Fostering a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at work is a shared responsibility between senior leadership and employees. While it’s imperative to have top-down support in setting DEI goals and rolling out strategies and programs, it’s equally important to have buy-in, input and contributions from employees at all levels of the organization.
Successfully making the shift from DEI awareness to action depends upon all employees getting involved through everyday behaviors and decisions that make co-workers and others feel valued, included and supported.
Here are 5 ways that employees can actively support DEI initiatives at work:
1. Share honest feedback
Encourage employees to respond to surveys or use anonymous feedback tools to offer their candid feedback and suggestions. One way organizations gather DEI data is by soliciting feedback. Employee survey questions such as, “What do you feel underrepresented groups need to succeed?” or “Do you feel included in everyday matters, decision making and leadership?” help an organization identify specific DEI needs, strategies and solutions.
2. Recommend diverse candidates
Invite employees to refer or recommend the organization to a wide-range of colleagues, including diverse candidates and members from underrepresented groups. By broadening their recruiting reach, organizations can increase diversity and benefit from hiring employees with unique experiences, backgrounds and knowledge. Employee referrals are often the best source of candidates as they are already familiar with the candidate and the hiring organization.
3. Join an Employee Resource Group
Offer employees opportunities to join an employee resource group (ERG). ERGs further an organization’s DEI efforts by providing a forum for diverse employees to voice their needs to senior leaders, share resources and improve engagement. Other ways organizations can promote inclusion and level the playing field for employees is by making accommodations to work environments, adjusting work schedules or job responsibilities, and providing equal access to an organization’s facilities, documents and resources.
4. Be an ally
Provide employees with the information and tools they need to take action as an ally and support co-workers from underrepresented groups. This can mean speaking up when a co-worker’s opinion is being overlooked, safely intervening as an active bystander when observing misconduct or expressing empathy and compassion for their experiences. How individuals, teams and organizations communicate through their words and actions plays an important role in shaping a DEI culture. Using inclusive language and eliminating microaggressions – often unintentional slights, snubs or insults – from daily conversations fosters respect and inclusion.
5. Participate in ongoing DEI training & education
Create ongoing opportunities for employees to learn about different aspects of fostering an inclusive work culture and how they can apply DEI principles to their everyday interactions. Behavior-based training on unconscious bias, microaggressions and cultural competency is one of the effective ways to motivate new and existing employees to support DEI initiatives. Becoming a mentor or mentee also provides valuable opportunities for personal and professional development for underrepresented employees.
Regardless of their role, all employees play a critical part in creating and maintaining a diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment. Employee participation in behavior-based training, contributions to DEI initiatives and adoption of best practices in daily work activities is a critical step in an organization’s journey to realize a welcoming, respectful and supportive culture.
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