Black History Month is drawing to a close, but that hardly means employers should take a break from their diversity, equity and inclusion work. Instead, HR should be working year-round, experts say, to maintain a DE&I strategy that is not only operating at peak performance but continuously improving, particularly as expectations for strong DE&I investments continue to grow among employees and job candidates.
HRE recently asked three DE&I professionals for their outlook on where HR’s DE&I focus needs to be this year.
Dr. Nika White is the founder of Nika White Consulting, a full-service DE&I boutique consulting firm with global reach. She is a recognized authority on strategic diversity, intentional inclusion and the lens of equity.
“In 2023, HR needs to focus on streamlining and continuing DE&I efforts for the future. It’s an excellent idea to begin your DE&I journey with learning experiences to ensure everyone has the same baseline understanding of DE&I in theory and practice. However, to secure DE&I in the future, HR must create policies and procedures and tie DE&I goals to individual accountability and organizational health and growth evaluations, particularly concerning marginalized populations.
“Initiatives like recruiting policy, inclusive interview procedures, procedures for DEIB complaints and resolutions, high-quality check-ins, stay interviews, coaching, mentorships and sponsorships are a few key ways organizations can ensure DE&I remains a consistent focus. The result is to provide a sense of belonging for all. DE&I should be embedded in the business strategy and culture in all operational aspects of an organization.
It’s also important to consider other disciplines outside of HR to integrate a lens of DE&I.”
Joy Fitzgerald is a coach, best-selling author and corporate leader who currently serves as senior vice president and chief DE&I officer at UnitedHealth Group.
“HR professionals and organizations should focus on workplace inclusion as a key priority in driving diversity, equity and inclusion.
Workplace exclusion is a business issue. It impacts every part of the organization, from the personal experience of the individual to performance, outcomes and financial metrics. When people feel included, organizations benefit from getting the best out of them. They thrive. They feel safe to bring their best work and talents to the workplace. They experience inclusion at its best, which is feeling welcomed, valued, respected and heard. When performance increases, the business grows and excels.
Workplace inclusion also allows for innovation. When people feel included and valued, they feel safe to share their ideas and creative thoughts. They feel as though they are part of something bigger. Quite the opposite, social exclusion in a work environment can be septic to the individual, team dynamics and performance, which negatively impacts the business.
There is a financial cost and impact when organizations lose great talent. People who feel left out and excluded are more likely to quit. It is expensive and it disrupts the flow of performance on a team. It also can be toxic to the mental wellbeing of talent. Over time, it can cause you to question your self-worth and value and everyone loses: the organization and the people.”
Errol Pierre is senior vice president, state programs, at HealthFirst Inc. and is a college professor and author. His new book, The Way Up, explores how mentoring changed his career trajectory.
“The DE&I focus in 2023 and beyond needs to be on authentic conversations that advance the movement forward. Every day we move further from the date George Floyd was murdered is a day DE&I has the potential to lose its steam and momentum. HR professionals are charged with keeping the themes of equity and belonging in the workplace until the stats tell us we can focus on something else.
“Platitudes won’t cut it anymore in 2023. We know the objectives, we know the research and we have countless stories. No more pontification is warranted. Only action.”