Common Roadblocks to DEI Work: Beginning or Adapting Your Journey

The current landscape of DEI work is littered with roadblocks that are preventing organizations from achieving the lasting, meaningful culture change that is so desperately needed. While well-intentioned, many of the DEI initiatives that have been rolled out in recent years have been ineffective at best, and at worst, have caused more harm than good. As we continue to navigate the challenges of creating a more equitable and inclusive workplace, it is important to acknowledge the roadblocks that are preventing us from achieving our goals.

In this article, we will explore three main roadblocks to doing sustainable DEI work in an organization: Lack of Effective Execution, DEI Leaders Not Set Up For Success, and No Attention to the What’s In It For Me.” 

Lack of Effective Execution

Following the death of George Floyd in May 2020, many organizations rushed to implement DEI initiatives. However, these initiatives were often hastily thrown together and lacked a long-term strategy for creating lasting change. Instead of focusing on changing the culture or systems of the company, many organizations relied on quick-fix training sessions or one-off programs that failed to produce meaningful results. This lack of effective execution has fueled defensiveness and insecurity around the topic of DEI, leading to backlash and polarization in various ways. 

DEI Leaders Not Set Up for Success

In an effort to demonstrate their commitment to DEI, many organizations have hired senior-level DEI leaders. However, these positions are often filled by individuals who lack the required expertise or experience in organizational change management. Additionally, the organizational structure and/​or limited resources are not available to help these individuals succeed in their roles. Without a robust strategy or roadmap, many DEI leaders are left to implement one-off initiatives such as unconscious bias training or organizing Employee Resource Group (ERG) events. While these initiatives may have some impact, they are not systemic, scalable, or sustainable. As a result, many of these DEI leaders are set up for failure, and their positions are eliminated without genuine acknowledgement that the structure was designed for failure at the outset.

No Attention to the WIIFM

Another roadblock to DEI success is the failure to communicate the what’s in it for me” to all employees. DEI is not just for specific people; it is for everyone. Unfortunately, many employees view DEI as exclusionary work because they believe it is only about advancing folks in minoritized or underrepresented groups. To overcome this perception, DEI must be positioned as a culture change effort that benefits everyone within an organization. Instead of implementing DEI as a series of stand-alone initiatives, it needs to be considered as a code” of the workplace, a way of working together every day that ensures equity in policy and practice. By linking DEI to a way of working, it can be seen as a core part of how the organization operates, rather than a program or initiative with a fixed shelf life. 

In conclusion, what hinders us in doing sustainable DEI work in any organization is significant, but not insurmountable. By focusing on the roadblocks discussed here, organizations can begin to make meaningful progress towards creating more inclusive, equitable, and human-centered workplaces. Rather than viewing DEI as a series of stand-alone initiatives, we must position it as a culture change effort that is woven into the fabric of our organizations. With the right focus, resources, and commitment, we can create a better state of DEI for tomorrow creating workplaces that truly honor and respect all human differences. 

Need help mitigating your DEI roadblocks? Our programs meet you where you’re at in your DEI journey and help get you on the right track. Book a call today and learn more about how MESH builds safer, more equitable workplaces.