DEI Club

Culture change

Forging Lasting Cultural Change

Creating a workplace that thrives on diversity, equity and inclusion isn't just a trendy notion. As leaders and organizations strive for excellence, the significance of cultivating an inclusive culture becomes increasingly important.

The bedrock of company success lies in an engaged organisational culture. An inclusive workplace culture bolsters not only employee morale but also productivity, innovation, and thus potentially overall business outcomes. Engaged employees are driven to excel and contribute their best, whereas disengagement can steadily erode energy and creativity. 

DEI when done right is culture transformation. Culture transformation occurs when the majority of employees embrace new habits and behaviors. While systemic change is essential, it is ultimately driven by the cumulative efforts of individuals within an organization or society.

However, the task of catalysing a cultural shift can be daunting. Many companies grapple with unsuccessful DEI initiatives that fail to yield substantial impact. So, what sets apart the successful endeavors? Three crucial elements stand out:

1. Empowering through collective responsibility 

DEI should not rest solely on the shoulders of a single individual or team or be something that only happens in small pockets of an organization while the rest continues as usual. No cultural change happens that way. The likelihood is that the pocket of enthusiasts will only grow gradually more frustrated by the lack of initiative and inclusivity of those to whom the agenda is not deemed relevant. When DEI efforts are isolated, they risk becoming disconnected from the broader organizational context and culture. This can result in a lack of widespread understanding and support for the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

To effect genuine culture change, DEI should permeate all levels and aspects of an organization. This requires the engagement and involvement of everyone, from leadership to every employee. As more voices join the conversation, the impact on the culture magnifies. When DEI becomes a collective effort, it has a better chance of influencing the organizational culture, behaviors, policies, and practices. Inclusive practices and values need to be integrated into the organization's core. 

2. Creating opportunity for continuous learning 

For DEI to flourish and take root in the organization, a foundation of continuous learning must be established. A culture of learning that prioritizes ongoing education and provides timely access to relevant resources is crucial. The diversity in individuals' understanding, perspectives and maturity levels when it comes to DEI can fuel mutual learning and a gradual convergence. Engaging employees on a common platform where interaction and co-creation thrive is essential for a sustainable impact.

By gathering employees broadly around the DEI agenda in a collective learning process that doesn't presume to have all the answers in advance, avoiding any dogmatism or indoctrination, an inclusive and collaborative process can emerges. 

Through dialogue and human interaction, meaning and understanding gradually unfolds. This approach transforms DEI into a positive and unifying agenda, in contrast to a divisive and alienating one. An agenda that might initially appear daunting, abstract and unnatural, but has the potential to foster an atmosphere of openness and opportunity.

3. Creating a social movement to drive a cultural shift 

To create cultural change, fostering collective responsibility and nurturing continuous learning are paramount. But how do we motivate active participation in the first place?

The answer lies in cultivating an internal social movement as a critical catalyst for transforming workplace culture. Unlike grassroots initiatives that tend to remain localized, a social movement permeates both horizontally and vertically within an organization. Its impact extends beyond inspiring a select group of enthusiasts; it engenders profound shifts in mindsets and behaviors across the board.

The true power of a social movement lies in its ripple effect. As a handful of individuals begin adopting new behaviors and perspectives, their influence cascades through others, triggering a chain reaction of change. This ripple effect gains momentum, transcending individual actions and ultimately resulting in a broader cultural shift. 

Central to the effectiveness of this movement is the concept of community building. This process fosters connections, cultivates meaningful dialogues, and encourages cross-collaboration among diverse groups. 

Much like Malcolm Gladwell's notion of the tipping point marking the transition from minor to significant impact, this strategic approach shifts the narrative from impersonal social categories to individual stories, from passive disengagement to active participation, and from systemic detachment to meaningful human connection. 

Designing for a cultural shift: A 4-step change process framework:

The journey of establishing an inclusive culture isn't a straightforward or linear path. There's an individual learning process that, like any other change process, needs to occur.

The path to a healthy, sustainable, and more inclusive culture emerges when one's commitment is authentic. Authentic commitment requires insight. When we are coerced into being engaged and supportive of something we might not fully understand or are uncertain about, it can lead to superficial involvement or even evoke resistance by default. So, how can we naturally inspire a desire to engage?

