Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI for short), is popping up everywhere, much like mushrooms after rain, which in Finland are incredibly plentiful this year. Both these phenomena make me immensely happy.
I have started receiving more and more invitations to go and talk about DEI, and I am always happy to make time for that. One of the big reasons for me to want to be an ambassador for these themes is to support the listeners at these events to embark on the DEI-journey with the right mindset and approach. See, many organizations still seem to think that a uniform DEI-training across the personnel is all it takes to be able to claim that these questions are taken seriously and dealt with in a responsible manner. Often this ‘accomplishment’ is also shared, but externally!
Well, the first rule when starting a DEI journey within an organization is to stick to developing and maintaining internal dialogue around these important themes. DEI-work is not something that should be done with external rewards in mind (even if they may well be a consequence of a job well done). The atmosphere within the organization can quickly turn sour, if personnel senses that the goal is to appear good rather than be good. DEI-work needs to be approached with an open mind and willingness to face some uncomfortable truths about the existing challenges within an organization. We all have skeletons in the closet, we just need to address them appropriately.
A good way to start the journey is to conduct a DEI self-assessment. There are many tools, but this one covers many areas in a well-structured manner. It gives a good idea of what a healthy approach to DEI looks like in practice. Such an assessment can be used as a basis for conducting a DEI-evaluation within the company. However, it is important to communicate (again, internally) why an evaluation is done and how the results will be used when developing the organizational culture further. An ongoing dialogue should be maintained, particularly with the marginalized groups, and solutions developed in collaboration with them. This helps ensure they feel comfortable with the process and its outcome(s). The goals and the significance of the process need to be communicated to the entire personnel to create shared understanding. DEI-work does not thrive in a vacuum.
It is important to recognize, that while many DEI challenges are shared by different organizations, their solutions should always reflect the organizational culture and the particular needs of the marginalized groups within. This means that one size, indeed, does not fit all, and therefore broad “trainings” are likely to achieve little benefit.
And here is a loop back to the Finnish forests: the mushrooms that are sprouting like crazy right now are all different, yet there are so many different kinds that are delicious to eat. And just like we all enjoy a good meal (with or without mushrooms), we all enjoy working in a workplace that strives to make everyone feel included and happy.
DEI-work is something to be enjoyed, and that enjoyment will automatically be noticeable to the external observer. And there is no harm in telling the world about your DEI-successes, either, once your most important people – your personnel – are kept up-to-date, included and happy.
CSR Specialist, FIBS
Finnish Diversity Charter representative
The article was originally published on EU Platform of Diversity Charters Newsletter (October 2023)
Read more about FIBS’s DEI services
- FIBS’s diversity services help companies increase their competitiveness and profitability
- FIBS’s Diversity and Inclusion self-assessment tool