3 Imperatives for Improving Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in 2022

More organizations plan heavy investment in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) than any other function of human capital management, according to Brandon Hall Group’s HCM Outlook 2022 Study 

DE&I also ranks in the top five human capital management initiatives organizations are most optimistic about for 2022. 

Building a culture of DE&I requires building new sets of skills among both individual contributors and leaders, from the front lines to the C-Suite. For many organizations, improving DE&I amounts to culture change. That requires a strategic approach. 

Many organizations launched DE&I efforts in 2020 and 2021 without a strategic plan and governance. Most organizations understand both are needed but they struggle to make it work effectively.  

As we begin 2022, the high enthusiasm that business and human capital management leaders expressed in 2020 has often led to frustration with a lack of progress. Brandon Hall Group research shows that less than one-third of organizations: 

  • Have a leadership group that reflects the composition of the workforce
  • Address pay transparency issues by gender and race/ethnicity 
  • Have a diverse talent pipeline

Among 14 DE&I priorities we asked organizations to rank in terms of investment of time and money for 2022, the two top are: 

  • Developing a DE&I strategic plan 
  • Forming or improving a DE&I council to provide governance around DE&I efforts 

As organizations begin to take a more strategic approach to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, here are some critical questions: 

  • Do we truly understand our current state and the complexity of DE&I in our organization? 
  • What should a strategic DE&I plan address? 
  • How can we embed the values of DE&I across the organization? 

Here are three imperatives to improve DE&I results in 2022: 

Understand the Complexity of DE&I 

If these issues were easy, we would not be wrestling with a basic understanding in the year 2022. One critical mistake is not fully embracing DE&I as a complex and potentially divisive and polarizing issue. Many organizations, our research shows, went directly from identifying DE&I as a top priority to launching initiatives. That omits two critical steps: understanding the current state and devising a strategy for success. 

You can’t effectively build a better DE&I culture without understanding where you are now and the history that led to the current state. Your own company’s history around DE&I and your employees’ experiences and opinions might be more complex than you realize.

It’s important to understand how aspects of a person’s social and political identities combine to create different ways in which they view the world and interact with colleagues and your organization. This is the concept of intersectionality, which was coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, an American lawyer, civil rights advocate and philosopher. 

The concept, based on critical race theory, has many nuances and generated controversy, especially between political and cultural liberals and conservatives. But the basis of intersectionality is valid: People have overlapping identities and potentially experience bias and discrimination on several different levels. 

For example, a Black woman is Black and female and can be subject to discrimination based on race, gender or a combination of the two. A recent documentary on law enforcement and race brought this into clear focus. It featured a police officer who was Black, female and gay. She described herself as “hitting the discrimination trifecta that I get caught up in every day from the cops, the perps and the public.” 

 Understanding the complexity of bias and discrimination across society and in your own industry and organization is important to determine your organization’s core values and approach to DE&I. If, for instance, your evolution has just begun, you may need more time to gather information, involve the workforce and determine the best course of action. If you have already done the groundwork, you can move faster. Inclusion is critical in every step you take. 

Develop a Comprehensive Strategy 

Once you have a deep understanding of your current state, you can devise a strategy to build a culture of DE&I that will deliver business impact. The best way is taking a holistic approach to developing a DE&I strategic plan: 

Functions of a DE&I Strategic Plan 

  • Creates understanding of the business need for DE&I. 
  • Ensures a comprehensive, organization-wide approach. 
  • Communicates the DE&I mission, values and principles to the organization. 
  • Creates a framework for winning the support of DE&I from top leadership and key stakeholders. 
  • Creates processes for widespread involvement in improving DE&I. 
  • Establishes governance, measurement and accountability for DE&I. 
  • Creates a framework for managing change.

Embed DE&I in Everything You Do 

A strong DE&I strategic plan lays out ways in which you can embed DE&I across all functions and processes in the organization. Areas the strategic plan should address include: 

  • Making the business case
  • Commitment and involvement from the top
  • Vision, mission
  • Governance
  • Diverse hiring
  • Onboarding
  • Employee retention
  • Training
  • Communication
  • Marketing, advertising, branding
  • Strategic alliances, partnerships
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Customer experience
  • Employee experience
  • Supplier/vendor diversity
  • Measurement, accountability

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Mike Cooke



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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.

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