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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging: It Starts with a Conversation

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Let’s Talk About It

Committing to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEI&B) is not about having a feel-good story; it’s not even about being an employer of choice. DEI&B is about the success of your business and, quite frankly, doing the right thing. The world is changing and prioritizing having a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization where every employee, at every level of the organization, knows they can bring their whole self to work is key.

All areas of DEI&B are important and must be addressed. Many employers jump to hiring as the solution for DEI&B at their organization. While that does need to be part of the overall conversation, where it really starts, is within your organization where it is today. To put it another way: make sure your house is in order before adding new members to the household.

Look around; your organization may be more diverse than you think. A common assumption employers make is that diversity = race/ethnicity. It doesn’t. Diversity is simply difference. When you think about it, everyone is different from the next person. When you look at it that way, it’s harder to understand why it seems so complicated, right? It seems complicated because we’re overthinking it. Addressing DEI&B isn’t scary when we see it for what it is. However, many leaders feel like they are behind when they address it, not realizing that, while it does take time, energy and expertise to fully address DEI&B, they’re further ahead than they might think.

There are many reasons leaders have shied away from fully embracing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. One that I’ve heard over and over again is, “I don’t know enough about it and I don’t want to say the wrong thing.” That’s understandable.

No matter what we do for a living, no matter how confident we are, there’s a real fear of the consequences of “messing up” or worse, having that mistake go viral. Even those of us that work in the “people business,” also known as Human Resources, forget that everyone is human.

So, what happens if we start being very intentional about remembering that?

First, it starts with a conversation. Let’s admit it, nobody wants to talk about difference, not at work anyway. The fact is, everyone is talking about it, but these conversations are happening in the circles where people are most comfortable – with their friends and family and in pockets at work. Since, we’re all talking about it separately anyway, we might as well talk about it together.

Here’s the thing, you can’t skip the conversation. We all kind of want to, no matter what we look like or what we think about difference. I get it. Still, I repeat: you can’t skip the conversation.

It can be incredibly uncomfortable. You absolutely may say the “wrong thing.” You may find out that you are, in fact, human, and guess what? You will find out that everyone else is human too.

Fair warning: I do not advocate trying to do this without experienced facilitators. I’ve had clients try to do that and they found out quickly and messily, there is a significant difference in outcome.

What I’ve found when I’ve facilitated these conversations internally and externally (is that everyone starts out hesitant. And then something magical happens. People start to see that, for all their differences, they have a lot in common. Not only do the differences start to matter less, they are embraced. Teamwork improves. Performance improves. Innovation improves. Everything improves when everyone feels fully seen, heard and valued.

We all have our quirks. Everyone thinks there is something unique (or even weird) about them. Maybe and… maybe not. We’ll only find out when we start having real conversations with each other.

Yes, you have to be honest about some pretty tough stuff. Yes, you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable. Yes, it will be hard and guess what? Yes, it will be worth it.

Visit OneDigital's Racial Equity Hub to learn more about addressing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in your workplace.