5 Approaches To DEI From Our Rix on Race Webinar, “The Organizational Case for Diversity”

On September 9th, we hosted the first of three RIX on Race: DEI in Practice sessions that will address the societal and organizational case for diversity, examine the business implications of DEI and how to actively craft corporate DEI programs, and finally, convene a panel of staffing industry leaders to discuss the practical lessons from the field on implementing DEI programs in recruitment.

The Organizational Case for Diversity featured Dr. Lisa Coleman, Senior Vice President for Global Inclusion and Strategic Innovation at New York University, and formerly the Chief Diversity Officer at Harvard University and senior GID executive at Tufts University. This session covered a range of topics, including the reality of unconscious bias and how to address it, what defines diversity, and the essential role of inclusion in propagating systemic change.

Below are five approaches Dr. Coleman shared for business leaders to further develop and build their own DEI strategies.

1. Remap your organization by shifting your organizational culture

Your organizational culture is composed of the values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization. By analyzing facets of your organization such as your mission, strategy, systems, policies, and procedures and reimagining those for the future, you can remap your organization from top to bottom. “Just hiring an individual or individuals doesn’t necessarily shift your culture,” Dr. Coleman explains—to truly change your organization’s culture, you need to change the values and systems that comprise it.

2. Mitigate bias in the candidate search process

“We all have biases. The degree to which we have those biases is debatable,” Dr. Coleman explains, and this bias exists not just within individuals, but at an organizational level. To mitigate bias in your candidate search process, begin by analyzing your search process data—what have been your historical recruitment practices? Your promotional practices? After analyzing your data for bias, take outside bias tests, such as those of Project Implicit, and take your learnings back to your organization in order to create a representative candidate pool. “You need to analyze your organization, your culture and climate, your historical recruitment practices, and your historical promotion practices. This allows you to look at your organization and see where you are now, where you were in the past, and where you want to be in the future,” Dr. Coleman advises.

3. Adopt a DEI approach that uniquely reflects your organization

With each unique organization, a different approach needs to be taken into account to implement DEI practices. “When you’re thinking about your organizational analysis, you should be able to tell me and others who your organization is. That will tell you about what kind of diversity, inclusion, and equity platforms you can engage.” Companies in New York City or Chicago may need to operate with a different set of organizational values and cultural frameworks than those in Vermont, for example. 

4. Leverage employee resource groups

The people within your organization can help you develop metrics, rewards, and processes to help you deliver the appropriate strategies for your diverse constituents. Dr. Coleman recommends leveraging these employees to create employee resource groups (ERGs). The employee resource group lifecycle is as follows:

  • Establish the ERG mission, execute programs and events, and evaluate results
  • Conduct ERG performance gap analysis for continuous improvement
  • Recommend and collaborate to deliver ERG best and next practices
  • Regularly review policies, procedures, and metrics

Keep in mind that ERGs shouldn’t be based on race, geography, or income, alone, Dr. Coleman explains—generational differences need to be taken into account as well.

5. Avoid the ‘Burden of Representation’

The ‘burden of representation’ in DEI practice is the idea of approaching someone from a marginalized group with the expectation that that individual represents the whole. Dr. Coleman warns against this approach in DEI practice. “You don’t want to run to your Asian employees or Black employees and say ‘help us!’” Dr. Coleman says. Instead, bring in experts who can assist with DEI work.