Navigating Change at the Core—Advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility

July 23, 2020

The tragic death of George Floyd triggered worldwide social unrest over institutional racism that often overtly manifests as police violence. Young people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds came together in the streets, focused on making their future better. Their courage and energy pushed others to the street and, even more importantly, sparked a much-needed dialogue, followed by a renewed commitment to change in our places of work.

Employers saw what happened and want to overcome the challenge of ingrained inequities in our nation, communities, and workplaces. What worked in the past will not satisfy the demands of the future. Simply put, people of all backgrounds view racism as wrong and are tired of empty words. They want deliberate and meaningful actions to break down institutional barriers and they are willing to make that happen.

Swiftly, our leaders at LMI recognized, illustrated, and acted on our commitment through the following:

  1. Leveraged the infrastructure of care and connection already in place from COVID-19. These relationships and bonds were forged in crisis.
  2. Furnished clear and crisp messaging, communicating that leaders also felt the shock and wanted employees to know they were ready to lead into the future and manage the associated changes.
  3. Listened to affinity groups to include viewpoints from employees of color.
  4. Engaged members of the workforce with expertise in diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) to guide and shape the company’s efforts.
  5. Established simple and straightforward access to assistance for employees who needed it.
  6. Made personal commitments to lead cultural change at LMI.

When an organization’s aim is high performance, it should remove all impediments to achieving that goal. Deliberately fostering diversity affords an organization more effective innovation and better decision-making to improve mission delivery for customers and stakeholders. When some members of a diverse workforce experience adverse effects of policies and practices that are ingrained in a culture built by and for the majority, those individuals cannot achieve their full potential, organizational performance is degraded, and the mission suffers. Inclusion helps the organization make thoughtful decisions to ensure policies and practices work for all. Equity ensures each member of the workforce has the adequate tools to reach full performance potential. Connected with equity, accessibility offers unbiased treatment and accommodation for workforce members with differing abilities.

The government, as the largest employer in the nation, represents all aspects of the nation in its workforce. As government agencies root out institutional racism and mitigate biases in their organizations, LMI offers the following perspective for improving the DEIA environment and optimizing performance.

Leaders must set the tone and model behavior.

Although DEIA requires engagement from all stakeholders, it starts with the leadership of the organization. Leaders have the authority to make decisions and hold others accountable for their behaviors. Grassroot efforts can help; however, culture is often a bottleneck. Leaders must value DEIA, set goals for its implementation, and act when others excel or fall below expectations.

Compliance with existing laws, regulations, and policies is non-negotiable.

Plenty of antidiscrimination laws, regulations, and policies exist to prevent discrimination in the workplace. Yet, we still have institutional racism and other barriers that segment experiences by workforce demographics. Making compliance the foundation of DEIA efforts enables workforce members to have leadership support to break through these barriers to reach their professional and personal goals.

Policies must be clearly written and widely communicated by leaders.

Every member of the workforce should know the leader’s stance and approach to DEIA. Clear policies should be distributed and reinforced throughout the organization.

A system of accountability, anchored in performance management, is essential.

A popular saying in management is “what gets managed and measured gets done.” The performance management function most effectively communicates accountability. Organizations set standards, observe and evaluate performance against these standards, and correct subpar performance.

Every member of the workforce has responsibilities.

Building a culture of DEIA is not a spectator sport; everyone must participate. Workforce members must hold each other accountable without offending each other. The entire workforce should learn how to engage and deescalate sensitive situations effectively.

Collaboration is required between offices charged with DEIA and other parts of the organization that must support implementation of activities.

Executive-level sponsorship, support, and engagement is a quick way to dismantle barriers and make DEIA a whole organization effort. Leaders set common goals and every function strives to achieve those goals.

DEIA functions in the culture of an organization, so changing it is a cultural change. Be patient.

Just as the cultural environment that created the need for DEIA efforts did not develop overnight, this environment will take time to change. Commitment to DEIA efforts should be long term and revisited often through deliberate dialogue.

Organizations need to innovate—be willing to try new ways of doing things.

If efforts to fix DEIA are coming up short, try doing some different—innovate.

Use existing data and analysis to make decisions.

Arguing passionately may feel good; however, decisions that exist within the culture need the unpinning of data and effective analysis. To the extent possible, let the data tell the story.

Implement change management to support DEIA activities.

Mature the organization’s capabilities to handle continuous change. Become adept at building leadership support, creating a change coalition, and working through resistance.

Driving Innovation through Diversity

We believe, unequivocally, that our innovation and expertise is fueled by diversity. We remain dedicated to powering a future-ready, high-performing government by delivering integrated capabilities that incorporate emerging technologies and are tailored to customers’ unique mission needs.

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