What's one piece of advice you would give leaders to shift their workforce culture and provide real impact around DEI in the workplace?

Diana Candelaria Reyes, Founder, Candelaria Reyes Consulting

Based on client work and research, I would suggest that leaders focus on influencing middle managers to participate, support and gain commitment. It’s something I like to call the “messy middle” – meaning oftentimes the board of directors, executive team and the rank in file employee is committed to shifting the organization’s culture but the mid-level manager struggles. This happens mostly because the “messy middle” is consumed with running of the business and hasn’t been able to weave in the culture shift to their work. I would encourage leaders to find ways to not only inspire them but find out what’s important to them by speaking their language such as performance, compensation, and change champions. I have found that giving them specific advice and guidance with autonomy has been most helpful in providing real impact around DEI

Hope Malveaux, CEO/Co-Founder Veaux Pro

One valuable piece of advice for leaders looking to transform their workforce culture and make a significant impact on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the workplace is to embrace intentionality and alignment with their organizational goals.

Leadership commitment to DEI isn’t just a trendy buzzword; it’s backed by substantial research. Studies, such as those conducted by McKinsey & Company, have demonstrated that diverse and inclusive cultures tend to outperform their counterparts and are 25% more likely to achieve above-average profitability.

To affect a meaningful culture shift, leaders should consider the following steps:

  1. Define Your Purpose: Define the culture you aspire to create within your organization. Understand the ‘why’ behind your DEI efforts. Reflect on how fostering a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion aligns with your business objectives.
  2. Align with Business Goals: Connect your DEI initiatives directly with your business goals. Identify how a diverse and inclusive workplace can enhance productivity, innovation, and overall company success. Make sure that DEI is integrated into your strategic plan.
  3. Identify Behavior Expectations: Determine the specific behaviors that support the culture you want to cultivate. Consider how systems, policies, processes, and structures influence people’s behaviors. Recognize that these factors shape your organization’s culture and symbolize your commitment to DEI.
  4. Examine Decision-Making: Keep a watchful eye on decision-making processes within your organization. Decisions regarding resource allocation, promotions, time, and space allocation can reveal much about your commitment to diversity and inclusion. Ensure that these decisions are equitable and transparent.

To initiate your culture shift effectively, consider the following tips:

  1. Proactively Seek Perspective: Actively seek out and listen to diverse perspectives and feedback from your workforce. Encourage an open dialogue where employees feel safe to express their thoughts and concerns.
  2. Foster Psychological Safety: Create an environment where all employees feel psychologically safe to speak up without fear of reprisal. This encourages open communication and the sharing of diverse viewpoints.
  3. Diverse Perspectives: Embrace diversity not only in theory but also in practice by ensuring that diverse voices are included in decision-making processes at all levels of your organization.
  4. Demonstrate Respect: Promote respect throughout your organization, from leadership to front-line employees. Respect should be a fundamental value that guides interactions and behaviors.

By adhering to these principles and actively integrating them into your leadership and organizational culture, you can effectively drive a transformation toward a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.

Shanta Eaden, Founder and CEO, Leader’s Edge Consulting

As leaders, we should think about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as how we lead.  If you ask leaders if they want to value their team’s differences, the answer is yes.  If you ask if they want to treat their teams fairly – they would say yes. If you ask if they want their teams to feel respected and valued – the answer is yes. To create a genuine impact on DEI, leaders should examine how we show up and how they operate with this DEI lens. How can we do that?

  1. Ask our teams. There’s nothing like listening to the voices of our employees.  This could be during our normal 1×1, including ‘stay interviews’ by asking questions like ‘what do you like most about your job? Why are you still with the company? What are the barriers to you being successful?’
  2. Be intentional. During team meetings and townhalls – include a Culture moment.  Culture moments are a great way to generate awareness and understanding related to DEI. The reason I call them culture moments is because this work – through the DEI lens, is about shifting culture.
  3. Take action. No more just talking about it and listening to each other.  Create a plan to act, including objectives, goals,  milestones, and accountability for the actions.

DEI is like any other major strategy or change initiative. Take a measured approach, focus on impact over activities – and Be the Change.