Why Diversity Programs Fail, and What Can Organizations Do to Rectify It?

While more organizations have realized the significance of diversity and inclusion, only a few have had success with implementing D&I programs. A lot of time and resources are invested into D&I, but in many cases, the programs are ineffective, leaving the impression that they are more for face value than a genuine commitment to the cause.

What are the reasons diversity programs fail?

The following are the most common reasons.

1. Lack of leadership commitment

One of the primary causes of D&I programs failing is the senior management’s lack of commitment and accountability. Since employees model their behavior on their leaders, the lack of commitment goes from top to bottom. It leads to employees not taking the DEI programs seriously.

2. No Long-term Plan

D&I initiatives highlight the need for a diverse and inclusive culture and how it aligns with the organizational objectives. Often, the gap between program delivery and the organizational strategy leads to diversity programs failing long-term. In most organizations, diversity programs are equated with training. While diversity training is essential for educating employees on the subject, it alone isn’t enough to bring about organizational change. Training efforts must be supplemented with long-term initiatives linked to measurable KPIs for D&I to have the desired long-term impact.

3. Ineffective implementation

Diversity programs aim to change behaviors. To be successful, they must work beyond the hiring process to include other initiatives such as mentorship or sponsorship programs that help diverse employees succeed in their roles and progress up the ladder. In many cases, D&I programs are rolled out for face value with no concrete measure to ensure implementation across the organization. Another reason for poor implementation could be a faulty instructional delivery model that doesn’t teach employees the significance of diversity and inclusion and its effect on overall organizational performance.

4. Inadequate representation

Without the appropriate representation of people from diverse groups in framing D&I strategies, the initiatives won’t be sustainable as they won’t consider everyone’s views. D& I initiatives rolled out by people who don’t represent diverse groups are unlikely to find acceptance, leading to failure in implementation.

5. Resistance to change

Another leading cause of D&I failure is due to resistance from the employees. The resistance could be due to several reasons, such as specific segments feeling victimized or the lack of belief in the authenticity of the initiatives. In some cases, mandatory training creates an environment of animosity, with one group feeling singled out or sidelined.

How to ensure diversity programs work

So, what can organizations do to ensure diversity programs don’t fail? It requires looking beyond rolling out D&I programs to focus on long-term sustainability. Here are a few ways to boost existing initiatives.

• Focus on changing the company culture

Only a company culture that welcomes people from diverse backgrounds or segments can ensure that D&I programs succeed. Therefore, D&I strategies must focus on changing the culture from within instead of a cosmetic change reflected by increasing the number of diverse hires. While it can’t happen overnight, taking small steps toward the process will be more effective in changing culture. It can start with something as simple as allowing flexible holidays where employees can choose to take time off to celebrate their cultural or religious holidays instead of those the majority celebrate.

• Collaborative strategies

While leadership buy-in and accountability are essential, D&I strategies must be devised using a collaborative approach by including managers and employees from diverse groups in active discussions. D&I strategies that are collaborative are more likely to gain wider acceptance within the organization across diverse segments.

• Provide opportunities for development and growth

Hiring is the first step in most D&I programs, but to create a level playing field where employees from specific sectors aren’t left behind due to endemic inequalities such as a lower level of education, providing employees with the opportunity to pursue higher education or upskilling programs and facilitating mentorship or sponsorship initiatives can help narrow the gap.

• Consulting DEI specialists

In most organizations, the HR department is assigned the task of planning and implementing D&I initiatives. With HR handling several tasks, DEI often does not get the priority it deserves. Bringing in an expert can help build a sustainable D&I strategy with a long-term impact.

Understanding that a cookie-cutter approach won’t work for D&I initiatives is essential as every organization has unique challenges. Moreover, even a successful D&I program requires continuous tweaking to adapt to the ever-changing environment for long-term sustainability.

Recommended Podcast

Episode 58 : Calling In & Sustainable EDI Programming

Recommended Reading

Forbes : Three Reasons Why Diversity, Equity And Inclusion Efforts Fail

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