When a company talks about their DEI strategy or changing the company culture, one of the top three things mentioned is creating ERGs or Employees Resource Groups, also known as Affinity Groups.
ERGs are great. They are vital in creating an inclusive culture, creating support for various employee groups within the organization, and making that culture of belonging and acceptance within our workplace a reality. However, that is when much of the work stops, and it shouldn’t.
Although ERGs have their benefits, if the culture is not fundamentally changing from the top, there is little that those groups will be able to do and impact if the change management element of DEI is not there.
For example, just think of any initiative that an organization tried to implement or change – it all starts from the top. Someone from the executive leadership team makes an announcement at townhall or their monthly meetings; then there is a project roadmap, milestones, key deliverables, testing, implementation, and reporting. Even with that many details, preparation, and resources, these initiatives still fail. According to a recent HBR article, 70% of projects fail to launch within their allotted time frame.
So if all this effort goes into organizational changes and initiatives with a small percentage of success, how will we change our workplace cultures without a budget, resources, team members, or acknowledgment from executive and leadership staff? This is what many leaders fail to see or acknowledge, that they need to treat their DEI strategy as you would with any initiative or company-wide project. The planning, details, milestone setting, metrics, and reporting all need to create a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable workplace.
So why aren’t organizations making these changes and putting the pedal to the metal when it comes to DEI? They fail to see the multidimensional elements of DEI.
DEI is more than just hiring more diverse employees; it’s more than having a committee; it’s more than having a policy or cultural days at the office. It is about looking and seeking understanding of the inequities of various groups in your workplace, acknowledging through the lens of empathy that their lived experiences are different from yours but still valued.
Most importantly, institutional racism exists in many shapes and forms, and often within your own organization. That is a hard pill to swallow, and I bet there are many C-suite executives that are avoiding at all costs having to take that medicine. Until they start to unfold these layers and understand how their current situation came to be, no real change can happen.
So when you look around your organization, and you see your ERG leads or community members working overtime, putting in the work to try and make the change they want to see, help them out by getting involved. They can not do it independently, but through power in numbers and through the collective voice created, real change can come and stay.
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