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Integrating Change Management in your DEI Interventions

By LaKisha Brooks

Published 6 February 2021 at HR Exchange Network

Many organizations are in the process of planning, designing, or implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. These interventions are typically aligned with overall strategic goals and are expected to garner tangible and intangible results.

Though there is great anticipation for the rollouts, it is essential to consider an effective change management strategy. In some cases, a comprehensive DEI plan can swing an organization’s cultural competency continuum pendulum in a direction that makes some feel uncomfortable and resist. When implementing a DEI program, use these change management tips to ensure successful execution.

Consider the type of Change

Change can take place either in a radical or an incremental process. A radical change can occur when the change is needed due to a potential loss or threat. It can take place immediately and does not always require much preparation or planning. Additionally, this type of change can be reactionary. An example of a DEI program that may involve a radical change is mandatory sexual harassment training because of an increasing number of sexual harassment complaints over a month. Another example is adopting an anti-racism and discrimination policy after someone yelled a racial slur at an Asian employee during an argument.

Unlike a radical change, an incremental change can happen over time. It is a process and is evolutionary. This change is a step-by-step approach and is ideal for a redesign intervention. Additionally, the change happens in stages, and if one part of the process is disrupted, it can impact the entire change process. This approach is proactive versus reactive. A great example of this is a new plan for recruiting and retaining diverse talent or a new marketing strategy to expand an organisation’s customer segmentation.

Understand the Change Management process

Step One: Create Urgency

In this step, we determine the need for a DEI intervention. First, there needs to an understanding that the intervention is a necessity. A comprehensive audit that includes focus groups, questionnaires, record assessment, cultural competency continuum, and a SWOT analysis can accomplish this. Next, after completing the audit, a compelling business case will need to be presented. The business case should include the potential business impact, return on investment and the risk of not implementing the intervention.

Step Two: Form a Powerful Coalition

This step involves building a team of diversity champions, leaders, and sponsors. These are the individuals who will help gain buy-in from others in the organization. They will serve as influential DEI change agents that are needed for the change. They may also assist in creating and implementing the DEI intervention.

Step Three: Create a Vision for Change

In this step, a vision should be created for the DEI initiative. Where do you see the intervention going, and how will it make a difference in the organization? The vision should consider those who will disrupt the organization with the change and those who the change will impact. Without this, there can be an increased chance of resistance within the organization.

Step Four: Communicate the Vision

This step involves communicating the vision to others outside your coalition. When sharing any change, ensure the message includes information that shows the change is purposeful, desirable and feasible. Because of the possible uncomfortable environment creating a DEI intervention can invite, communicating the vision appropriately is imperative. It is not only essential to communicate the change correctly, but also just as vital to have the suitable person share the vision. Chief Diversity Officers, Diversity Council leaders, and other leaders are ideal to communicate the vision.

Step Five: Alleviate and Remove Barriers

Not understanding the need for a DEI intervention, not wanting the intervention and resisting the intervention are a few barriers a coalition may face with attempting to implement a new DEI intervention. This can be frustrating and exhausting.

Step Six: Create Short-Term Wins

Rolling out a new DEI intervention can be an enormous task, so celebrating the quick, small wins can lead to momentum. This is especially relevant for an incremental change that has various steps. Be sure to communicate your successes with stakeholders within the organization.

Step Seven: Build on the Change

The small wins are just the start. In this step, repetition is critical. Take the momentum from the small victories and build on it. Continue to communicate the vision within the organization. Continue to celebrate small wins. Additionally, this is the opportunity to adapt to the change to “make it stick.”

Step Eight: Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture

In this step, the DEI intervention is part of the lived corporate culture. All employees are adjusting to the change. The vision is implemented, behaviors are changing and impact is taking place.

Consider different emotions and perspectives

As mentioned previously, everyone in an organization will not be bought into or want a DEI intervention. Some may actively resist the change and influence others to do so as well. Though change is inevitable, it still comes with emotions and differences in perspective.

When a change is initiated, humans go through a rollercoaster of emotions. The emotions are on a curve called the Kübler-Ross Change Curve, which identifies the emotional mechanisms associated with change or loss: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. A person can fall anywhere on the curve at any given time. Be prepared to have conversations with individuals regarding their emotions and perspective on the DEI interventions. Have empathy and be open-minded.