How a ‘JEDI’ approach can help deepen your diversity commitments

The racial reckoning that began sweeping the U.S. nearly two years ago steered many employers toward a renewed focus on diversity, equity and inclusion—and that has likely been bolstered with some new, pandemic-driven realities.

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For instance, more than 1-in-13 Black women over age 20 and 1-in-17 Latinas were unemployed at the end of last summer—rates that are more than 1.5 times what they were before the pandemic, said Dr. Thelá Thatch, manager of diversity, equity and inclusion at Paychex, during a session on DE&I at Wednesday’s HR Tech Virtual conference. The staggering stats illustrate the breadth of the work that lies ahead for HR and DE&I leaders looking to both attract and retain diverse talent—but also the imperative that they approach that work with fresh eyes.

Recent Paychex research found that HR leaders identified two primary challenges to DE&I work: having the hiring resources to attract diverse candidates and shifting company culture to achieve its DE&I objectives. On both fronts, Thatch said, adopting a “JEDI” mindset can help fuel success.

Such an approach adds more dimensions to traditional DE&I strategies. Here’s how Thatch said Paychex defines its JEDI work:

Justice: This aspect guides HR to consider justice for all employees by identifying and working to dismantle the barriers that could be holding some back from accessing resources or experiencing career advancement. “This should not be ignored,” Thatch said.

Equity: Paychex approaches equity with a focus on allocating resources to provide all employees access to the same opportunities. An important distinction needs to be made, Thatch noted, between equity and equality. The latter is about equal distribution—of money, resources, opportunities—to employees at the same level or in the same jobs, but this idea often fails to address problems of underrepresentation; equity, instead, acknowledges that employees have varying access to resources and privilege because of intrinsic obstacles and attempts to level that access by providing different levels of support to help all workers take advantage of opportunity.

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See also: The ‘force’ of justice is strong with this DEI leader

Diversity: A focus on diversity goes hand in hand with encouraging respect for people of all walks of life, with an understanding of barriers they may face. The most successful workplace diversity programs, Thatch noted, emphasize continued engagement and accountability across all employee levels.

Inclusion: Paychex defines inclusion as that which fosters a sense of belonging. “That’s a simple word but it has a lot of power,” Thatch said.

A JEDI approach can help a company take the ball forward and embrace true innovation when it comes to DE&I.

“Companies that don’t invest in creating a diverse workspace,” Thatch added, “end up with a company culture that’s stagnated and out of touch.”

However, she cautioned that deepening the company commitment to this topic is a marathon and not a sprint and, thus, the work must be ongoing, intentional and measured. Leaders should also be prepared to be in it for the long run.

“It’s important to accept that there is no finish line for DE&I,” Thatch said. “We are constantly listening, constantly learning and, yes, while we need to recognize what we’ve accomplished, we have to realize that the work really is just beginning.”

Registered attendees can watch the full session here. The free, online event runs through Friday and registration remains open at HRTechConference.com/virtual.

Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.

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