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05. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Series: DEI for Success

We are going to drop you into a story that takes place at a fictious SMB. While the main goal of this story is to provide ideas around setting DEI initiatives for success, we will touch on a variety of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) themes.

Published: Jul 30, 2021

Take it from the top.

Creating a DEI culture in the workplace can’t happen overnight. It also won’t happen if leadership isn’t on board—and creating a respectful environment. 48% of employees feel that respect is the most essential factor for a culture of inclusion. Quantum Workplace, Diversity and Inclusion: What It Is, Why It Matters and How to Make it a Priority, Sept.1, 2020.

Do you know what your employees think of your diversity efforts? Where is your business on the path to making DEI part of your every day?

DEI for Success

TriNet’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion series is designed to provide ideas around having a diverse workforce. You will see avenues the characters can take in the conversation below. These are just a few potential paths we believe to be helpful and are not meant to be considered as the only possible outcomes. Feel free to navigate to a different path at the bottom of the page.

The main things you need to know are

  • This fictional SMB is not very far into its corporate DEI journey

  • The story includes real-life content

  • The story takes place in the not-too-distant future. This company is a point in the future where employees have returned-to-work safely.

  • We’ve intentionally made certain story points vague for you to fill in with your inherent biases. Try to see if you can catch yourself “filling in the gaps” as you read!

Standing together

“Oh no, not again!” Pat said. Pat reread the email.

"What's wrong?" asked Dylan. The company engaged Dylan, a DEI consultant, about six months ago to support the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Over 18 months ago, the company and its employees had been saddened by what happened to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other People of Color POC💡. These events and the Black Lives Matter movement were a catalyst for the executives to take a step back and think through what they could or should do as a company. They realized that the injustices taking place against people of color in the U.S. were the result of a lengthy institutionalized legacy and that companies could play a role in helping to end it. Pat worked closely with Laura and Luke, the co-CEOs, to focus on DEI efforts. They announced that diversity, equity and inclusion would become an important company priority. Pat had witnessed incremental improvements in the company culture since she had transitioned from a hybrid Accountant/HR role to exclusively working as the company’s HR lead after obtaining a professional HR certification. But Pat needed help and Dylan was a welcome addition.

Pat responded with disappointment. “It looks like the SVP of the marketing organization scheduled a happy hour celebration after completing the Anderson ad campaign—a major account for us. Aisha, our communications manager, just emailed you and I to express concern.”

Dylan looked perplexed. "Again, what's wrong? Happy hour sounds like fun and something I wish I could be doing right now."

"Well, Dylan... here’s the thing. Aisha happens to be Muslim and does not drink. Aisha is noting that the celebration invitation is light on details and is simply a calendar invite to a local bar.”

Dylan immediately felt a bit embarrassed that he didn’t catch on earlier. Dylan was the DEI consultant after all; Dylan felt he should have been aware that people can have religous or a number of other personal reasons for not joining a happy hour. Dylan nods and says, “Now I understand. Aisha probably feels obligated to attend so she doesn’t miss out on ‘face time’ with the leaders and her colleagues. But, at the same time, she feels uncomfortable being surrounded by those who are drinking, because of her religious values. By not attending, she may feel like she’s missing out on social interactions that could help her progress in her career. Ultimately this could be seen as an inclusion and equity💡 issue.”

Pat nodded in agreement while scanning Aisha’s email again, “Exactly. Looks like in her email she indicates that she’s not sure what to do. She was even hesitant in sending this email – she doesn’t want to be perceived as a complainer, which could potentially negatively impact her career more than just ignoring the situation and not attending. She wants to feel like work is a safe space💡 where she can truly be herself.”

Dylan noticed that Pat looked more drained than usual. Pat’s enthusiasm for the company’s DEI efforts appeared to be waning—not because Pat didn’t care, but because despite the great strides Pat felt like they were making to create a safe work environment, maybe they hadn’t made as much progress as Pat had hoped.

“Honestly, I am just frustrated,” Pat continued. “Why does it feel like no matter what we do, it doesn’t make that much difference. We have done a lot. After what happened to George Floyd, we donated a large sum of money to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF)💡. We hired you. We celebrate Black History Month. We launched employee resource groups ERGs💡. I mean, what more can we do? Why isn’t this happening faster?”

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