On Wednesday, 27th September, we held our DEI Leaders’ Breakfast at the Ivy West in London. Diversity fatigue, shifting company priorities, and ‘anti-woke’ campaigning are creating an increasingly hostile and complex environment for driving change. Against this backdrop, how can those leading on DEI continue to be the spark for organizational transformation without burning out – either personally or professionally?
In this event, Audeliss and INvolve brought together inclusion leaders to discuss upcoming challenges to the DEI agenda and to share their personal experiences and insights on being effective agents for change.
Often DEI leaders can be burdened with all the ‘doing’ with little consideration given to the seniority of their role and their remit to delegate DEI work to others who can implement initiatives locally. Therefore, clear guidelines around the role and a wider understanding amongst stakeholders of the remit can help keep burnout at bay and ensure the role keeps a strategic ‘global’ emphasis for progressing wider change. Focus is also critical, as the DEI agenda is huge and is constantly evolving, therefore focusing on specific groups when required is both okay and often more manageable, both in terms of personal burnout and achieving results.
External networks are also important for sharing challenges with like-minded and understanding ‘friends’ and to increase collaboration within industry and cross-industry to pool resources, share best practices, and meet wider goals for change.
While DEI work is a huge undertaking, ultimately, DEI leaders need rest too, and that rest shouldn’t be seen as a reward, but rather a necessity for their role and an organization’s overall effectiveness.
Biggest threat to DEI progress
Some of the new threats or challenges posed to DEI are technological; with an increased focus on AI’s role within business and a lack of understanding around its use case when it comes to DEI. Whether AI proves to be valuable, threatening, or varying degrees of both, businesses and DEI leaders need to better understand AI to assess its potential impact on DEI progress.
The current political situation, especially in the US with the Affirmative Action decision, also poses a threat to DEI progress. While the situation still unfolds, understanding the impact of anti-DEI sentiment is critical to understand how DEI work may stall or be impacted over the coming years.
In some cases, the threat to DEI is internal, due to a lack of engagement at leadership level to keep DEI prioritized. It’s widely noted that without an impetus that pressures leadership to act (such as the Black Lives Matter upsurge of 2020), DEI is consistently stalling. Equally, the tension between leadership and Generation Z will likely begin to breed conflict in terms of both expectations and approaches to DEI.
Motivating advocates to support and enable DEI
DEI needs advocates and engaging them to support and enable DEI can be challenging. One critical way that this can be achieved is accountability, especially when it comes to the implementation of initiatives and strategies. This can also be incentivized further, with rewards or recognized within appraisals and performance reviews.
For some advocates, understanding their ‘personal why’ is key as they need to personally connect with the DEI agenda in a way that aligns to their needs, at least as a first step of engagement to gain their buy-in and active support.
Employee networks that are run by a business, rather than an HR department, can also motivate advocates to support and enable DEI by keeping the topic fun and accessible.
Engaging with skeptical employees
Being honest with employees who may be skeptical of or reticent to take part in DEI progress is key. Whether that’s explaining why a specific initiative is running or why a specific group or diversity strand is being targeted.
Storytelling can also foster empathy and understanding amongst those who are skeptical and engage them on a human level around DEI within a business and its wider impact on things like wider societal equality.
DEI’s role within ESG
DEI’s role within ESG offers a new opportunity for DEI to become a priority and access other parts of an organization to collaborate with. By embedding it within a larger governance structure, it must be reported on and therefore given the resources, time, and engagement required to ensure its success alongside the other parts of the ESG agenda. DEI professionals need to look for opportunities to upskill and better align themselves to ESG objectives for the benefit of inclusion initiatives and the business more generally.
A DEI Leaders’ role within a business is critical. To be an effective changemaker, DEI leaders must receive support in the form of resources, engagement, leadership buy in, and help with burnout to truly achieve an organization’s DEI goals.
At a time when DEI is under attack on a world stage, DEI leaders are burdened with tightening budgets, skepticism, and a lack of support when it comes to fulfilling their roles. This isn’t just bad for DEI leaders but also threatens to set progress back for organizations as a whole.
Get in touch
Audeliss was created to increase the representation of women, LGBTQ+, ethnically diverse talent, and other diverse individuals on Boards and in the C-Suite by leveling the playing field in the executive search process.
Diverse teams drive better innovation and decision-making, leading to more successful business outcomes. We prepare your organization for the future by unlocking the true potential of diversity within your leadership team.
We have an unmatched track record in diversifying the leadership teams for organizations across the UK & Europe and the US & Canada through solutions in Executive Search, Board Practice, and Talent Pipelining.
To discuss how we can help with your company’s executive search, contact us.
INvolve is a consultancy and global network that enables leaders and changemakers to build more successful and empowering organizations where everyone can thrive.
INvolve transforms workplaces and mindsets through strategy development and the delivery of training, development programs, and other solutions to help firms drive cultural change.
Their approach to DEI has been developed over 10 years working in partnership with business leaders, global organizations, and changemakers across a full spectrum of inclusion challenges. Through an intersectional lens, INvolve’s aim is to use our best practices to supercharge your approach and truly shift the dial when it comes to creating an inclusive and diverse business.
INvolve also publish annual role model lists, supported by YouTube, recognizing and celebrating business leaders and future leaders who are breaking down barriers at work and inspiring the next generation of diverse talent.
To find out more about their suite of inclusion solutions, contact them now.