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4 Mistakes Leaders Should Avoid when Advancing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Denise Rice is the CEO of Peak Performance and the Manufacturing Consultant to the Tennessee Manufacturers Association. She is a former plant manager with nearly 30 years of experience in the manufacturing industry.

In today’s business world, diversity, inclusion, and equity must be a part of a company’s mission. While organizations are developing diversity and inclusion initiatives at different paces, these initiatives are increasingly becoming embedded into organizations as a core business goal. In the current social-political climate diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of many decision-making processes. The collective outcry for justice surrounding the killings of Ahumaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd has opened up a worldwide conversation that reflects on how much farther we have to go before achieving social equality. While there is a lot of discussion on our policing and judicial policies, business leaders are faced with a key decision on what actions to take in the workplace. Knowing what is the appropriate response can be difficult, knowing what not to do is just as important.

Mistake #1: Doing nothing.

Organizations that don’t engage with topics relating to inequality may not realize that they’re making a decision that will have consequences. Being paralyzed by the fear of miscommunicating or misrepresenting your company’s inclusion goals is the number one mistake leaders make. There are components of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion that are politicized and deeply polarizing, but DEI does not have to be an intimidating topic for executives and leaders. DEI leaders can depoliticize these conversations by changing the vocabulary and holding these discussions around values and business decisions that are unique to your organization. Talk about innovation, collaboration, customer service, growth, sustainability. Speaking in these terms will open the conversation with confidence and competence.

Mistake #2: Assuming that a DEI Leader will solve your problems.

It is the entire leadership team’s responsibility to determine the team’s goals, objectives, and measures of success to really achieve a systemic change in your company, and eventually, industry. As a leader, you know that for a program to become part of the organizational culture, it can't be driven by one person. A perfect scenario of successful DEI implementation would be every team member understanding and committing to the strategy. Obviously, perfection isn't practical, but the more people who commit to making this a part of your company’s culture, the more successful your strategy will be.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

Mistake #3: Not being intentional about your Diversity, Equity & Inclusion program.

For your DEI strategy or program to take hold you must be intentional in order to resonate with customers, suppliers, and employees. Have a purpose when you are considering the common vernacular of diversity and inclusion. What does it mean for your company and your employees? State your objectives clearly so you can keep your program on track. It takes an intentional focus to uncover and remove biases from business processes to make sure that all employees are having an equitable experience.

Mistake #4: Stopping at unconscious bias training.

Unconscious bias training is a great first step. It builds a framework and vocabulary to talk about challenging issues in a productive and safe way. It starts the exploration of understanding oneself and the perceptions that we all carry. But having awareness of unconscious bias doesn’t necessarily translate into behavioral changes or systemic changes. Biases are also built into your company’s organization and influence many of your workplace decisions. To create a different employee experience after unconscious bias training, organizations need to lean into those processes, procedures, and systems, that underpin decision making.

Shorting your DEI programs by making these mistakes will affect your organization’s long-term goals, and eventually mean more turnover, higher costs, and lost opportunity. Taking an active role with your strategies and practices to support a collective, multi-dimensional workplace will set a course for growth.

To help get your Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs off the ground, Peak Performance is offering two upcoming 1-hour webinars for business leaders looking to further DEI programs in their business. Additionally two full training courses on Overcoming Unconscious Bias in the Workplace, designed for all employees in order to make their organization a more supportive and engaging place to work are being offered. Registration is open for all webinars and classes below.

Hosted by: New Jersey Business & Industry Association

April 13, 2021 | 11:30am - 12:30pm (ET) | FREE Registration

April 27, 2021 | 9:00am - 12:00pm (ET)

Hosted by: Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry

March 29, 2021 | 1:00 - 2:00pm (ET) | FREE Registration

April 21, 2021 | 9:00am - 12:00pm (ET)


Get free access to our webinar, Business Leaders' Role in Advancing Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, presented by Denise Rice, President & CEO of Peak Performance.

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