Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in the workplace

by Oct 25, 2021

This blog is part of a 4-part series on creating DEIB in the workplace, focusing on diversity among colleagues, and what steps companies, managers, and employees can take to create a dialogue on this topic. 

Lauren Collins is the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Director at Premise Health. She’s a licensed clinical social worker and a certified Daring Way facilitator, which is based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown. Sonic Boom Wellness is a Premise Health company — we caught up with Lauren to ask her many questions about how to integrate more DEIB programs and dialogue into any work environment.

DEIB in the workplace

Sonic Boom Wellness: What does “DEIB” mean when it comes to the workplace?

Lauren Collins: I think ultimately what it means is “home.” A “safe place.” Without the psychological safety required to do anything in life, we have nothing. So it’s the way everyone maximizes their existence in this space, and then it’s how we maximize our members’ existence in this space. It’s laying the foundation for creating spaces that all of our team members deserve to work in, in order to create spaces where all of our members deserve to be cared for. And that’s a space where they’re safe completely as who they are and seen for who they are.

Diversity, equality, inclusion, and belonging — they are not the goal. They are the tools. They are how we create that space. We’re making sure we have a diverse workforce, we’re making sure we have equitable policies, opportunities, and access to create that culture, right? Inclusion is a tool to make sure we get all the voices to the table. And belonging is, again, that safety feeling of I’m okay here and I can be myself here. Those are the tools we use to make sure everyone is able to show up at their best.

DEIB-inspired progress

Sonic Boom: Those DEIB tools aren’t a new need, but they’ve been brought to the forefront of everyone’s minds in the last year and a half. In your opinion, what are the main areas where most companies still need to improve? What are some areas where you have seen improvement?

LC: There are probably more conversations being had than ever before. At first it started out as the “right thing to do,” then it was the “business sense thing to do.” But what this all really did was give voice to the people whom these things matter to the most, and it helped people learn what matters to them the most. Maybe they didn’t know it mattered to them before. It’s created a space for people to speak up. Maybe some of the “sexiness” of it all has faded away, but the grassroots fires that have started are still growing. We’re still stoking them, and they’re still capable of lighting things up. I think it’s been a bit of a fire-starter time.

The downside, I would say, is that a lot of corporations did speak up initially, but there was no follow-up. They didn’t put their money where their mouth was, so to speak. For many, that’s almost worse than doing nothing at all. I think many people spoke up when it was “cool” to do so, and now that it might be less “cool,” it’s like, okay, what are you going to do now? I think the reality now is that people are sort of sniffing out who does what with it, and that may be to the detriment of some down the line.

Creating a “safe space”

Sonic Boom Wellness: Beyond hiring with these principles in mind, what are some other long-term ways that HR departments and managers can take things a step further and create that “safe space” for everyone at work?

LC: That’s the inclusion and belonging, really. Companies look at recruitment and retention data, and if you look at just the recruitment, it may look a lot different than the retention data. So how do we retain more people? There’s the mistake of attracting people but not creating that space for them to be themselves. So they gather the skills, then they leave and take those skills to a place where they can be themselves.

Work is not a bubble — people don’t stop being human once they walk through that door. So paying attention to what’s going on in the world and getting to know your employees and how the world impacts them creates an opportunity for them to be themselves. Just because people aren’t saying anything doesn’t mean they are satisfied or happy; a lot of the time, they’re just strategically hanging out. Making sure they feel safe, heard, and valued at work can help ensure those retention numbers more closely align with recruitment numbers.

Read part 2 here, part 3 here, and part 4 here

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