The role of DEI leaders in the workplace

The workplace culture has fundamentally shifted. While taking up a leadership position has always been an honor, today’s leaders have the added duty of fostering a respectful and inclusive work environment for their employees.

In order to be successful, initiatives promoting DEI must have strong leadership behind them. This inquiry presumes that upper management values diversity and inclusion. So, once the decision is made to seek diversity and inclusion (DEI), whether voluntarily or not, the leadership takes on a few important tasks that are necessary for the DEI initiative to succeed.

Ways Leadership promotes Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

  • Specify the goals: The first thing leaders do is explain the rationale behind their goal of diversity and inclusion. Putting in time and effort to improve DEI for its own sake is not enough to keep the ball rolling. The benefits of DEI to the organization are defined in detail by the leadership. Some benefits of representing the community you serve include being more relatable to a broader spectrum of clients, attracting and retaining a more diverse workforce, and better serving the community you do business in. 
  • Define vision: Clearly defining your goals for DEI is essential to achieving them. Success will be defined differently by each member of the leadership team, and as a result, each will eventually fade away. It’s impossible to know for sure if you’ve succeeded unless you have a firm grasp on what constitutes success from the get-go.
  • Measure and recalibrate: The leadership team should check in on progress periodically to make adjustments. Many businesses fail in this regard. Measurement and responsibility have been lacking in the diversity standard across industries. Businesses can also make use of data from things like focus groups, surveys of employee engagement and satisfaction, surveys of diversity and inclusion, and human resources records. Once you have clean, objective data, you can make changes to your DEI work as needed. The key is to give each strategy enough time to work. Do your best not to have too rosy an outlook on how quickly things will change.
  • Sets the tone: Leaders’ actions, behaviors, and decision-making have a profound effect on company culture since they set the tone for the rest of the organization. Leaders who advocate for and demonstrate inclusive practices can help establish an environment where differences are celebrated.
  • Holds others accountable: Leaders must hold themselves and others accountable for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. This includes implementing policies, procedures, and practices that promote these values and taking action to address any issues that arise.
  • Championing DEI initiatives: Leaders can be effective champions for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives within the organization. They can assign resources, get buy-in from key stakeholders, and help make people feel like these problems need to be solved quickly.
  • Providing education and training: Leaders can provide education and training to their employees on diversity, equity, and inclusion. This can help to raise awareness and understanding and provide employees with the tools they need to promote these values within the organization.
  • Building a diverse workforce: Leaders can make a concerted effort to build a diverse workforce by creating opportunities for diverse representation in leadership positions and by actively recruiting and hiring candidates from underrepresented groups.
  • Encourage open communication: Leaders can facilitate open communication and create a culture of transparency where employees feel comfortable sharing their perspectives and experiences. This can help the organization find and fix any problems that get in the way of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Encourages hiring diversity: Leaders can promote diversity in hiring and promotion practices and actively seek out and listen to underrepresented perspectives. Leaders can make the workplace more inclusive and fair for everyone by taking an active and public role in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Inclusion is a core leadership value: Many workers will have their doubts. It’s natural to assume that. In contrast, leaders have the power to compel compliant behavior from their staff. People’s beliefs may not be something you have the right to dictate at the office, but you can set standards for how they should behave toward one another. Individual contributors who refuse to conform to the new standards make it easier to fire them.

The way a company is run can make or break its efforts to make the workplace more fair and welcoming. Effective leaders appreciate the significance of these principles and work to instill them in the organization’s DNA through its policies and daily operations.

In a nutshell

DEI won’t work if leaders actively work against their diversity support team or don’t have enough faith in them. If you’re not successful in winning over skeptics, someone will need to decide whether or not they belong in leadership, on the DEI leadership team, or anywhere near it. Do you want a leader who, despite being good at their “actual job,” can’t or won’t embrace and model inclusive behavior so everyone in the workplace feels welcome? That line of thought is what helped to normalize workplace sexual harassment.

You’ve already lost before you even begin if you don’t hold leaders to the same standards. When top management either shirks or is unprepared for their role as real leaders of the DEI endeavor, it drives up the cost of the project and delays its completion.