We propose that the journey towards an inclusive culture follows distinct phases:

1. Mobilizing Employees 

At the foundation of any meaningful cultural change lies the crucial phase of mobilizing employees. This phase serves as the trigger, the spark that sets off a collective consciousness about the importance of inclusivity and diversity.

During this phase, the focus is on building awareness and understanding of key DEI concepts. Learning about the impact of biases, the value of diverse perspectives, and the importance of creating an environment where every voice is heard.

The mobilization phase aims to create a sense of urgency and curiosity. By generating a sense of shared purpose, this phase instils a commitment to contribute positively to the organization's DEI journey.

As employees embark on this journey of mobilization, they not only develop a deeper understanding of the issues and complexities at hand but also build the foundation for meaningful action. Their newfound knowledge sparks the desire to learn more, to question more, and to actively engage in the pursuit of a more inclusive workplace. 

Ultimately, the success of this phase lies in creating a receptive environment, where the seeds of curiosity and enthusiasm are sown, paving the way for the subsequent phases of fostering allyship and sustained change.

2. Fostering Allyship 

In this phase, the emphasis shifts from mere awareness and good intentions to actionable steps that make inclusion a tangible reality. It's not enough to simply acknowledge the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. It's about actively engaging in practices that bring these values to life within the organizational context and culture.

To foster allyship means equipping individuals with the skills and tools they need to become advocates for inclusivity. It's about providing them with a clear roadmap for translating their awareness into meaningful actions that contribute to a more diverse and equitable workplace. 

Central to fostering allyship is the concept of empowerment. By empowering individuals to be agents of change within their own spheres of influence, a powerful ripple effect is set in motion. As these change agents engage in courageous conversations, model inclusive behaviors, and champion the cause of DEI, their influence extends far beyond their immediate actions. Their commitment inspires others to take similar steps, creating a chain reaction of positive change.

Ultimately, fostering allyship not only leads to a more inclusive workplace but also contributes to a cultural shift. As more individuals become skilled allies, the organization as a whole begins to embrace a collective mindset of inclusivity. This phase represents a transformative bridge between awareness and sustained action, moving beyond passive agreement to active engagement with the principles of DEI. 

3. Sustaining Change

Once the momentum of allyship has been set in motion, the next crucial phase is sustaining change. This phase is dedicated to ensuring that the progress achieved in the earlier stages endures over the long term. It entails building upon the knowledge acquired and consistently engaging in further learning and growth. 

Continuity, persistence, and reinforcement are keys to secure lasting impact. Knowledge, aspirations and initial actions must be manifested in mindset and intrinsic behaviors.

The ultimate goal of this phase is to create a ripple effect that extends beyond the individuals directly involved, inspiring others to join the movement through the tangible impact of sustained change.

4. Changing infrastructure

In the pursuit of fostering an inclusive culture that endures, changing infrastructure becomes paramount. This component transcends the three phases and recognizes that an all-encompassing transformation requires more than just the sum of individual efforts. Rather, it demands a comprehensive approach that addresses and reshapes the larger organizational systems and structures.

To enable, amplify and solidify the progress in the three phases, inclusion must be seamlessly woven into the fabric of an organization's processes and structures. It's imperative that operational systems, processes, and incentives align with the values of inclusivity and diversity. This integration ensures that new insights, practices, and heightened awareness are supported, upheld and perpetuated.

In the absence of these systemic adjustments, individual efforts are likely to struggle to overcome the inertia of established behavioral norms.

By infusing inclusivity into the core operational mechanisms, an enduring foundation is laid for lasting change to take root and flourish. The result is an organizational ecosystem where inclusivity is not an isolated effort, but a fundamental characteristic driving sustainable cultural change.


In conclusion, the journey towards cultivating a more inclusive workplace culture is navigated through the pillars of community building, collective responsibility, continuous learning, and the driving force of social movement. These elements harmoniously work together to forge a shift from impersonal categories to individual narratives, from passive disengagement to active participation, and from distant systemic understanding to profound human connections. By emphasizing human interaction, the DEI agenda evolves beyond a mere initiative into a profound cultural transformation, driving sustained and meaningful impact.