What do Alexander the Great, Jeff Bezos, and a pack of hungry wolves have in common? Not just animal instincts. They have a highly strategic approach.
Having a strategy means managing ambiguity whilst planning for the future. Strategic thinking teaches us how to respond appropriately to challenges and avoid reactive responses. This is why making Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) successful requires strategy.
When companies start their EDI journey, they often resemble a determined and very enthusiastic toddler trying to get dressed. The process seems obvious and intuitive, yet frequently becomes a struggle, takes longer than you imagined and things end up in unexpected places. This is one of the EDI traps. While some practices and processes may seem obvious and intuitive they are not necessarily the best nor the most scientifically valid. This is why, when it comes to EDI, you should follow strategy over instinct.
So, what does that really mean?
1. Actually have a strategy
Ad-hoc initiatives can lead to the misallocation of your internal resources, incorrect prioritisation, wasted time and frustration among your employees. You can’t do everything at the same time to make your company more Diverse and Inclusive. Therefore:
Understand where you at (data)
Outline what you would like to achieve (vision)
Set 2-4 measurable objectives (goals)
Plan clearly how you are going to achieve them (tactics)
Review the results and repeat the process (results)
2. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good
The more you learn about EDI the more you realise how complex and confusing it is. Your work will be challenged, questioned and criticised. Don’t react - go back to your strategy, and respond appropriately to challenges. #MeToo, the death of George Floyd created a global wave of emotional response, but these events have led to limited systemic changes. In order to create tangible and sustainable changes you need to work patiently and methodically. Some common comments that you might get are:
“We should not hire based on gender or ethnicity - we should just hire the best person for the job.”
“Female-only searches are positive discrimination and they also mean that we are losing out on great talent. “
“Why are you just focusing on gender? What about ethnicity, ability, age, sexuality, neurodiversity etc.”
“Wokeness has gone mad these days. Anything I can say could be wrong. It’s safer not to say anything.”
Acknowledge and reflect on the comments, learn best-practice and relevant scientific literature, review your strategy and stay grounded in your work. You will make mistakes, get confused, and feel annoyed, tired and angry. That is ok. Keep going, learn from these experiences and share those learnings with others.
Remember, there is no one out there who is doing this perfectly.
3. Stay tuned and be innovative
According to the UK 2021 census1, 28% of school-age children are of black, Asian or other minority ethnic origins. By 2025, millennials (the most diverse generation so far) will represent 75% of the workforce2. These statistics indicate that the topic of EDI will evolve significantly over the next few decades. However, we can’t assume that since our population is becoming more diverse there will be a direct correlative distribution of power and access to resources. For example, Brazil is a country with one of the most diverse populations in the world (i.e. 43.1% mixed race in 20203), yet most of the positions of power are occupied by cis-gender, white men and white supremacy is thriving in the country4.
We have to focus on making deliberate efforts to bring underrepresented communities into our societal, economic and political power structures in order to create not just diverse workplaces but diverse societies. Innovation, agility and creativity are critical to this.
Embedding EDI into your organisation is an incredibly challenging but rewarding experience. To sum up, I will end with a cheesy inspirational quote “Your direction is more important than your speed.”
If you wish to learn more about building your EDI strategy - reach out directly to Sasha Graham, at firstname.lastname@example.org.