Accountability In DEI

Two and a half years after the murder of George Floyd and the influx of the DEI initiatives it brought about, results of these actions fall far shorter than we hoped. According to Ceridian’s 2022 Executive Survey, a global survey of 2,000 business leaders, 90% of respondents indicate that their organizations have a DEI strategy in place, but only one-third confirm that actual progress in the field has been made.

DEI is a driver of organizational agility that is necessary in our ever changing economic conditions.

So why are companies not following through with DEI initiatives? One reason is that initiatives are being pigeon holed into the HR department or a DEI committee created specifically for the role. This doesn’t allow all areas of the organization to buy in to DEI, and therefore most employees end up not caring, or not having the time to care, about DEI goals. 

Accountability in DEI needs to be specific to each level of the organization and shared with all levels, from C-suite to managers to general workforce. Accountability is defined as the fact or condition of being accountable or responsible. Accountability towards DEI ensures ownership and defines answerability, liability, and reporting. DEI has to be present in all aspects of an organization, and become part of the thread of a company. Accountability ensures that you are resilient and continue moving your organization holistically forward in activating your DEI values to foster a healthy world for all.

There are various priorities needed to bring about accountability in DEI.

Communication & Transparency. Communicate your DEI mission, vision, and metrics. People are more likely to persist in the face of change when they are part of that change. Sharing information and asking employees and leadership to be involved in DEI goals and missions will encourage active participation and motivation all around. Involving the workforce in the creation of DEI goals will also lead to accountability, as people are more likely to work towards the solutions and goals they help create. 

Highlighting a set of problems and possible solutions and then involving employees and leadership by asking for input and feedback leads to the design of accountability strategies that helps ensure goals are met. Without transparency there is no accountability.

DEI As Core Value. DEI needs to be present in the organization in the intentions of its core values. To be a workplace where everyone feels they can be their best, authentic self, is a core value that clearly incorporates DEI without saying diversity, equity, or inclusion. 

What Gets Measured, Get Done. In order to embed DEI into an organization’s core values and culture, they will need meaningful metrics and the willingness to use data collected to hold themselves and leadership accountable. Key steps are to establish a timeline with milestones to track progress along the way. Be specific about what you want to achieve, vague goals are not measurable.

Buy In. DEI goal buy in won’t work without action. DEI should be integrated into, or at least considered in, organizational branding, messaging, hiring, recruitment, promotions, compensation, and more. If DEI becomes part of an organization’s DNA, there is no need for the idea to be pigeonholed into HR or the DEI Committee. DEI goals will be met because it has become part of the character of the company.

Ongoing Education. Gone are the days of one size fits all DEI education. While an introductory class certainly has its place in DEI education, most education curricula should be tailored to an organization based on industry, workplace, and workforce makeup. To be considered when creating a curriculum are the various levels of understanding of DEI among employees – education should be individualized whenever possible. Education tailoring should also take into account the position of employees. For example, management roles will benefit from education on how to lead with vulnerability to make work a more psychologically safe place, and how to watch for unconscious bias in who they hire, train, and promote. 

Education around unconscious bias, cultural humility, and the cost to people and companies of inequitable workplaces needs to be ongoing.

Performance Goals. DEI goals will not be met unless they are tied to something people care about. While the most obvious idea is to relate to compensation and perks, reaching goals can also be tied to things such as team size or increased responsibilities for teams successful in meeting DEI goals. Making everyone accountable for every goal, without specificity, runs the risk that no one will actually take accountability. Proactive efforts like this will make sure that accountability does not feel punitive, but more like a commitment to a common goal. Incentivized behaviors help the individual to understand the goal is reached by constant improvements.

Ask For Feedback Regarding Your DEI Efforts. As we have mentioned, a key aspect of accountability is transparency, input, and feedback from employees and leadership. Feedback is highly important in DEI initiatives not only for consistently iterating on DEI practices, but because it collects insights into what discourages and motivates the workforce. Feedback data shows organizations what’s working and what’s not, and prevents teams in the workplace from passing the responsibility of DEI onto others. 

More specifically, anonymous feedback helps an organization create a more inclusive culture by providing a psychologically safe environment, removing barriers to speaking up, and reducing bias when analyzing feedback.