By Gil Manzano, SHRM-SCP, Senior Director, Operations, ACI Specialty Benefits, an AllOne Health Company

The last three years have been fraught with challenges for many organizations. Human resources professionals and other leaders found themselves navigating through the pandemic and addressing social subjects, such as racial tensions and political differences, that all impacted the mental health of workplaces across the country. The culmination of these issues forced many employers to take a step back to better understand their needs or assess their initiatives around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Many were not ready or prepared to tackle the subject. According to a recent article published by Marketplace, many organizations created chief diversity officer roles without much success. Companies have to be patient to see real results. So where to start? How does an organization address all the challenges above effectively while promoting the importance of self-care to employees and remembering to engage in it yourself?

Go at it one step at a time.

If we begin by focusing on Inclusion, leaders need to be prepared to embrace the role of thought leader. This means recognizing that there are no check-box solutions like simply meeting a quota for the number of people of color (POC) hired. While that’s a start, it’s just not enough. You can’t just invite people to the dance. You must be willing to ask them to join you on the floor to dance. This allows them the opportunity to show off their dance skills, learn new styles, and have a good time.

Examine how your organization stacks up when it comes to inclusion. Remember, inclusion is an area that touches different areas of HR within an organization; talent acquisition, compensation, and employee development. What does the organization look like from the top down? Do pay disparities exist amongst different groups that warrant further examination and action? Do you have programs that support the career advancement of your POC employees? Does the organization invest in the aging members of the workforce?

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers a four-phase approach, which is then broken down into nine steps, to developing a DEI initiative:

  1. Data collection and analysis to determine the need for change
  2. Strategy design to match business objectives
  3. Implementation of the initiative
  4. Evaluation and continuing audit of the plan

If your organization has already built the infrastructure for a DEI program, initiatives, and policies, then what else can you do? Is there an opportunity for them to evolve? This piece has intentionally been peppered with questions. That is intentional. The questions are meant to stimulate reflection not only in our workplaces but in ourselves. Do the HR practices demonstrate that the organization embraces the whole person, to the extent that each individual feels included?  This is a process, and there is no quick-fix solution. As you move forward with your plan(s), beware of solely focusing on one group. Involve your people by creating committees.  Inclusion spans people of different cultures, religions, ideas, disabilities and veteran status, communication styles, gender identity, political views, sexual orientation, and beyond. Visibility and representation is the goal.

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