At a diversity-focused book talk at a Fortune 500 company, one person asked a profound question. “Will we really be able to change the culture of this company if the same people are the only ones in these spaces, time and time again?” They noted that despite being a massive company, only 15 people were at the book talk, and most DEI-related events for that matter. So it was kind of like the author was preaching to the choir.
It’s crucial to get as many people as possible involved in these types of conversations. Especially if one of the end goals is to create a workplace that celebrates and lives out diversity, equity, and inclusion. Here are some ways you can engage more employees and bring more voices into the conversations.
1. Integrate DEI into regular meetings
Make DEI-related announcements during already existing staff meetings. Weaving conversations into regular meetings signals the importance. Discussing DEI topics is more normalized rather than being siloed off. You’ll also communicate that the organization considers DEI efforts key to day-to-day functioning.
2. Set a cadence
Avoid the “one and done” mentality. Creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment is a continuous endeavor. Make some DEI training, workshops, or seminars required. Plus, set a cadence of how often both mandatory and optional events take place. What happens monthly, quarterly, and bi-annually? Employees will get into a rhythm and learn that these conversations will continue indefinitely.
3. Offer asynchronous trainings
Of course, we can’t make everything mandatory and sync up all schedules. Work must go on! So create a hub of resources that employees can access at any time. Cover a wide array of topics like implicit bias, inclusive leadership, and building engagement with diverse teams. Periodically release asynchronous trainings and reward teams with the highest completion rate for some healthy competition.
4. Establish common language
It’s common for people to fear they’ll say the wrong thing during DEI conversations. Create plenty of learning opportunities. Highlight DEI-related holidays with educational information. Try out “term of the month” where a different term is selected and discussed each month in team meetings. The idea is to establish comfortability around these terms, topics, and conversations.
5. Put ownership in employee hands
Give your employees autonomy so they can learn firsthand. You could do so by assigning the “term of the month” to different departments each month. Let interested employees come up with activities for DEI holidays. It’s also great to gain insights from your employees to share with the company. For example, interview and learn from Hispanic employees during Hispanic Heritage Month.
6. Incentivize exceptional engagement
Recognize and reward the most engaged employees. Utilize points, increased bonuses, social shoutouts and more. Your naturally involved and enthusiastic employees will receive much-deserved praise. And you’ll simultaneously incentivize and inspire everyone else in your organization!
Make it your goal to engage as much of your workforce as possible in promoting DEI. Even if it means lightening the workload for employees to be able to participate in these conversations. Because when more employees are involved, the benefits will build on themselves. You’ll begin to create a space that is both safe and inspiring for everyone.