Creating A Racial Equity Strategy: It’s Time To Walk The Walk

 Creating A Racial Equity Strategy: It’s Time To Walk The Walk

By Sara Walker

In the days that followed George Floyd’s death, we witnessed organization after organization put out statements. Many condemned his death, acknowledged systemic racism and committed to create more just and equitable systems not only for their organization but for society at large. Many of the messages were smart, empathetic and bold.

Great! Now what?

Over and over again, people of color and other marginalized groups outside of the power structures hear the commitments and then experience either lack of results or inaction. If you’re sincerely committed to moving forward now, here are some ideas for how to walk the walk.

Decide Your Approach

Do you want to create a transactional strategy or a transformational strategy? A transactional strategy is a list of activities under particular objectives with solid metrics, and while they may even be bold and uncomfortable, such activities alone don’t ensure deep organizational change. A transformational strategy is systemic, sustainable and developmental, and it’s the only strategy that will actually create a more equitable organization.

The hard question for leaders is: Do you sincerely and enthusiastically support such a change? If the answer isn’t a solid, confident yes, then stick with the transactional strategy, and be clear with your organization about what they can expect as a result. Don’t tell them to expect the moon when you know you’re only investing in a small prop plane to get them there.

Conduct An Equity Audit

Before you create that strategy, you need to have a clear idea of the specific gaps that exist in your organization. A full audit includes a review of organizational data, from rates of hire, termination and promotion to policies and practices. It can also include an employee survey and focus groups. Finally, a comprehensive audit also includes a measure of the organization’s level of cultural competence. This step is necessary for a transformational strategy because it measures the current stage of development and thus signals the action steps that need to be taken to develop to the next stage of effectiveness.

Move From An Equality-Based Approach To An Equity-Based Approach

The difference between equality and equity is significant. Equality attempts to treat everyone fairly. To that end, it applies the same rules and advantages to everyone. Contrast that with equity, which focuses on end results. Equality concentrates on inputs into our systems, while equity concentrates on the systems themselves and the outcomes.

Cultural Competence Development Is Key

Why have we been unable to take an equity-based approach? Because not enough of us have the necessary level of competence to be able to do so. Not enough of us have the ability to understand how our unconscious makes decisions for us and to move those decisions to the conscious mind. That ability comes with developing our cultural competence. Five stages of development determine our level of effectiveness: We are either controlled by our unconscious (the first three stages) or understand and then get in front of our unconscious decisions (the last three stages). Unfortunately, as individuals, 83.5% of us are in these first three ineffective stages. As larger systems, nearly every organization is spinning its wheels in the tractionless third stage, where we focus on equality and aren’t yet capable of seeing the complexities of equitable solutions.

That’s the bad news. The good news is any of us — individually and organizationally — can develop our cultural competence. Talk about equity all you want, but until you develop the ability to see and create equity, all you’ll have is talk.

Develop An Equity Strategy

A transformational equity strategy needs to go beyond the given. For years, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practitioners have utilized best practices of tying a strategy to the overall business strategy, staffing it at the senior leadership level and ensuring it has the necessary resources and measurable outcomes to be successful. Those are the givens. Here are a few ways to take your strategy beyond them:

• Develop leaders first, and hold them accountable: In the thousands of groups we’ve worked with, we’ve never seen an organization that is more culturally competent than its leaders. That means leaders set the bar. Until they develop, they will hold the organization back. Develop them, and then hold them accountable to creating an equitable team and workplace.

• Focus on leading indicators: Lagging indicators, such as past hires, promotions or engagement scores, tell you where you’ve been. Leading indicators point to where you’re going and can still be adjusted, such as the number of managers in a cultural competence development process or number of people of color in springboard positions.

• Build an equity framework: Create an equity framework that can be used by those who have developed their competence to review policies, practices, decisions and programs to ensure they are equitable.

• Develop equity coaches: Develop a cadre of coaches who are culturally competent and well versed in equity, identity-based trauma and microinequities. Give them the time to coach their colleagues both formally and informally. Communicate to the organization that they are available as a resource.

Only Those Committed And Competent

If a manufacturing plant with a stated and practiced value of safety were to set new, more comprehensive safety procedures, would it form a committee that included staff who regularly complained about safety and campaign for reducing safety protocols? Would it allow the safety naysayer and the safety-ignorant to co-lead the safety debriefs every morning?

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Originally posted on Forbes


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