A 2021 Forbes article by Kim Lessley, Director of Solution Marketing, SAP, described reasons “Why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is Here to Stay”. The rationale included facts such as 1) increasing people diversity post-pandemic, creating the workforce of the future, 2) different perspectives based on career experiences, personal backgrounds or intersecting identities, 3) generational status, and 4) adaptability and resilience to change across different employee sectors. Forced change is not popular or easy but the pandemic led to the emergence of many change agents, often pushing organization leaders to try new practices from hybrid work and flexible schedules. 

Data Leading to Change 

Consulting to organizations on their DEIB plans has demonstrated to me the rationale behind their intentional efforts. It is about the business case and empowering the workforce to deliver on the organization’s mission and values. These are facts. The organizations I have partnered with for over 25 years believe in people development and recognize that systems in place may impede equity and inclusion for everyone in the workforce. For example, pay inequities for women and men continue but fair-minded leadership will conduct pay equity studies to correct these inequities. This change contributes to retention and to an increased sense of belonging for employees. Another example is responding to feedback from consumers, members, and or community organizations about attention to hiring practices. A bank branch with Spanish-speaking customers in Phoenix has bilingual tellers and loan officers. This is a feasible and responsive business practice informed by the bank’s attention to the cultural and linguistic diversity of their clients.

Intentionality for DEIB Practices

Changes related to diversity and equity are informed by data. Organizations that want to have greater representation of the contemporary population will examine their recruitment, hiring, and retention practices.  If a nonprofit board wants to recruit members that reflect the local community, it requires intentionality. We have consulted to numerous nonprofits and guided their processes, leading to desired outcomes. However, this is not an overnight process; it requires committed leadership with a consistent strategy to engage networks and community leaders.

Inclusion and Belonging are not Automatic Outcomes

Critics of DEIB efforts offer opinions that do not provide facts. In my DEIB consulting experiences, I have observed that the majority of employees or board members, as two examples, want to feel included. Individuals on a board who are not invited to serve on committees or employees who do not receive special assignments that give them visibility express concerns about inclusion and belonging. This affects performance and, ultimately, an organization’s bottom line. To have a workplace, member organization, or nonprofit board that leads to desired strategic outcomes is not automatic. It requires leadership commitment, people engagement, and a desire to be relevant.