Busted! Don’t Believe These DEI Myths!

  • Imagin Consulting, LLC

Categories: Business Consulting Career Counsellors DEI Climate Change Management DEI Training

Blog by Imagin Consulting, LLC

The phrase “diversity, equality, and inclusion” (DEI) refers to policies and initiatives that support the participation and representation of many groups of people, including those of various age groups, racial and ethnic groups, genders, abilities and disabilities, and sexual orientations.

There is a lot of misconception regarding DEI and its execution in companies which are generally false. One needs to gain proper awareness regarding the same to understand the implications of these policies better.

To help you steer clear of these misconceptions, Imagin Consulting, LLC. has debunked some of the most widely believed myths about DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion).

Myth 1: We can hire more minorities to fill our diversity quota

This myth has been classified as the “members-only myth” and works both ways. This myth infers that diversity means preferential treatment for some employees over others. Many companies’ selection practices are unintentionally biased in favor of White men and against women and minorities. To mitigate this issue, some companies may unintentionally create biased selection practices in favor of women and minorities and against White men. Bad selection practices that favor any demographic group over another are unethical and illegal.

Generally speaking, it is illegal for companies to set hiring quotas based on employees’ demographic backgrounds. Companies cannot reserve vacant positions for employees who belong to a specific identity group. But, companies can promote their vacant positions in a way that targets and attracts a diverse labor pool. For example, by recruiting from professional organizations and academic institutions, and advertising in publications that target women and minorities, you should generate a more diverse list of applicants to select from. When your labor pool is more diverse, you increase the chances of hiring traditionally underrepresented applicants by leveling the playing field.

Myth 2: I can benchmark what other companies are doing regarding DEI

Although benchmarking (the tactic of mimicking or learning about what others are doing) is a useful starting point for planning anything new, avoid the urge to copy another company’s DEI program because every organization is unique. For example, the demographic makeup of a company you benchmark may differ from yours regarding its employees or customers. When you benchmark another company’s DEI programming, use it as a template to apply to your understanding of your company. In our IMAGIN framework for DEI culture change management, the “I” stands for “Identification”.

We emphasize the importance of first identifying important environmental factors of YOUR company because every company has its own unique needs. Overall, you want to identify as many of the following factors before you begin to implement any DEI activities in your company: workforce and market profile (who do your employees and customers look like?); the symptoms of your company (e.g. high turnover among Black women employees); key stakeholders (e.g. employee resource groups or affinity groups or employees wishing to start one; community partners); key influencers (e.g. union reps, managers and supervisors who are trusted and well respected); resources (e.g. technology, funding for DEI programs, available training, subject matter experts); and barriers (e.g. poor communication channels, lack of interpreters for ESL employees, toxic leaders and employees, policy red tape, etc.)

If you skip this “Identification” step, you will not be prepared to implement your ideas to address DEI in your company, and your efforts may be backlash. This is why it is important not to simply rely on mimicking everything another company does. Instead, only consider what works for your company and customize the rest to fit your organizational needs based on your available resources. Create a committee or council to benchmark what other companies are doing, but then also identify your unique environmental factors so you can begin to customize your company’s DEI activities.

Myth 3: Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) will magically make your organization more innovative and profitable

In the media, we often hear that diversity is a key driving force for any organization. This myth is called the Panacea Myth. Although indeed, diversity can greatly benefit organizations, that is only part of the story. For DEI to be effective, leaders must understand the theoretical frameworks regarding workplace diversity and learn how to manage diversity activities effectively and programs or else they may backfire. There are mixed results in research regarding the effect of a diverse workforce on company outcomes. Bringing people together from different backgrounds with different perspectives can be challenging.

This situation can either lead to positive outcomes, such as improved market differentiation, creativity and better ideas, or more challenges, such as interpersonal conflict, disengagement, company liability or turnover. Leaders in companies who promote DEI activities effectively understand the importance of engaging their employees and providing a sense of belonging to make employees feel safe enough to be vulnerable and contribute their ideas. If employees believe they cannot be their full selves at work, then they will not share their full selves at work. In research, companies have three perspectives regarding how they approach DEI.

The least impactful perspective is the discrimination and fairness perspective, where companies engage in DEI activities to only the extent required by law to protect employees and applicants from the workplace and hiring discrimination. An improvement from that is the access and legitimacy perspective, where companies follow the law but find ways to leverage the different perspectives of their diverse workforce to expand and better serve their market. The perspective with the greatest impact that your company wants to possess is the integration and learning perspective, where companies promote and employ traditionally underrepresented employees in leadership positions of influence and decision-making.

This perspective protects the company from liability, improves market differentiation, and promotes inclusion and a sense of belonging for employees, thereby mitigating turnover and disengagement (also known as quiet quitting). These companies do the heavy lifting to ensure that their DEI programs serve as a benefit instead of backfiring into conflict. Generally speaking, companies that do more than lip service by having underrepresented employees in visible leadership positions are more profitable, have better marketing strategies, and have less turnover.

So if you have a diverse workforce but have no tangible policies to mitigate subjectivity in your processes, promote equity and inclusion, or diversify your leadership team, then do not be surprised if your organizational culture and performance are not as great as they can be. That does not mean that you should avoid DEI programming. In the long run, you will need to address DEI for your company as the demographics of the workforce and customers change. Addressing DEI is imperative for a company’s success, but it must be done correctly, or else it will be as if you did nothing.

Get in touch today!

If you’re looking to steer clear of these myths, reach out to Imagin Consulting, LLC. As the best leadership training and business consulting agency in Arlington, Texas, we provide employee professional development, inclusive leadership training, and change management consultation to organizations and help them develop, implement, and evaluate diversity, equity, and inclusion activities to improve their workplace culture. We serve across Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, Irving, Denton, Richardson, Grapevine, Frisco, Weatherford, Decatur, Granbury, Hillsboro, Texas, Springfield, Bloomington, Decatur, Chicago, Illinois, Los Angeles, California, and the surrounding areas.

For a complete list of our services, please click here. If you have any questions about Imagin Consulting, LLC, we’d love to hear from you. For more information, please call us at (682) 800-3187 or email us at imaginconsultingllc@gmail.com

Ely, R.J., & Thomas, D.A. (2001). Cultural diversity at work: The effects of diversity perspectives on work group processes and outcomes. Administrative Science Quarterly, 46, 229-273.