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HR as a Strategic Diversity Partner

When diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues rise to the forefront, Human Resources is often an early player in creating solutions – and executing on the work. But when it comes time to dive into long-term strategic DEI planning for the whole organization, HR leaders aren’t always at the table.

At IBIS, our clients achieve their DEI goals more easily when HR is a key partner in strategic planning, especially since so much of it involves HR systems such as:

  • Hiring & Recruitment
  • Employee Development
  • Performance Management & Succession Planning
  • Calibration
  • Global Collaboration

How can HR be set up to succeed as a strategic diversity partner?

First, we recommend clearly identifying the role of the HR team as diversity champions and inclusive leaders. When company leaders recognize and engage the strategic role that HR plays in strategic DEI planning, and development of the culture of the organization as a whole, they can publicly speak to HR as a leader in DEI practices and help set expectations around the team’s investment in culture change and equity.

Second, it’s easier for the HR leader to contribute strategic DEI leadership when they can benefit from training and education in current DEI issues specifically impacting their organization, and then extend that awareness to the rest of the HR team.

Finally, when the HR team is empowered to role-model inclusion and equitable practices, all managers in the organization will be better equipped and supported on their DEI journey.

Human Resources sets a crucial tone for the culture of the organization when they consistently do the following:

  1. Communicate support for DEI
  2. Attract and engage with diverse staff and candidates
  3. Demonstrate commitment through action
  4. Communicate the business rationale for DEI in a compelling manner to get buy-in from key stakeholders
  5. Practice having difficult DEI conversations and using their influencing skills to impact DEI decisions
  6. Determine personal actions that integrate learning within one’s sphere of influence

When HR is left out of strategy and focuses solely on task execution, everyone loses out on the opportunity to weave HR’s unique vantage point into the strategic direction of the organization.

How does HR learn to position themselves as DEI leaders? At IBIS, we use a proprietary model called the F.L.E.X. tool to help those in key roles to build effective and inclusive cultures.

F.L.E.X. is an acronym that starts with self-awareness and expands that understanding outward to the organization: Focus Within, Learn From Others, Engage in Dialogue, and eXpand Your Options. When HR leaders follow this model, they achieve success over time and learn to explore the many dimensions of each stage.

For instance, when an HR leader Engages in Dialogue, they…

Educate: inform people by sharing data and facts
Explore: investigate and examine situations to inform conversations that build understanding
Enlist: this work cannot be done alone, and requires alliances, coalitions and support

HR leaders also work hand-in-hand with Learning & Development teams to help extend and build awareness and understanding throughout the organization.

While IBIS has seen organizations experience rapid progress from targeted DEI training and our in-demand Interactive Theater sessions, there is research that both supports and denies the effectiveness of the broad category of “diversity training.”

The work of building awareness, as crucial as it is, is not enough to achieve strategic DEI goals; specific skills, actions and policy changes are also required.

That’s why, to succeed in cultural transformation, we encourage clients to focus on both individuals and systems.

When we deliver training and education, it is specifically designed to investigate the conversations and scenarios experienced by those learners that reflect their day-to-day challenges in order to support systemic change.

Many best practices, concepts, learnings and goals fold into the strategic development of DEI initiatives for each organization, and every leader needs support, including HR and the CEO.

IBIS is here to offer support for anyone working on developing a more inclusive culture at their organization, and learning how to encourage the empowerment of HR teams in the development of DEI strategy. Contact us today.

Cedar Pruitt is a Senior Consultant at IBIS specializing in leadership and culture that allows everyone to thrive, whether it’s at a competitive university, mid-size financial firm, an innovative start-up, or something completely different.