Now more than ever, diversity, equity and inclusion are taking center stage—and rightly so. 

After doing this work for a number of years, our team knows with certainty that integrating the work across the organization is critical to its success. Any time DEI lives on its own as a project, or you have a DEI team that is operating out on its own, organizational change will be fragmented, at best. DEI strategy needs to be a part of the fabric of the organization and link to the overarching organizational strategic plan to be effective. Benefits of an integrated DEI strategy include enhanced decision making, increased financial performance and strengthened employee engagement.

If your organization already has a DEI task force or advisory team, a great next step is to begin bridging the gap between the people who are doing the DEI work and the organization itself by overlaying DEI onto other areas where it may not be present. Embedding DEI into your systems and considering how your workforce interacts with one another also ensures long-term sustainability of DEI efforts. Doing so will also help your organization stay relevant, innovative and connected to your community. 

Here’s what is most important: Regardless of where your organization’s starting point is, there are three essential elements to look at as you begin to integrate DEI across your organization. They are: transparency, power-sharing and accountability.

Part Three: Accountability

Following the murder of George Floyd last summer, organizations released grandiose statements of their approach and commitment to DEI. Then, staff and constituents began to hold their organizations accountable—especially if that statement perpetuated a false narrative. In this way, accountability is increasingly showing up internally among staff holding their organization accountable, as well as externally as the organization’s constituents report what they are seeing or not seeing. 

Accountability is getting clear on who’s responsible for what aspects of the work. For example, leadership should be modeling the behaviors rooted in their organizational values. This will reinforce what they want to see across the rest of the organization as it relates to how the work gets done: being vulnerable, engaging in conversations and building cultural competency. 

Also, accountability is related to performance and measures. Measuring progress toward goals is important. Measuring DEI goals is absolutely essential—which could be around hiring processes, job satisfaction or employee retention. It’s about identifying the way to measure progress and identifying who is responsible for that progress. This is where accountability links to transparency: Goals and progress must be clearly communicated.

Accountability has a number of dimensions and it shows up at all levels. In addition to the leadership level, each staff member is responsible for owning their own sphere of influence. For example, employees can help create a more inclusive environment by addressing microaggressions in the workplace. Then, ensure accountability is documented in a way that can be tracked. If it is a part of the performance management process, leadership can hold employees accountable. Often, leadership is held accountable by their board of directors, funders and other external stakeholders. It’s important to create multiple accountability points throughout the organization and for people to be aware of those points because when it’s not clear who is responsible, no one is responsible. 

Working in Tandem

When accountability, transparency and power-sharing are fully integrated, best practices are utilized, as they work in conjunction with one another. Transparency around decision making is also an accountability feature of a working group, leadership or staff and allows power-sharing to occur. When these three things are aligned, an inclusive workplace can surface and be sustained. Also, staff that feel like they belong and an organization that prioritizes, values and grows its people create long-term success. 

Integrating DEI is about reimagining our people management and business systems and our approach to this work. At the end of the day, these three elements stem past DEI to transform the culture of an organization by fostering a climate where staff are seen, valued, heard, respected and can flourish in their roles. This translates to the strengthening of not only your bottom line, but also team cohesion, productivity and a better ability to increase mission impact.

keys to Integrating DEI: Transparency, Power-Sharing and Accountability - Contributing Nonprofit HR Authors

Diversity:

  • Who is present? 
  • What identities are there? 
  • What identities are not? 

Equity:

  • How are your people management systems working together? 
  • Are things fair/equitable in compensation, promotion and across the full HR lifecycle? 
  • Are your people management systems creating opportunities for people to flourish in their role and organization as a whole?

Inclusion:

  • What does the sense of belonging—the employees’ connection to the organization—look like? 
  • Do you have a sense of their satisfaction level with the work they’re achieving? 
  • Do you have a sense of how they see themselves as they relate to others?