Why DEI Efforts Can’t Be Limited to HR

If DEI is a horizontal rather than vertical effort, it becomes clear that every team is responsible for creating and sustaining a more equitable organization.

Too often, it’s assumed that DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) is HR’s “job,” or solely the domain of the Chief Diversity Officer. But frankly, this critical initiative can’t be all on one team or leader—every department has a part to play in this sea change.

In fact, we can learn from the rise of innovation efforts within organizations over the past decade. Put simply, the mere existence of an innovation lab doesn’t make an organization more innovative. You can’t just hire a few people from successful start ups and expect them to save a legacy organization in a dying industry. Instead, you must take a comprehensive approach to integrating innovation into different facets of the organization.

The same is true when working to build more equitable organizations. You not only must invest in building out a team of DEI practitioners (compensating them appropriately for their in-demand expertise) but also invest in scaling their recommendations and practices across your company, and changing your systems accordingly.

If we consider DEI as a horizontal rather than vertical effort, it starts to become clear that every team—and every team member—is responsible for creating and sustaining a more equitable organization.As a rule of thumb, then, every team should constantly be asking:

  • Whom do we serve?
  • Is our team diverse and representative of those we serve?

Here are a few further prompts to consider at the departmental level:

  • Leadership: Who is determining your organization’s strategy, and with what insights and data? If the inputs to your strategy aren’t inclusive and equitable, your outputs won’t be either.
  • Finance: How are you leveling up financial literacy within the organization so that more team members can meaningfully engage in a budgeting process?
  • Operations: How do you define success for the organization? Is it purely based on profit, or do you have a double- (or triple-) bottom line that equally values people and measures what matters?
  • Sales and Marketing: How can you meaningfully diversify who represents your brand in marketing materials and sales forums? And how are you ensuring the messages or images you push out to the public are reflected internally within your team?
  • Product: How are you engaging a range of consumers in the process of designing your products so that you can best serve their needs?

Of course, even when approaching DEI as a horizontal effort, HR still has a critical role to play. NOBL’s Managing Director for California, Jane Garza, joined Katrina Jones, Tamara M. Rasberry, Kate Bischoff, and moderator Tallulah David in a conversation about “HR as Ally,” discussing the need for HR to go beyond compliance, to actively building more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organizations. Don’t miss this fascinating conversation from these HR experts.

Published September 8, 2020