At FIG, we write and speak frequently about how important it is to have a DEI strategy. Too often, companies dive into DEI without a long term plan or any idea of how to begin. Sometimes this is just well intentioned lack of knowledge, and sometimes it’s laziness, but either way it will ultimately prove to be ineffective.
One of the biggest mistakes we see made over and over is the DEI project or plan is often undertaken (willingly or not), by employees of color, or employees from other underrepresented groups. While this may just be a misguided attempt to be inclusive, what it really means is that the burden of “justice” within the entire organization is placed on employees who belong to the groups DEI is supposed to help. Under the guise of doing something “good” for the organization, they are given additional responsibilities
or assigned to DEI committees, which makes it very difficult to say no. Additionally, if there is no training or plan provided, these employees' only “credentials” are the physical traits they were previously alienated for. This is a setup for failure.
Another key component here is the element of direct personal investment many employees feel regarding DEI issues. To many sitting in the boardroom, a DEI conversation may feel like “just another training,” but to employees of color, employees with a disability, or LGBTQ+ employees, these may be deeply personal and emotional topics. Although these employees may have felt strongly about certain social or work issues for years, they have been unable to express themselves at work because of the lack of inclusion and authenticity. Suddenly expecting these same employees to then take the lead on DEI demonstrates a lack of empathy and support for the emotional toll these conversations can have.
Embracing DEI is a great thing. We certainly don’t want to discourage employers and businesses to shy away from improving diversity, equity and inclusion. Employing an outside firm (like FIG!) is a great way to attack DEI without overburdening existing employees or unintentionally alienating the individuals you are seeking to help. At the very least, having a comprehensive strategy that involves everyone is essential for success in any DEI program.