How to create DEIB conversations in the workplace

by Oct 29, 2021

This blog is part two of a 4-part series on creating DEIB in the workplace, talking about diversity among colleagues, and what sorts of initiatives companies, managers, and employees can take to amplify those discussions. Read part one here. 

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.

Taking initiative with DEIB

Sonic Boom: I think there are a lot of employees out there who want to have more conversations around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, but they don’t feel comfortable starting from the ground up. What sort of programs exist to empower managers to take that initiative with their teams?

Lauren Collins: One that a lot of our clients have used is NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI), but there are so many out there. The big thing is not waiting; having the ability to support your employees from the ground up is important. And so much of that is the trickle-down effect — giving people things to talk about on a regular basis. Don’t just ask people to talk about “diversity” — that’s broad and awkward! Instead, provide them with information to read, videos to watch, materials they can review with each other and their families, and reflection questions for them to answer.

A lot of these programs provide ideas for putting what you learned into action. So the more often you’re having those conversations in general, the easier it becomes to have those same conversations when something actually happens. If you’re only talking about these things when someone goes wrong, it’s really too late for it to go well for anybody.

Sonic Boom: So be proactive, not reactive.

LC: Yes, make it a piece of your culture, so you’re not discussing it for the first time when there’s a problem.

DEIB strategies to skip

Sonic Boom: What strategies have you seen that do not work?

LC: Trying to make everyone happy. I think it’s about doing the mission and values-based thing and being willing to stand by that. And be open to discussing that. I’m always open to discussing these things with anybody. I think being too flexible is easier in the moment but not in the long-term. Some of our work is applying the pressure and keeping it on, even when people want a break from that pressure.

One other thing that doesn’t work well is playing only to the business sense or only to the heart — both are important. This is the right thing to do for humans, but it’s also good to do for business. Leaning too heavily on one side or the other can be detrimental too. If you’re going to start it and do it, then do it. Don’t start and fizzle out. I think that’s the problem with talking about diversity as purely for business; there’s no human heart in there. You have to have that other side for it to matter in the long run.

Read part 3 here and part 4 here

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