Embed DEI into Company DNA

by Sep 16, 2022

When we talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion, people want to start thinking about holding hands and skipping through the sunflowers. This is so important for leaders to get. They have to understand that maybe somebody’s life is at stake. It’s not usually that serious, but for the people who are experiencing microaggressions, bullying, and the loneliness of going to work every day and not having anyone to talk to, the mental health aspects of that alone are just astounding. Leaders have got to start getting this.

Unconscious Bias

We all have biases that stay with us. It’s innate and embedded in our brains. We have to interrupt it. We can identify it, we can see it, we can point to it, and then we can stop ourselves. So, when we’re about to make a decision, there is a point where we can literally say, 

“You’re about to make a decision. Before you make this decision do you have all of the facts?”

“Have you really done what was necessary to make sure that this was equitable?”

“Did you open it up to everybody?” 

“Have you looked at all of them in context?” 

Just make sure that before you do those things, you start to have those conversations with yourself, and you will make fewer biased decisions over time. 

There are concepts and things that you may not understand, and then there needs to be some education around what those things are. You have to immerse yourself in this. You have to start educating yourself and that includes having conversations with people who are different from you to start to open up your mind to being able to even receive the information because then you can start to identify where you might be falling short and then you can do something different to start talking to ourselves, at the very least, about our bias. Then have conversations with other people.

Create inclusivity in the workplace 

Everyone would like to come to work and do their job. The problem is, there are some people who want to but can’t even come to work because the organization won’t hire them. There are some who will come to work and don’t have the opportunity to be heard or promoted because of who they are. This is why it is a workplace issue. 

Where does it start? The big place is always in recruiting. Everybody thinks that they’ll just hire more and just get a bigger talent pool and that will fix the issue. It doesn’t. Because if you are bringing people into your talent pool, then you’re not hiring them right. People will come up with every excuse under the sun. 

Fix these issues

  • Look at the entry-level positions

We need to look at the barriers that exist that are stopping people from getting promoted. 

  • Taking down existing barriers 

They can’t work their way up to that board seat because there’s nobody who’s been able to work their way through the system. Concentrating on board seats will not solve the problem.

  • Conduct an assessment related to DEI

An organization needs to believe that an assessment will help. Don’t be afraid of an assessment. It is not something that you need to shy away from. It is something that is going to help you. It’s about identifying the places where things are working so you can duplicate them.

  • Show to your employees that you’re listening

You’re going to find out what’s wrong, and it’s going to be in writing. It will make a huge difference in understanding your culture.

  • Make sure that DEI is embedded into the DNA of the organization

A lot of times, DEI is an HR initiative. Every nook and cranny of the organization’s got to understand that or you’ve got to weave DEI in there. It definitely has to be embedded in there, and the way that gets there is from the leadership.

That is something that comes from the top down. As soon as the top leaders, CEOs, and their executive teams start to see why this is important, they will start to create and internalize a story around this. All of a sudden, everybody else gets in line, and all of a sudden, it’s a high priority.

The vision clears and there is clarity about how to do these things right. When employees see that there is authenticity, that they are living it, that they understand it, then all of a sudden it becomes a priority for the department heads, talent acquisition leads, for all the HR business partners, and all of the managers. We have to convince leaders that this is important and get their true buy-in in order for it to be successful.

What we can do is help others to see it. DEI helps you to change the people, and if the people won’t change, then we change the people. Make sure your workplace is a place where people feel good, included, valued and that they can be themselves.

Based on our episode, Embed DEI into Company DNA” with Stacey Gordon

When it comes to DEI, language matters…and it’s constantly evolving. Are you using the right terminology in your organization? Download our DEI Terminology Cheat Sheet and see how you stack up.


About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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