Prompted by a shift in national sentiment, many companies have made a commitment to creating a workplace that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). If your organization is part of that movement and you’re implementing a DEI program (or planning to), you could be facing some challenging resistance. The good news is that there are effective strategies for managing resistance to DEI.
To advance our knowledge in this area, my colleagues and I at Kantola Training Solutions connected with customers and partners and asked them about the challenges they faced in launching and implementing a DEI program. We incorporated what we learned into an overall strategic framework for developing a DEI program called the Leadership Primer: Building a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Program.
We further canvassed the issue in a webinar, The DEI journey: Managing resistance, finding opportunities, held in partnership with Littler, a leader in labor and employment law. Let me share some of what we learned, along with some additional strategies and solutions.
Strategies for managing resistance
But first, as you dive into understanding resistance to your DEI program, remember that every organization starts from a different point—and whatever the starting point is for your organization is the right place to begin. Consequently, your challenges and version of “success” may differ from other organizations. With that in mind, let’s look at strategies for addressing the resistance you may encounter as you implement your DEI program.
1. Make the business case: Make the case that there are solid business reasons for having a DEI program. According to research from McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group and others, organizations that embrace DEI are more innovative, collaborative, productive and better positioned for long-term financial success.
2. Explain the legal perspective: Explain that every organization has a legal right and responsibility to ensure that employees are conducting themselves in a way that is consistent with both state and federal laws regarding anti-discrimination, bullying and harassment. Your legal counsel can provide you with specific language on this point.
3. Focus on human values: Help your managers and employees to understand that at the heart of it, diversity, equity and inclusion represent basic human principles — like kindness, fairness and respect. Education and training help put these principles into practice and create a construct for how we can interact with each other in a positive and supportive way.