Whatever your D&I initiative, the more diversity and inclusion within your initiative, the better you are setting it up for success. Initiatives designed to increase diversity and inclusion benefit greatly from multiple perspectives that diversity will bring. It also brings in the opportunity to lead by example and practice what is preached through inclusive practices. Therefore, before getting very far, look around at your leaders, stakeholders, team members, and other members of the initiative. How diverse is your D&I team?
One quick note: diversity is the range of people and inclusion is celebrating, respecting, and engaging each one of them. Groups that are all people of color or all women or all people who identify as being excluded in one form or another is not diversity. Neither is a group of high-ranking white men. In addition to diversity of demographics, role, and background, in order to truly understand the facets of a D&I challenge, you need diversity of experience with inclusion – those who feel marginalized or excluded in one form or another and those who didn’t realize it was happening.
If your organization doesn’t have a wealth of diversity – “that is why we are doing this D&I thing; we need D&I” – there are still options.
For those who are looking to increase diversity and inclusion within the D&I effort, or those who have little diversity to begin with, there are options.
1) Call for volunteers
There may be more diversity than you realize within your organization.
If appropriate, make an open call for volunteers to join the D&I effort. Explain the intent and goals of the initiative, along with the duration, commitment, and responsibilities of the volunteers. Tell the organization that the initiative needs participants who have experienced exclusionary practices and those who never realized there was a problem. Everyone is welcome who has a passion for the initiative and goals and want to be part of the solution.
2) Seek outside help
If there is still not enough diversity in the group, consider engaging outside help. Look for those who can add depth to the understanding of the challenges you are looking to address. Those who specialize in D&I, culture, or inclusive talent acquisition, for example. Or even those from similar industries who are willing to share their story and experiences.
When engaging with outside resources, make sure the goals and intent of the initiatives are clear as well as your expectations for their participation. And, as with any consultant or other outside firms, don’t skip the due diligence. There are many out there who will claim a lot but have little to show for it.
3) Augment with free/low-cost resources
Not everyone has access to diverse participation or can afford consultants to augment the team. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have access to great external knowledge. Check out the wide collection of webinars, podcasts, blogs, books, and other publicly available D&I and awareness training content. While it won’t provide all the depth and detail that you may need, it’s a great start.
Like with everything else, quality will vary widely. In addition to reviewing content for quality and alignment before you share it, research the source. Who is creating the content impacts both the focus and purpose. For example, vendors want you to buy their products, consultants want you to buy their services, and influencers want you to do as they recommend so they get endorsements or meet their initiatives. It doesn’t mean these materials are any less valuable (they can be greatly valuable like this article, for example, is brought to you by an HR tech vendor), but awareness will keep you from being brought down an unexpected or unintentional path.