Moving at the Speed of Change

June 13, 2019 in
By Rachel Tohn

In a field that’s evolving as rapidly as Diversity & Inclusion is, many organizations are finding that it’s one thing to commit to prioritizing D&I and another entirely to know howto do that. Of course, there are by this point countless resources available to guide D&I teams and HR departments through different initiatives, analyses, programs, and plans. And while these resources and tools are invaluable to any organization, very few of them address one of D&I’s core issues: how quickly everything is changing. Today, we’re going to talk through cultivating a mindset that will help you and your teams embrace D&I’s rate of change.

First things first, what do we mean by rate of change? D&I research and growth exists at a crucial intersection of disciplines: it is both a science, complete with field studies, academic specialties, and complex analysis; and a popular movement, riding waves of discussion, experimentation, and fragmentation inside organizations, at conferences, and most importantly, online. More than anything else, online conversations between and among the full demographic range of humans is driving how we think about and implement the D&I movement.

Practicing D&I in the middle of its development as a (relatively) new science is absolutely a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the intersectionalityand collaboration achieved by online communities means that the people who are most impacted by D&I and the problems it seeks to resolve are now leading voices in the science and the implementation of new practices. Organizations can learn directly from the communities they seek to serve, which helps us formulate ideas and field-test them in almost real-time.

On the other hand, new sciences usually do not have to navigate their way through growing pains and internal evolutions quite so visibly. It can be incredibly challenging and frustrating for a D&I team to think it’s figured out the right approach to handling an issue – for example, how to compassionately help transgender employees navigate their transition at work – only to learn the next day that the language has changed and what you thought was the right thing to do actually causes more harm than good.

It’s easy to look at this rapid rate of change and only see the turmoil, but that attitude blocks teams from achieving true success in D&I. Organizations that preemptively throw up their hands will quickly find themselves lagging behind their industries. Organizations that embrace the detail, nuance, and passion embedded in the D&I movement are much better poised to create flexible, adaptive strategies. These strategies welcome new information and position teams to actively participate in, shape, and potentially lead conversations about how to best serve our workforces.

Moreover, organizations that transparently acknowledge D&I’s rate of change create vastly more space for their own workforce to lead and guide them. Marginalizedemployees who see that their leadership is willing to get its hands dirty, to learn, and to adapt are far more likely to give the kind of granular input that truly drives effective D&I. And, since your employees are your first audience for D&I work, this can only lead to the kind of collaborative partnership that drives real results and creates leaders in the field.

So, this all sounds great, but how exactly do we do it? Especially in organizations where D&I teams split their time between that and their other duties, keeping up with the rate of change can feel overwhelming. Teams that just got a handle on understanding the needs of transgender employees may find themselves back in the deep end as they learn about non-binary and genderqueer identities. Teams that built out an entire standardized interview process to mitigate the impact of racial bias have to shift again to account for our prejudices against names that “sound black.”

The good news is the perfection is neither the expectation nor the goal. Instead, try using these four strategies to guide your mindset and approach to developing D&I initiatives in your organization:

Find New Voices

Big consulting agencies like Deloitteand Guidehouse (formerly PWC)now regularly w regularly release large reports filled with findings and studies related to D&I. Major publications like Forbesand the Harvard Business Reviewhave dedicated D&I sections to cover news from the corporate and federal sectors. These are all excellent resources, but it is equally important to seek out the voices of marginalized people talking about their own experiences and needs. 

Make it a regular practice to read one or two articles a week from people of color, women, trans and non-binary folx, and others who are directly impacted by Diversity & Inclusion efforts. This will keep you ahead of the game and deliver insights that these after-the-fact reports cannot capture. If you’re looking for a place to start, Ijeoma Oluo, Roxane Gay, Laverne Cox, and Rebecca Solnit are all major voices in the conversation about discrimination and prejudice in professional spaces.

Solicit and Reward Continuous Feedback

The people most qualified to tell you how your D&I efforts are working are your own teams and employees. Create multiple avenues for employees to give you feedback on your D&I initiatives and to suggest future changes or ideas. Allowing anonymous feedback is a crucial component here – that way employees who are not yet comfortable speaking publicly about their experiences can still submit their ideas, experiences, and suggestions.

Offering a public option for feedback is equally important. Ideas like a quarterly town hall to discuss your organization or team’s culture and climate foster collaborative discussion between employees and with your leadership and D&I team. Moreover, this public forum is a fantastic way to practice transparent accountability and demonstrate your willingness to listen and act on employee’s feedback.

Design for Change

Approach every D&I initiative with the goal of creating a flexible, responsive system that can adapt to new information and feedback quickly and effectively. Create initiatives that have options for implementation, like multiple benefits packages that appeal to a variety of family types and lifestyles. Bake in regular evaluations according to multiple metrics that provide insight into how your initiatives are both performing and received.

Beyond planning for change, you can also launch an informal education pipeline to help employees engage with both how the professional world is handling D&I and what you specifically are doing. Distributing recent articles that cover a particular D&I topic (e.g., pay equity, performance management standardization) or a success story will keep employees informed and help them build a vision of your organization’s motives and approach to change.

Hire an Expert 

While you may not necessarily want to bring in an external resource, this is one area where having access to subject matter expertise can help when you and your team don’t have the time or background to really dive into learning the nuances in D&I. Not only can an expert draw on research, best practice, and emerging trends, but they can help you take the step back to ensure that your efforts (D&I and otherwise) are aligned with your organizational culture, strategically integrated with your business objectives, and proactive.

More than any of the above, however, the most important thing you can do to keep your D&I program current and flexible is to actively practice a growth mindset. Rapid changes can be daunting in the face of regimented organizational systems and practices. It’s okay to be hesitant about diving into such a fluid conversation, but as long as you view new information as an opportunity to improve, not a condemnation of the past, then you and your team will be well positioned for tackling this critical perspective in today’s world. 

For more information on this blog or how FMP Consulting can help your organization’s D&I efforts, please contact