This “Outside Consultant” column by Nakeisha S. Lewis, associate dean of undergraduate and accelerated master’s programs and DEI ambassador at Opus College of Business, ran in the Star Tribune on Dec. 28, 2020.

It really starts with taking an authentic look at your organization and asking some internal questions about your commitment to doing the work, willingness to change systems that perpetuate inequities, and being open to ways your culture could be improved to support the changes. I frequently hear organizations wanting a lockstep guide when the next steps will honestly depend on where your organization, leadership and organizational culture is starting.

With that said, actionable next steps are typically operationalized in what I call P.A.I.R. They should be Purposeful, Authentic, Impactful, and have shared Responsibility for diversity, equity and belonging efforts.

Purposeful. Organizations should have a clear vision about what they want to achieve and how it ties into existing objectives. Part of this process includes thoroughly outlining barriers to inclusion as well as what needs to change in order to get over them. The visioning process also helps organizations stay focused on root causes. Many organizations’ tactics to engage in this work seems to only remedy symptoms of larger systemic issues. To combat this approach, I recommend asking why these inequities exist and identify the true problems within the organization.

Authentic. It takes authenticity for real culture change, and real culture change takes time, work and consistency to develop. A strategic plan that infuses a commitment to equity and inclusion will make you far more trustworthy than a plan where DEI feels like an add-on.

Impactful. With a clearly articulated vision and an authentic approach, your organization is ready to create an inclusion action plan. This is where you will outline opportunities to create programming, pipelines, positions, reward systems, trainings, policies and culture that are much more purposeful and impactful.

Responsibility. In order for inclusion to be effective, it must go beyond an office or role (that focuses on DEI) and extend to every part of the organization. All stakeholders must be RESPONSIBLE and held accountable for infusing cultural intelligence and awareness into not only how we do business but who we are. A successful strategy gives every stakeholder tangible ways to show accountability and to measure impact.

Developing a culture of belonging takes patience, persistence and a sound process. That’s where PAIR comes in.

Nakeisha S. Lewis is associate dean of undergraduate and accelerated master’s programs and DEI ambassador at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.

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