Talent retention and satisfaction is a year-round priority for many enterprises, which is why diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) begins with leaders and company culture. Adopting DEI strategies across company culture should be an organizational imperative not only for ethical reasons, but also for business reasons. For example, according to Forbes, diversified companies are up to 120% more likely to reach their financial goals, and they have an 87% probability of making better decisions with the availability of different perspectives and ideas. Additionally, the Harvard Business Review points out that diverse companies are 70% more likely to capture new markets.
How can organizations get started adopting DEI-focused strategies? The "Making Our Community Stronger" initiative, sponsored by Broadcom, IBM, BMC, Rocket Software, TechChannel, and The Linux Foundation, provides a starting point. With insight from Dr. Gloria Chance, president and chief executive officer of The Mousai Group, the initiative has hosted a series of webinars, including one about creating a psychologically safe space for employees so they can bring their whole selves to work and another about how sharing personal stories can foster trust. In these webinars, Dr. Chance challenges organizations to consider how expanded creative thinking can accelerate DEI solutions, serving as a tool to build and nurture psychologically safe spaces, cultural integration, social innovation, and social justice.
When adopting DEI initiatives across the enterprise, keep these strategies in mind.
DEI Is Not a Checklist
According to Dr. Chance, DEI should not be treated as a light switch that can be turned on and off. We know that intentional DEI is life-changing for people, igniting vibrant corporate cultures that out-innovate with increased profitability, as a result of inclusion and equity. This includes a non-traditional approach that weaves together thinking, imagination, and a growth mindset that shifts thinking towards creative and sustainable solutions.
"I'm a human thinking expert," says Dr. Chance. "The angle at which I come at diversity is to create open dialogue for people to learn by thinking outside of their traditional understanding. Understanding how our personal mythology plays a part in where we are in our diversity profile, which consists of our belief systems developed by biology, ancestry, environment, and culture." For instance, if we hear negative words or ideas about others during our upbringing, we're likely to think repeating those things is okay. Some may actually do so subconsciously, as the messages and experiences are passed down to us through our personal histories and stories. "It's what makes you, you, and creates your value system," she adds.
Based on this, a core part of the panels she produces are based on the science of personal mythology (our stories). Dr. Chance says that for the most part, "people connect through storytelling. Through imagination and storytelling, people can begin to see possibility and opportunity, which can lead to a growth mindset." A growth mindset is what leaders and the entire enterprise need to embrace if they want colleagues to feel valued.
Shift Employees From a Fixed to a Growth Mindset
Because each of us is on our own DEI journey and embarking on a path of learning, Dr. Chance recommends that we not hide ourselves behind a mask because when we do, we're not using and sharing our individual gifts, and we close ourselves off from opportunity. Hiding our full selves or shutting down and closing ourselves off is a result of an environment that is not open and does not feel safe for marginalized groups due to others’ personal mythology. Those not willing to participate in changing the culture likely work from the fear of the unknown or have a fixed mindset.
According to Dr. Chance, a fixed mindset is when a person believes everything is fine the way it is. "It could be application, development, tools, or certain processes. They see things as not broken, which means they don't believe there is anything to fix. Those with a fixed mindset are usually negative about anything new, and if something new comes along and doesn't work out, they look for someone to place the blame on," she explains. Most human beings want to stay in their comfort zone because they are familiar with how things work, and they feel safe.
When we shift to a growth mindset, she explains, "We're always learning and looking for new possibilities. Looking for opportunities to collaborate, to be better, and to innovate. To innovate you need to be creative and be open to diverse ideas, otherwise you are stagnant and focused on one way of thinking, of operating." In the technology space, without a growth mindset, effective solutions to issues are harder to come by or may require more tweaking or even a complete shift in another direction, once implemented.
DEI works similarly because it requires everyone to speak the truth of their own stories and experiences, hold reasonable expectations, meet and respect people where they are on their own journey, and offer to share knowledge, solutions, and experiences for the benefit of cultural and personal growth. In some instances, "those who feel they have to hide their true selves at work may not share that $1 million idea," she explains.
Strategies for DEI Growth and Momentum
The first step is for companies to adopt a DEI policy, integrate it throughout the operation, and provide training that offers examples of how to employ that training in their work. Enterprise-wide strategies should include DEI, which means the company must represent its customers and its consumer markets, while ensuring employees and customers feel valued and understood.
This approach supports the fact that DEI should never be a one-off or yearly event. Even if it starts out this way, leaders should rethink how they invest the time and effort, and the money needed to consistently integrate DEI into their workplace culture, policies and daily work.
Dr. Chance advises that the first step in this process is that leaders understand and become self-aware of their own diversity profile. This allows them to create psychologically safe environments that are more likely to encourage individuals to show up to work as their authentic selves. Psychological safety is an intentional act to create a sense of belonging regardless of another’s diversity. Accordingly, leaders will experience an expansion of creative thinking that follows the adoption of a growth mindset, unleashing the curiosity and imagination needed to encourage the same from others throughout their experiences together.
Tips for Leaders at All Stages of the DEI Journey
- Identify the roadblocks in their own DEI journey through a diversity profile
- Invest in and engage new resources and learn more about DEI
- Commit to creating a psychologically safe space and culture
- Use emotional intelligence: Accept that others are not ready to talk but keep an open-door policy
- Be curious: Ask open-ended questions (e.g., Can you tell me more? Can you help me understand how to make you feel like you are valued?)
- Use your creative mind to expand your thinking to provide greater solutions and possibilities for your teams and customers
- Get coaching: Show others you are open to learning by asking for clarification or help
- Become an ally
- Do the work and keep on the DEI learning and growth journey
- Expand your thinking from a fixed to growth mindset
Benefits of a DEI Commitment
When companies fail to demonstrate their DEI efforts to job seekers, Joseph Pacelli of Harvard Business School says companies are doing themselves a disservice. Job seekers are interested in more than pay and benefits, according to a CNBC survey. They are looking for employers that share their values and a commitment to diversity. Through a growth mindset and the fostering of DEI in the workplace, enterprises set themselves up for success in recruiting and retaining diverse talent, as well as in creating a psychologically safe environment where every feels their contributions are valued. This, in turn, leads to greater productivity, higher profits, and greater innovation over the long term.
Dr. Gloria Chance is a peak performance psychologist, creativity architect, and imagination expert and former CIO. She is the Founder and CEO of the Mousai Group, a boutique executive advisory firm dedicated to creating executive advice and experiences that spark growth, disrupts thinking for creative and transformative change, and fosters complex problem solving for the Imagination Age. Dr. Chance has been recognized for her inventions in tech, leadership, diversity equity and inclusion, and psychology, including being one of the 2022 Top 22 Woman CEOs, an International Woman of Achievement Award. Follow Dr. Chance @ Dr. Gloria A. Chance | LinkedIn
For more Making a Strong Community Stronger upcoming events, visit Making our Strong Community Stronger - a mainframe industry DE&I initiative | Groups | LinkedIn