When D&I becomes a headache for business

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). It’s a simple concept, right?

In basic terms, we are all different, but we are all equal. So why has D&I become such a headache for business?

Organisations invest significant resources into diversity and inclusion programmes; creating
specialist roles, publishing results and setting up employee groups. However, these often fail to
deliver the expected return on investment. Without results, organisations can begin to experience
diversity fatigue. People become tired of ideas that don’t gain traction and employees can become sceptical that D&I is little more than a PR exercise.

To create meaningful change, organisations should focus on the following considerations:

 Diagnose the specific D&I challenges the company is facing instead of just rolling out a
standard set of programmes or initiatives. Why is this important to us? What issues are we
trying to address? What does success look like?
 Ask are our programmes authentic? Unconscious bias training and inclusion workshops can
sometimes be implemented in order to mitigate complaints or, when poorly designed, can
treat participants as if they are intolerant, which is ultimately counterproductive.
 Resist the temptation to tag every initiative as D&I. Most employees don’t want to be
labelled as ‘diverse’ – even in a positive way, it creates the sense of ‘otherness’. As one client
said my sexuality should be irrelevant, I don’t want my employer celebrating it any more than
I want them to penalise me for it.
 Make D&I relevant to everyone in the organisation. D&I initiatives often focus exclusively on
diverse groups and fail to engage a wider audience of people. This can mean that functional
and business unit leaders do not know how to support D&I within their individual areas.
 Embedding diversity, inclusion and belonging requires a culture change, the values and
associated behaviours must become part of the organisations DNA ‘this is how we do things
around here’. Culture change only happens when there is a sustained focus, over a long
period of time. Often it is the small changes that have most impact.

The reality of D&I is that everyone in an organisation can be at a different point on their journey.
Developing successful interventions is not a one size fits all approach, it is much more nuanced;
organisations and the people who work there are complex and dynamic.

Recently, clients have benefitted from an individualised approach to D&I training; a combination of
coaching and mentoring. In the one session, a coaching conversation elicits the managers attitudes and beliefs and any of the issues they are struggling with - without judgement. Then shifting to a mentoring conversation identifies specific actions and behaviours that will make a difference.

These sessions create the space for individual people managers to talk openly about their challenges and ask questions which they may not be comfortable to do in a group setting.
In my experience, forcing the D&I agenda in an inauthentic way only serves to make people
compliant – they know which boxes to tick - it doesn’t change attitudes or lead to sustainable