monthly to discuss the concepts and their thoughts and feelings about the book. Allow everyone to share their ideas and perspectives openly and honestly.
- Initiate a D&I committee. Invite team members to form a committee dedicated to helping create a more inclusive workplace. They could be in charge of organizing events, creating awareness (monthly themes), seeking out training, presenters or workshops on D&I topics. By inviting your employees to work together to create the culture you’re looking for it gives everyone a say and helps breed inclusion.
- Attend a celebratory event as a team. This could mean going to the Pride parade or even better, putting a float in the parade. It could be attending an Indigenous team building event or multicultural festival in your community. Make plans to immerse yourself into the community you want to learn more about so you can educate yourself and create awareness along the way. Be sure to debrief as a group after the event to share what you’ve learned.
- Consult your team. To help guide your D&I efforts, a good place to start is to ask your employees what they feel they need as far as education and training. This could be done through a simple survey or questionnaire. Knowing what your employees need will help guide your leadership team on where to begin. Things may come to light that you had not considered, it gives you a good idea of where to begin, and this approach is inclusive of all.
- Bring in the experts. Once you’ve gained some insight on what your organization needs the most, it’s now time to bring in the experts. Hiring individuals who specialize in the areas you need support with will be key. This could be in the form of an introductory workshop, a lunch n’ learn series or a more robust training program. Regardless of where you begin, taking the first step, you will be demonstrating the importance of such topics within your organization. This strategy is pivotal as you begin to create an inclusive company culture for all.
Implementing change will take time and energy. Will you have it all figured out right out the gate? Probably not. Will there be many layers, questions and concerns brought up from your employees? It’s very likely. Will you be helping pave the way for change, creating an equitable and inclusive space for all? You bet.
Leaders who are willing to lead by example, take action and do their best from a place of humility and care will do great things.
To drive home the point and need for D&I training, here are some interesting facts:
- Roughly 1 in 6 adults born after 1983 (Gen Z) identify as LGBTQ2+
For you numbers folks, that means in an organization of 100 employees approximately 16 of them identify as LGBTQ2+ and in a workplace of 500, that’s roughly 80. That means obtaining training, support and awareness on how to be more inclusive to these individuals goes a long way.
- Canada is currently in a labour shortage which means an increase in diversity.
You’ve likely seen the sandwich boards around town begging people to ‘join their team’ with a signing bonus, extended benefits and employee discounts as incentives. Baby boomers are retiring, the pandemic has caused individuals to exit the workplace at an astounding rate and many people are starting their own companies. All this being said, the Canadian government has an agreement with China, India and the Philippines to invite more immigrants to Canada over the next 3 years to fill the employment gap. That means we’ll see an increase in diversity in the workplace. In order to create a welcoming company culture, organizations need D&I training.
- When asked, many people do not know whose land they live on or why it’s important.
Have you ever witnessed a land acknowledgment but were unsure of what it meant or its importance beyond the words? In order for us to develop a greater understanding, awareness and connection to the land and communities we live in, knowing which First Nations territory you reside on, the treaties that exist and the reason behind making a land acknowledgement in the first place are key pieces.
These are just 3 areas of D&I that I bring to your attention because of their significance to your workplace and larger community. As the old saying does, “we don’t know what we don’t know.” There’s always more to learn.
I believe that in order to make change, embrace diversity, create inclusion and understand equity we must take the first step to unpacking many of these topics, one step at a time. All areas deserve attention and all areas are equally important but we must realize that we cannot change everything overnight. It’s a process and a journey that can only be improved with commitment and time.
If you’ve found this blog helpful, I invite you to purchase a copy of my latest book, Dismantling The Obstacles To Workplace Inclusion. To learn more, click HERE.
As I said above, it’s better to take small conscious actions, face your fears, bust through challenges, create a game plan and continue to forge onward then to do nothing at all.
Each and every individual and organization is on its own timeline and journey to creating inclusion. I encourage you to decide on your first step, take it with intent and be witness to what unfolds around you. It may not be easy but I can guarantee you it will be worth it.
If you’re ready to take action and create more inclusive spaces for those who identify as LGBTQ2+ please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I have various presentations and programs that can support you on your journey to creating a workplace culture that’s respectful and welcoming for all.