When it comes to DEI, getting the executive team on board with their mindsets in the right place and able to put their fears aside can be one of the most important levers to getting to the impact the organization needs. After that, a cohesive strategy led by leaders with the right level of influence and focused on first creating an inclusive environment must be created. But once those things are in place, the organization is set up for success, right?? Well, yes, but it’s at this point that even the best plans can falter.
7. Great intentions, poor follow-through.
We all know this reality all too well. We come up with amazing strategies, and everyone seems on board and ready to run after the goals. But slowly, the efforts lose speed. The next business crisis, serious customer need, unplanned team member exit, and suddenly, the tyranny of the urgent takes over, and the tactical drives out the strategic. It’s often not any one event or any one person, but the momentum slows, and the energy dissipates. It’s hard to recapture that and a feeling of “DEI Fatigue” sets in. It can be so hard to reengage everyone in that passion they originally felt, especially when the results haven’t fully emerged.
We see this all too often. Teams sign up to do so many things, but whether it’s due to a poor strategy or poor execution, they aren’t able to achieve the promised value of the strategy. Operationalizing this effort can be challenging, and what winds up happening is leadership teams slowly stray from the plan and fail to follow through on promises they made to the organization. Unfortunately, this can be even worse than doing nothing, as employees begin to lose faith in the organizational commitment to DEI. So, let’s explore some of the other challenges that impede execution.
8. Not setting a goal that fits the business context
Organizations often create great strategies around achieving goals that are either too narrow or too lofty for their context. More narrow goals can come from some the fear mentioned (in the LINK post) or from leaders acquiescing to pressure from owners, boards, and even other C-Suite members. It happens with organizations that are worried about ruffling feathers amongst their customers and employees, so they take a more conservative approach in the hopes that doing something is enough. Other leaders are inspired to set more aspirational goals, such as changing the make-up of their executive team in a two-year period, when they are not anticipating any turnover. There is not a “right” or a “wrong” goal, but when the goal does not fit with the business context, it sets the organization up to fail before it even begins its journey.
9. Focusing everywhere
We’ve all heard the saying that when you try to please everyone, you wind up pleasing no one. Unfortunately, this also holds true with work in the DEI space. We frequently encounter organizations that are doing a bit of everything, spreading their efforts like peanut butter across the entire organization. At the root of this, we often find leaders afraid to focus their resources in any one spot. The equity conversation is a new one for many leaders, and in that new space, leaders are hesitant to make decisions around where the biggest need lies. They may not have a grip on the hotspots in the organization – the places where their focus would create the greatest impact. Like it or not, we do have a finite amount of time, resources, investments, and without landing on the question of what is it time for now, an approach to be all things to all people can feel more like throwing spaghetti at a wall.
10. The investment doesn’t match the intent
2020 threw some organizations a bit of a curveball. Perhaps they weren’t anticipating needing to double down on their DEI efforts. It had always been a thing on the list of HR priorities, but suddenly, the expectation changed. That totally makes sense. However, 2021 should have been a different story. The national conversation amplified nearly a year ago, and while perhaps in the past, the energy has dispersed, this isn’t the case now. Organizations are communicating they are all-in on DEI and yet, their budget doesn’t indicate that. Senior leadership has often communicated their vision and their plan for a more diverse and inclusive workforce and yet, they have not allocated the budget that it would take to make that a reality. This work takes time, and it takes resource. And sometimes, it takes outside help to leapfrog from where they are to where they want to be. Organizations that want results will fail to realize those without investing in that effort.
11. Not naming the root cause
If you aren’t where you want to be in terms of DEI in your company, it could be for any of the reasons we’ve covered. The first challenge is determining why your organization is stuck. Beginning this work in the place of diagnostics is like a physician doing a physical and ordering blood work. You should be wary of any doctor who just prescribes medication without figuring out what’s causing the problem, and your organization should feel the same. Companies who fail to push themselves to get to the root of the problem will never truly solve it – and it can be hard to physician yourself.
Pushing the organization to get to the root requires an uncommon amount of boldness. It also requires a truthteller. Being able to name root causes and push leaders to move past their fears and commit to the DEI strategy can require radical honesty, which is difficult for those with even the most political capital.
The work of DEI is not easy work, but when you can realize the promised value of a cohesive enterprise-wide DEI strategy, the impact to the business and to your employees’ lives can be tremendous.
We love to come alongside our clients to do the work that is right, right now – whether it’s changing executive mindsets, partnering on DEI strategies, or serving as the truthteller to get to the root cause of where you are stuck, we are hear to guide you forward.