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2020 threw plenty of curveballs at organizations and DEI teams. COVID-19 created new and urgent people needs while putting many companies on rocky economic grounds. And the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement meant people wanted to have difficult conversations, but didn’t know where to begin. We wanted to know how the most impactful DEI leaders tackled each challenge, so we sat down with DEI experts at the helm of some of the world’s largest and most influential organizations. Then we distilled their insights. This is a snippet of the full pulse report, State of DEI 2020-2021, available online and as a PDF.

PS – If you don’t have time to read it now, you can also sign up for our newsletter and we’ll deliver the report straight to your inbox in bite-sized chunks over the course of the next week.

2020 has been a year of pivoting, learning and acceleration for DEI. We wanted to know: what are DEI leaders’ biggest challenges and objectives for the year ahead?

At Hive Learning, we speak to 100s of DEI leaders each week. And the most forward-thinking among them share the views of the changemakers we spoke with to compile this report.

We hope that everyone reading this can feel proud of how they and their leaders acted in 2020. It’s how we keep the promises made in light of the BLM movement now that will define leadership legacies — and show us whether our actions improve the everyday lives of people in our organizations.

DEI leaders need to capitalize on the widespread passion and take action now, while employees are engaged and willing to be part of a shift in culture change.

It’s unclear what 2021 will bring, but this pulse report lays out what actions organizations need to be doing:

✅ Equip and empower everyone to have honest conversations. Model this willingness and prioritization from the top. Create the space to have these conversations. Provide resources and tools that help build the psychological safety needed for people to have these conversations.

✅ Hear and respond to everyone’s voice. Listen and act on what you hear. Speak to your employee resource groups about what is expected of your organization and what you have the capacity to do together. Democratize your DEI work to sustain the pull fuelled by the BLM movement through the changing newscycle.

✅ Move from awareness to action. Give people the permission, confidence and information needed to put what they’ve learned into practice. Show what inclusion looks like through everyday behaviors and embed them as habits.

✅ Think global, act local. Look at best practice on an international level and benchmark your own against it. Test your DEI strategy to ensure it stands up locally and not just in your headquarters. Set up a process that includes people who can localize your DEI practice.

✅ Use data for equitable outcomes. Critically assess how you report on diversity figures. Avoid lumping underrepresented groups into larger categories like BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) and BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic). As Audre Lorde says, we need to “divide and empower”. Ensure that reporting accurately reflects the needs and challenges of underrepresented groups so that they can inform equitable actions.

✅ Create a code of conduct for dealing with racism. Set expectations for employees and mandate your code of conduct from the top. Take a loud, no-tolerance approach and communicate it clearly to everyone in your organization.

✅ Assess your digital DEI offering. Will its purpose change as your organization settles into a new normal way of working? Do you have a solution that will create and sustain culture change? Measure the impact of your current approach and review it against the long-term needs of communicating and executing DEI priorities.

✅ Use unconscious bias training as a starting point. As some organizations are in the infancy of their DEI journey, we’ll say it again. The consensus from DEI leaders and employees is this: unconscious bias training is only effective when paired with actions to mitigate that bias.

✅ Strip bias out of systems and processes. We can’t change outcomes if we don’t address the flaws in the process. Review your talent and employee lifecycle. And if necessary, dismantle them and rebuild them through a DEI lens.

✅ Educate and empower leaders. Leaders need to be invested and up-to-date on what’s happening in DEI because they play a pivotal role in advancing all business strategies, including DEI. Keep stakeholders informed and involved in key decisions and conversations and encourage them to add their voice as sponsors to a strand of diversity or employee resource group that resonates with them.

✅ Add DEI to everyone’s agenda. Make DEI work accessible to everyone. Set clear expectations through quarterly goals and company values. What does DEI work look like at your organization? Give people actions to take to help move the needle in their everyday life. Don’t have a large DEI budget? Task other departments to allocate some of their budget for DEI work to root it as a shared responsibility.

2020 has been a bittersweet turning point for DEI. We need to learn from its challenges and review the way we’ve always done things to create a more equitable world. There is still plenty of work to do, and it’s up to businesses and the people within them to accept their new role.

If you want to download the full report and share it with your colleagues, get the PDF here

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