Former President Barack Obama campaigned on “Change you can believe in” while President Donald Trump advocated for change by making “America Great Again.”  Regardless of where you land on the political spectrum, change is hard to come by.  So when it comes to diversity and inclusion (D/I), with all the initiatives, training and public support that undergird it, what changes have come about in our workplaces, communities?

It’s not hard to find a report that supports the point of view you favor: it causes a backlash towards those it was intended to help; the impact is short-term; or yes it does make a difference.  However, I think most would agree that there is room for improvement in our workplace.  Having a more diverse and inclusive workplace is a valuable goal to work towards, even if the results are not immediately forthcoming.

But it’s hard to stay true to your convictions when you hear people publicly and loudly declare that diversity is no longer needed and that it negatively affects the workplace.  Combine that attitude with silent (and perhaps unsupportive) leaders and inconclusive data, and change is just a word in the dictionary.

So what can you do?  Pack it up? Walk away? Talk louder than the naysayers and guilt those who disagree with you?  I say we can bring change in the workplace and move forward by looking back.  By that I mean, go back to the basics, build and strengthen the foundation, assess your efforts and use that information to adjust accordingly.

Go back to the basics:

  • Survey your organization’s environment; determine if there are any D/I issues that are blocking your organization’s success (immediate and long-term impact).
  • Access the development stage of your organization as it pertains to D/I.  According to “Beyond Diversity: Inclusiveness in the Legal Workplace,” there are three distinct stages: monocultural, nondiscriminatory and multicultural.  Some departments may be in different stages, which will affect the overall health of the organization.
  • Develop and re-evaluate your organization’s top three or four D/I priorities.

Build your foundation:

  • Define D/I for your organization and encourage colleagues to find their own reasons on why a diverse and inclusive workplace is beneficial for both them and the organization.
  • Identify or recommit D/I as core values for the organization in company meetings and appropriate documents (ie strategic plan, mission statement, organization’s goals).
  • Have senior leaders and other key stakeholders be active participants and supporters in D/I efforts.

Assess your efforts and adjust:

  • Gather information, select metrics and establish a baseline to measure the impact of your D/I initiatives.
  • Determine key issues: desired outcomes, proposed timeframe, identified parties to review/hold others accountable, etc.
  • Ensure that D/I initiatives are linked to and integrated with the organization’s mission and goals, and review on a regular basis.

Change can be a scary proposition, as can creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.  But there is value in your earlier efforts – as long as you can learn from them and adjust as needed.  Take the time to review and revise.  Change will come.

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About the Author

Karen Hester, CEO | The Center for Legal Inclusiveness
Karen Hester, JD, LL.M. in Taxation, has more than 10 years of experience working in diversity and inclusiveness. In 2015, she was named a Diversity Champion by NALP's Diversity & Inclusion Section, which recognized 11 individuals nationally. She is an accomplished trainer, presenter, facilitator, and industry leader on the topic of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. Karen is a former practicing attorney and the former Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Kansas School of Law. She has multiple degrees: a law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, an LL.M. in Taxation from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law, an M.S. in student personnel and counseling, and a B.S. in mathematics from Kansas State University. Karen is currently the Chief Executive Officer of The Center for Legal Inclusiveness, based in Denver, CO.
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