Looking back on all the changes we have seen in the workplace in 2021, I am starting to feel pretty hopeful. Organizations made some big commitments this year. A few examples of these changes include adopting new technology to lead more effectively in hybrid and remote work environments, living up to 2020 racial equity promises, and navigating the Great Reshuffle that will continue to change the way we work for years to come. While there’s no way to know the exact impact that these decisions will have in the longer term, I think the common denominator that keeps me hopeful is that most organizations are finally willing to re-examine their default approach to navigating the future of work. They are eagerly admitting that they don’t have it all figured out and that an ongoing reckoning is needed. Regarding DEIB in particular, I’ve noticed that conversations are shifting from “basic” diversity inquiries to contemplating how to create sustainable, large-scale change, mainly around creating cultures of belonging.
Now, the big question that we are asking ourselves is “how did we do?” Are our efforts actually working? Here are four prompts that will help you find out.
Before you start assessing your progress over the last year, take a minute to revisit the wording in your original goals. One of the biggest culprits I see with clients is that their goals are too vague, or they haven’t taken the time to dig into what terms like “diverse teams,” “hybrid work,” and “equity” mean for their organization. If some of your goals still seem pretty far out of reach, they might need some fine-tuning before you start checking them off your list. For example, if one of your goals is to “create a company-wide culture of belonging,” you may want to break that down to team-level goals first—like addressing imbalances of power or providing leaders with the tools they need to get some clarity on the team’s approach when it comes to change.
Hopefully, when you set your DEIB goals for 2021, you also put some thought into how you would measure your success. So, how did you do?
To answer that question, you don’t need access to loads of data. You can start with a few group listening sessions paired with some one-on-one chats to truly understand how your team is feeling. Try to get an understanding of what seemed to work, where you need to dig deeper, and what flat out didn’t work. Before you check something off your list as a success—such as making a successful transition back to the office or executing detailed plans to hire diverse candidates in leadership roles—consider what still needs more attention.
Once you have reviewed your goals and progress from 2021, you can set new goals for 2022. Many of our clients often find the start, stop, continue approach useful here.
What do you want to start doing in 2022?
What do you want to stop doing in 2022?
What do you want to continue doing in 2022?
While these questions may seem intuitive, many clients particularly struggle with the “continue” part. It’s always easy to start something new, like a speaker series, but continuing something on a deeper level is much harder. One of my clients, for example, made it a goal to have a more diverse executive team. They put a ton of effort into this in 2021, but by the end of the year, their team didn’t look much different. Their immediate thought was to throw it all out and start again. It was harder for them to imagine what would happen if they took their efforts one layer deeper—to contemplate why things didn’t seem to be working overall. When we went deeper together, we found that starting over wasn’t an option. We had to stay on a similar path and continue to get deeper into what we started. It was in those crevices where we started realizing some hidden wins. The team was starting to develop relationships with folks they would want to recruit on their team one day. Employees were seeing the efforts that they were making. Soon, they realized it was a long game. They didn’t need to start over; they needed to continue on a similar path. Recognizing the difference is very important in the goal-setting process. Going on a new path is always more enticing than mastering an old, confusing one.
Accountability. It’s an overused term and, when it comes down to it, many of us don’t truly know what it means. Some organizations go with punitive approaches (i.e. you don’t get your bonus if you don’t hit your targets). Others unsuccessfully try to hold each other accountable. In Leading Below the Surface, I discuss a process called “sharing your slips.” This means you are transparent about what’s working, neutral, and what’s not working. This is how I encourage our clients to practice accountability. Ask your team to share their slips on a continual basis. Develop a ritual where you share slips in a psychologically safe environment. This is especially useful because we all know that cultural change on a large scale takes time and a big personal investment; these issues are not something that you can fix by using only punitive measures.
Those are the questions, folks. Using this season of reflection to focus especially on questions two and four, measuring your progress, and building in accountability throughout the year will set you up for bigger change in 2022. And remember: continue more, start less!
Take my DEI diagnostic to be guided through a more thorough version of the questions here, or if you are still working on creating a culture of belonging in a hybrid work environment, download my checklist here.