Diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, is finally receiving overdue attention in popular media, social talk tracks, and in corporate board rooms. As one example, an online review of recently posted jobs will reveal that more companies are currently looking for a DEI practitioner than we have ever seen in the past. It is certainly a good time to be DEI-savvy if you are looking for gainful employment.
Companies with posted DEI jobs have tacitly admitted that they lack DEI in their musculature. Why? Well, because why else would they need a DEI leader if DEI was already woven into the company’s competency framework and culture-fabric? Unfortunately, most of these same companies are doomed to remain disappointed by their lack of meaningful results in DEI after the job is filled.
So why is it that if a company is willing to create space on their organization chart for a DEI practitioner, that they are unlikely to make any real progress? The answer can be found lurking behind the doors marked: Human Resources, Talent Management, Performance Management, Leadership Development, and others.
Many of my well-intentioned compatriots in HR who administer “best practices” in human capital management (HCM), are finally admitting that collectively, we all have a DEI problem. While it’s been said that acceptance is the first step toward recovery, in this case, creating a special job for DEI leadership is not a true acceptance of the actual problem. It is essentially saying, “…we are going to continue administering our people and culture practices the same way, but we are going to add DEI as an extra component.” That is akin to me saying, “I am going to continue eating a pint of ice cream every night after dinner, but I am going to add a new stationary bike in the living room in order to manage my weight.”1
Now please understand that in my many years of service in human resources, that I have committed as many or more of these DEI oversights as my peers and as they say, “acceptance is the first step toward recovery!” What are these oversights that so many of us have unwittingly promoted over the years?
In a nutshell, the connection that I will make between continued failures in DEI and our typical practices in HCM is this: while DEI strives to honor and protect the God-given uniqueness of each individual, HCM at the same time usually strives to soften the rough edges, fill in all the weak spots, rate, rank, homogenize, and then place each person in one of nine standardized boxes called, “potential.” Rather than having a “human capital celebration,” or promoting “human capital maximization,” we have human capital management. HCM implies that we can reshape, remold, and then manage all these humans that we may call, “employees.”
So, I officially resolve to disrupt the status quo, shine a light on the oversights, and honor each individual. Diversity, the way God intended.
By the way, in one of the best books on business that I have read, “Nine Lies About Work,” Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall provide a forceful and thought-provoking argument that points out the nine most significant HCM oversights. Pick up a copy.
1 By the way, I don’t eat a pint of ice cream every night!