Be honest, how are you? I’ll wait.
More specifically, how are you feeling about the work you’ve done and the headway you’ve made on your journey toward organizational culture change (aka DEI)?
Do you feel like you’re focused on the right things and that the change you seek is truly attainable?
Are you still able to trust the change you’re working toward?
There’s not a single organization I know of or have worked with that has reached a culmination on their journey toward a culture of diversity, equity, & inclusion.
The companies who say they have are spending more resources (time, money, creativity, energy) on employer branding and PR than their people, who should be the primary focus in any DEI initiative.
And look, if you work in People Operations, People Management, or Employee Experience, you’ve likely had the toughest 2 years of your career.
You’ve become the first responders in your organization and have had a crash course in public health, and change management, not to mention crisis management. They don’t call it The Great Resignation because people have been experiencing job satisfaction, right?
So, again, be honest. Do you still trust the change you seek?
If the answer’s “no”, you’ve clicked on the right article. I’ll share proven ways to sustain your advocacy change, to further define your roles and requirements for creating change, and to clarify your own vision for change in your organization.
I’ll share what to consider when driving change for equity, inclusion, access, and belonging in your organizational culture, along with a practical, 3 part process to help you identify where to invest your resources.
By the way, who the heck am I?
My name’s Katie Zink. I help visionary leaders and change agents create positive and dynamic workplace cultures that hear, recognize, and support all voices.
Over the last 11 years, I've organized, volunteered, and advocated for grassroots causes in the community supporting youth, career readiness, after-school programming, and an equitable tech industry.
People work with me to operationalize a culture of growth. As their strategic-level guide, I
- Lead task forces and committees that result in sustainable plans and programming for organizational culture change.
- Design and facilitate custom workshops and skill sessions employees love.
- Form Employee Resource Groups backed with Executive Sponsorship.
On a personal level, I’m always working on trusting the change I seek and constantly struggling with some of the closest relationships in my life in order to do this.
The truth is, many aspects of this work feel intangible, based in theory, and difficult to quantify. We have to juggle competing company interests, negotiate strategies with managers and teams who can't invest, and gain executive buy-in if we’re ever to see traction.
Here's a common scenario many of my clients face.
“Sierra” started as a new hire at the beginning of the pandemic. She’d never started a new job fully remote before.
She instantly connected and felt valued by her new manager, but, as soon as Sierra started at XYZ company, she felt drowned out by new acronyms, oppressive work dynamics, cultural dominance and, for some reason, she wasn’t getting added to appropriate email distribution lists for weeks (after asking several times over) and regularly missed important communications.
In team meetings, she noticed that the same people were the only ones speaking up, getting opportunities to ask questions, and becoming involved in higher visibility projects. Meetings were poorly facilitated and there was constant backchanneling.
Sierra wasn’t particularly shy, but she struggled to navigate this working culture which resulted in her feeling deeply discouraged for the first 6 months of employment.
As a new Customer Success Manager, Sierra can potentially influence the vision of the company’s product line, but only after she’s made a name for herself by excelling in her current role and gaining visibility across the organization.
She can’t get the airtime she needs in meetings to be heard, much less listened to, due to the way culturally dominant personalities are favored.
She wants to be set up for success, seen for her strengths, gain influence on the direction of the company and how it can better show up and serve customers in an equitable way.
So, how can she directly influence systemic change?
Enter, change management. The most important skill set when approaching organizational DEI.
Managing change can feel overwhelming, confusing, risky, and unpredictable. This is because the redistribution of power and resources threatens the status quo and, collectively, not enough people with power are ready to trust systemic change. Especially when it impacts them directly.
For us, the advocates, it feels like a moving target, and, because of that, we cannot always see it clearly in our minds or gain the collective momentum we need. That's why, to create lasting change, there must be trust.
Many of us feel stuck, blocked, tired, or apathetic and, for the most part, we're operating at 50% our brain power at best—constantly multitasking, caring for others, and blindly navigating an ongoing pandemic.
We get lost in the increasing demands in our work and ongoing responsibilities by systems and structures that are designed to oppress us.
So, here are some practical methods we can implement to stay engaged with the work, invest resources, and see the value and potential of the change we seek.
Think about the answer you gave to my questions—how you’re feeling about the work you’ve done, if you feel like you’re focused on the right things, if the change you seek is truly attainable, and if you’re able to trust the change you’re working toward.
