Folks who are passionate about driving change often have no shortage of ideas for boosting DEIB efforts at their workplace. As a company full of passionate, DEIB-focused changemakers, we know that firsthand. But whether your goal is retaining diverse talent or improving belonging in the workplace, an idea is only as good as its execution — and the starting point for execution is buy-in.
Buy-in is necessary from all levels of an organization— and especially from managers, who are linchpins in the success of any company’s DEIB efforts. According to a 2020 McKinsey report, even “relatively diverse companies face significant challenges in creating work environments characterized by inclusive leadership and accountability among managers.”
Support from the C-suite is essential, too. According to PwC's Global Diversity and Inclusion survey, executives at "DEIB-leader" organizations are nearly twice as likely (73%) as those at "DEIB-laggard" organizations (38%) to communicate the value of DEIB regularly.
So, how can HR managers and DEIB advocates get company leadership to buy into their DEIB efforts?
1. Connect DEIB initiatives to business goals.
Studies published in the Harvard Business Review show that senior executives dismiss good ideas from below far too often, especially if they don’t already perceive an idea’s relevance to organizational performance. That’s true of DEIB initiatives, too.
It’s essential to make sure everyone understands how DEIB initiatives directly impact business goals – such as increased employee engagement, improved customer service, or retention of top talent – so that all stakeholders are aware of the tangible benefits of investing in these efforts. To understand the impact of the “B” in DEIB, for instance, consider that when employees feel they belong:
- They are 6x more engaged in their work
- There’s a 56% increase in job performance
- 75% fewer sick days are taken
You might also spell out some of the detrimental consequences of not prioritizing DEIB, too — especially when a number of your competitors undoubtedly aren’t making the same mistake. Consider that:
- The cash flow of diverse companies is 2.3 times higher than that of companies with less-diverse staff;
- Companies that actively recruit and support underrepresented talent are 70% more likely to capture new markets compared to companies that don’t invest in DEIB hiring and retention; and,
- Racially diverse executive teams provide an advantage of 35% higher EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) and 33% more long-term value creation than racially homogenous leadership teams.
2. Leverage both data and storytelling.
The relationship between business success and DEIB is, as nodded to above, well-studied. For many executive-level decision makers, concrete numbers can help with better perceiving the urgency and importance of DEIB. While presenting your case, though, it’s best to not solely rely on the data.
Include human stories with illustrative examples of the ways DEIB initiatives can improve employee satisfaction and well-being. Leveraging both qualitative and quantitative data will create a well-rounded argument as to why your organization needs to invest in these efforts, now.
3. Emphasize the value of leadership buy-in.
Harvard Business Review notes that CEOs “need to take a public stance, embed D&I in the organization’s purpose, exemplify the culture, and take responsibility for progress toward goals. They need to be out front, even if a Chief Diversity Officer is part of the team.”
Once your leaders understand the importance of DEIB and have a minimum of awareness around the issues or initiatives you’re advocating for, help them see the critical role they play in advancing your organization’s DEIB efforts — not just by supporting initiatives with financial and human resources, but also by setting an example.
4. Acknowledge why buy-in might be difficult.
When trying to get buy-in for DEIB initiatives, it's common for people to resist change or want more information. McKinsey noted in its 2020 Diversity Wins report that “in spite of the strong business case for DEIB, some organizational leaders have indicated that DEI is a ‘luxury we cannot afford.’”
Be patient and understand that not everyone will immediately agree with the changes you're suggesting. Even if they do, it may take some time for them to adjust their thinking and behaviors in order to become true champions of change themselves. Overcome this roadblock by building a relationship with stakeholders and gaining their trust, before selling them your DEIB initiatives.
Running up against budget limitations? There are plenty of low-cost DEIB initiatives you can implement and begin to scale even during an economic downturn. To get around upper-leadership hesitancy, be specific and realistic about the resources your DEIB efforts will require.
5. Co-create your initiatives with allies.
According to a report by Gartner, employees often struggle with promoting DEIB. “Only one-third of employees agree that they can influence inclusion at their organization,” the report states. “Furthermore, only 27% of employees feel that their organization informs them of opportunities to promote inclusion in their day-to-day work.”
Forming allies across the company hierarchy can give your DEIB efforts a real push, especially by involving these allies in co-creating initiatives. People who feel involved in the process are more likely to support the effort.
Whether it be employees from marginalized backgrounds or recruitment managers, ensure their inputs are keyed in. This could include getting people’s feedback during the early stages of program development, or simply using them as a sounding board for ideas.
6. Show that you’re listening.
DEIB initiatives shouldn't be created in silos. Show that you’re listening to the concerns of your stakeholders, particularly employees. Create space for dialogue and feedback by communicating with folks informally and letting them know that you’re always open to talk about DEIB issues they care about.
This could involve implementing employee feedback surveys or focus groups – either online or offline – so that every employee has a chance to get involved, give input, and make meaningful change. Also consider holding regular listening sessions, and set up an anonymous online “hotline” for reporting concerns, too.
7. Find the right time and place.
Figuring out when to bring up DEIB issues can be tricky, but there are several factors that can help guide this decision. Consider the group dynamics and environment: is the timing appropriate, or could the topic be more strategically slated?
For instance, it may not be optimal timing to raise the issue of hiring diverse talent during a period of layoffs. But right after a DEIB training is a great time to suggest the idea of celebrating different cultures’ festivals at the office.
Further, read the room. Is there an opportunity for a meaningful dialogue based on mutual respect and understanding? What power dynamics may be at play, if any? Keeping these questions in mind can help the conversation progress in a respectful and productive way.
8. Minimize moral framing.
There is no doubt that creating a diverse, equal, and inclusive environment that fosters belonging is not just a business imperative, but a moral one, too. But veer clear of moralizing during your presentations or discussions with stakeholders.
According to HBR, research has found that moral framing appears to be less powerful than business framing, showing that instances of moral framing were associated with failed attempts or uneven results. HBR also notes that “when issue sellers peddle their principles too aggressively, people may react negatively to what they perceive as a judgement of their character.”
9. Provide ongoing training and support.
According to a BCG report, while managers make up or influence 80% of a company’s workforce, they often receive just 20% to 30% of the organization’s attention in training. Managers, as we have seen, are pivotal to implementing new initiatives and policies within their teams—and they also make some of the best candidates for DEIB training.
Don’t go it alone.
DEIB initiatives are highly essential for organizational success, and they also require specialized knowledge and skills to implement successfully. PowerToFly can help.