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Not Just HR’s Job: How to Set Your Organization up for Success

I don’t think I’d ever seen a Human Resources representative go quite so pale, quite so fast.

Our team of IBIS consultants had just concluded a presentation for the key leaders of a company. We included a full 360° Inclusive Organization Framework (IOF) assessment and specific recommendations and we could tell the client was pleased with both the process and thorough recommendations. However, what the CEO said next was quite unexpected.

“This is fantastic, and there is clearly so much work to be done. I’m so glad we just added someone else to our HR team, who definitely has an interest in this area. We can’t wait to see what she does with all of this!”

Stop. Right. There.

This is often where things can go awry with D&I efforts: there’s been a lot of talk and potentially some assessment, but no official plan put in place, and all responsibility is handed off to one or two people who already feel overwhelmed, unsupported, eventually isolated, and ultimately set up to fail.

For a company to truly commit to D&I, simply hiring more diverse people and making sure everyone is happy just won’t cut it. It is about changing the culture of an organization and the way it does business. And it takes a village.

The IOF assessment explores 14 key organizational areas across an organization (such as recruiting and hiring, employee engagement, career development, succession planning, marketing, community relations, and corporate image), and then considers over 400 best-practices that could potentially be put in place to help both the employees and company thrive.

Generally speaking, companies might already be participating in some of those best practices, but there end up being countless additional steps that could have a positive impact on both the employee experience and bottom dollar.

There are so many ways that D&I can be valuable that it often feels overwhelming to decide where to begin, let alone who should hold responsibility.

But think back to the worried HR director. For any organizational change to work well, it must have many owners. No one person can do everything, and the culture evolution is most effective when driven by the organizational leader.

If your organization is truly ready to create an informed D&I plan, here are 10 pointers for how you can prepare for success:

  1. Assign oversight of the entire initiative to one accountable person, such as a CIO, or CEO, or Diversity & Inclusion manager.
  2. Tie the D&I goals to leaders’ performance metrics & compensation.
  3. Hold one another accountable; be transparent with your goals and accomplishments.
  4. Share responsibility to avoid burnout.
  5. Make sure all project leaders have adequate resources.
  6. Think big. Be bold.
  7. Create an informed strategy. Make sure your plan is integrated, meaning that the overarching goals also appear in the personal goals of the operational managers. Enlist the help of subject matter experts (external consultants and/or internal talent).
  8. Confirm that the value proposition is understood in each department, not only by the leaders, but also by their entire teams.
  9. Make sure your highest-level leader is onboard and committed to participating.
    • This person should hold enough power to put pressure on people when delivery is delayed and to connect individuals with sufficient resources to set them up for success.
    • If there is not someone who is clearly suitable and capable of maintaining this responsibility, then consider engaging an interim seasoned consultant for the first 6-12 months (even if on a part-time or retainer-basis) to help get efforts organized and off the ground, as leaders contemplate who can permanently hold this important responsibility.
  10.  Hang in there. The D&I journey takes time, and sometimes things can even feel worse before they start to get better. But keep going. It is worth the effort!

Dr. Tom Bourdon is a dedicated and enthusiastic diversity and inclusion expert who brings over fifteen years of experience to IBIS, where he serves as a Senior Consultant. Prior to IBIS, Tom has held senior positions at various social justice, LGBTQ, non-profit and education-focused organizations. Additionally, Tom has been an adjunct professor at Merrimack College since 2013, where he teaches masters-level courses in diversity and identity development.