DEI Club

Change management

The Role of Change Management in Advancing DEI in the Workplace

How can we most effectively develop change strategies that adapt to the constantly evolving DEI landscape, while optimizing our approach to change management?

The connection between the DEI agenda and change is inseparable. Without change, there can be no progress in DEI efforts. Those engaged in DEI initiatives are essentially agents of change. However, the degree to which change management is a deliberate, formalized, and planned component of DEI Professional’s work with DEI most likely varies, as do the methods we employ to effect change.

So which strategies or models are the best fit for DEI change in a VUCA world? Does it start with the systems and context or with the individual?  

5 key considerations include:

Macro or micro changes?: Where do we primarily invest our time and effort? Do we find ourselves dedicating more resources to the strategic level, employing structured change management methodologies to meticulously plan the implementation of our DEI strategies or ambitions? Or does most of our time and focus gravitate towards the tactical and operational levels, where the change becomes palpable for individual employees? Moreover, what are the unspoken implications of this allocation on the impact of the change?

The human side: How does change impact individuals? How tangible, relevant, and meaningful is the change perceived to be, and to what extent does it shape people’s daily thoughts, conversations, and actions? Do they engage with the change, or do they distance themselves from it, believing they are neither part of the problem nor the solution? Furthermore, how does this change influence people’s perspective on DEI when we, in our efforts to advance it, might (inadvertently) introduce friction and reduce autonomy in the process?

The organisational context: Many organizations are already dealing with multiple changes that consume people's time and energy. How do we avoid DEI change initiatives repeatedly ending up at the bottom of the priority list because their short-term impact may not be particularly noticeable? How can we “win” the competition for people's time and attention amid competing priorities? Do we for instance position DEI change as a distinct change journey or deliberately integrate it into business projects and changes through a DEI lens?

Design/methodologies: DEI is a continuous effort, not a mere project; hence, traditional change management methodologies may fall short in this context. Often, these methodologies are tailored to follow linear paths, commonly moving from a stage of denial or unawareness to embracing the change. However, DEI initiatives encompass a multitude of changes, and the process of change does not have a clearly defined start and end date. So, what are the most useful methodologies / frameworks out there for driving DEI specifically? 

The global context: The change required and the methods to be employed may not necessarily be the same across geographies in organisations operating on a global scale. While we may have global goals, the path to achieving those goals often varies in different regions, depending on local history, understanding, culture and appreciation of DEI. In a globalized world, it's crucial to recognize that what works in one region may not yield the same results in another due to diverse cultural, social, and economic factors. Therefore, tailoring DEI strategies and change management approaches to align with the unique context of each region becomes imperative. It requires a deep understanding of local nuances, challenges, and opportunities to ensure that DEI efforts resonate effectively across the global landscape.

In conclusion, while we can discuss DEI change in broad terms and its undeniable necessity, a closer examination reveals crucial nuances and considerations that demand our attention if we are to effectively engage with DEI. An online DEI community can serve as one of the ways to work with change, actively addressing the aforementioned five key points:

Firstly, it offers a means to influence individuals in their daily lives, fostering micro-level changes. Due to its flexible design, it can seamlessly integrate into busy schedules and engage a wide range of participants, promoting inclusivity on a broader scale rather than a select few deeply involved.

Secondly, it acknowledges that DEI is not a project with a neatly outlined plan but rather comprises numerous simultaneous changes driven by individuals who must learn how to navigate this multi-dimensional process.

Lastly, it caters to a global context, recognizing the diverse ways in which DEI unfolds on a global scale. This adaptability ensures that DEI efforts are sensitive to the unique dynamics and expressions of diversity, equity, and inclusion worldwide.

In essence, an online DEI community offers a dynamic platform that aligns with the multifaceted nature of DEI change, making it a valuable tool for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.