Even if you’ve never considered yourself an expert in change management, you can be a visionary leader and change agent. Let’s begin (or actually, continue), because, if you’re reading this, you already have made a lot of progress whether you know it or not.
How to invest your resources
Sustaining your DEI work requires being well-resourced. What does being well-resourced mean to you?
This 3 part process for systemic change is inspired by the research of Paloma Medina, who specialize in the science and neuropsychology of how we can build healthier, life-affirming teams and workplaces.
1. Get your needs met
There are 6 core needs we all have in acronym form, B.I.C.E.P.S. Here they are one by one:
- Community: A feeling of friendship and closeness with a group, or being part of a tight community of any size.
- Community well-being: People are cared for, the whole group feels happy and healthy.
- Connection: Feeling kinship and mutual understanding with another person.
- Progress toward purpose. You are helping make progress toward an important goal for the company, your team or your own career/life.
- Improving the lives of others. You see how your work helps improve things for others.
- Personal growth. Learning/seeing growth in yourself in skills that matter to you.
- Choice: Having flexibility, the chance to have more control over key parts of your world.
- Autonomy: Having clear ownership over a domain where you can do as you wish, without asking for permission.
- Decision - Making: The ability to make decisions about the things that matter to you.
- Access to resources feels fair/equitable
- Access to information feels fair. All groups/people have access to information that is relevant to them.
- Equal reciprocity: You support each other equally.
- Decisions are fair and everyone is treated as equally important.
- Resources: There’s enough certainly about resources so that you can focus on your job or goals
- Time: There’s certainty about when things will occur
- Future Challenges: You can anticipate and thus can prepare for future challenges
- Direction: Goals, strategy, and direction stay consistent and don’t change too often or quickly.
Related Read: How To Write SMART Goals (With Examples)
- Status: You hold a title/role that honors your with among your peers and/or industry
- Visibility: Your work is highly visible to people that matter.
- Recognition: Your work is recognized and appreciated in a way that feels good.
Take a moment to decide which are the most important to you. You’ll use this information to fuel the systemic change(s) you are motivated to create.
2. Get empowered
Based on your needs, what's your idea for systemic change?
It’s time to experiment. Here we'll look at what's known as “Winnable Experiments”, aka practical things that you can implement and measure within your control.
Think about Sierra’s situation: Where wasn’t she getting her needs met? How can this drive her ideas and goals for systemic change?
Examples of ideas for systemic change:
- Inclusive onboarding practices
- Inclusive team meetings
- Equitable feedback sessions and performance reviews.
Conduct Stakeholder Assessments to arm yourself with information to better understand the concerns of those who fear change/to address fears. What has to happen for you in order to make a change?
List any and all blockers, decision-makers, champions, influencers, and those impacted by the change.
Take time to get to know the core needs of your stakeholders (flex your BICEPS). Listening and having these conversations builds trust and can influence behavior. Remember, the ultimate goal of systemic change is behavioral change.
Let’s say you choose a goal for more inclusive team meetings. Try this:
That’s it. That’s the change.
You’ll be amazed at how diverse, equitable, and inclusive your meetings will become.
Here's where we will talk about practical ways to accept and absorb the feedback you're likely getting on your idea for systemic change. Remember, feedback = respect.
When you’re ready to get feedback, clarify who you’ll be getting feedback from, and what 3 questions you’ll ask (to invite balanced perspectives).
Design your idea and clarify your vision
I hope these help you sustain your advocacy for the change you seek, help you to clearly define your roles and requirements for creating change, and provide clarity to your own vision for change in your organization.
Remember, the redistribution of power and resources threatens the status quo. If you feel uncomfortable, you’re getting somewhere. You’re changing.
Trust yourself, your vision, and your PoV. Stay in your process: Get your needs met, get empowered, and grow.
Keep us posted! As you start to implement and maintain these tactics, share your ideas for change, questions, and results with us - comment below or chat with us on social.
If you’re ready to hire a consultant for focused support, contact me directly. I can connect you with my network of brilliant DEI practitioners.
Also Worth Checking Out:
- 10 Best Diversity Recruiting Software for Inclusive Hiring
- How to Write your DEI Mission Statement
- 10 Best DEI Certifications To Take In 2023
- DEI Consultant: Signs You Need One And How To Hire One
- 12 Key DEI Metrics To Track For An Inclusive Workplace
- How To Lead Through Uncertainty (with Vanessa Akhtar)