Communicating Incremental Steps toward Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

In goBeyondProfit’s recent survey, the vast majority of Georgia senior executive respondents (91%) expressed confidence in their leadership approach for building diversity, equity and inclusivity in the workplace. For many, this will include thoughtful steps of analysis and review, planning and then slow, incremental steps forward. This all takes time, but as you put the plan in place, how can you help your people feel as confident as you do? Are you regularly communicating to your employees, helping them recognize the small changes?

In the goBeyondProfit video series Leading a Thriving Workplace with Race in Mind, Darah Okeke, CEO, EPIQ offered advice on how to let people know you’re working on it.

“It’s important for leaders to check-in and to do it regularly. And you can do that in many ways. Many businesses have all-hands meetings once a week where for 30 minutes senior leaders get up and check-in with employees, and let them know the state of the business or address something that’s happening in the world that’s impacting people. It can be a regular note to employees — call it President’s Corner or something. It’s a good thing for employees to have a face, and a name, and a personality to go with their senior leaders.”

However you do it, it needs to be authentic to you but also reach employees in meaningful ways. Okeke provided further invaluable recommendations:

Don’t leave them guessing; they will assume the worst.

If you’re working on a diversity initiative, let them know. If the details of the plan are not there yet and you have delays, let them know that. It’s about the transparency that builds a relationship of trust. And that’s what you really want. Your employees want to know that you’re working on it. It’s going to happen. This is something you care about, and you’re invested in it. If they don’t hear from you for six months then they start to guess. They assume the worst.

Reach out for input and feedback along the way.

For instance, if you’re trying to create an initiative that’s going to benefit your people of color at your workplace or women at your workplace, talk to them. Don’t come up with something without having the people who it’s intended to benefit at least lay eyes on it or be able to give some meaningful input and feedback. That’s critically important. 

Check in during moments of concern and celebration.

Check back in during moments that may be significant to employees. For example, when certain things happen in the world. Perhaps it’s an event that you know is going to hit home for a good portion of your employees – something that will make them sad, or make them introspective, or maybe it’s something to celebrate that’s happening in terms of current events, do not be afraid to check in.

And finally, don’t rush.

This work is so important and it really should be part of the fabric of a company. Don’t rush to push out initiatives and push out programs and policies without really taking the time to make sure you understand what’s truly needed for your company. Don’t rush to roll things out without really being thoughtful, having data to back up decisions and measurable goals to monitor over time.

“I think the more that employers can step out of their offices, and step from behind the veil, and reveal their true selves. And really show that they care, and check in, and provide meaningful updates, the better,” she summed up.