Introducing Equity into The Workplace

Emily Purry
The opportunities afforded by an equitable workplace motivate employees to achieve, setting the stage for a dynamic, motivated company culture. It’s no wonder why companies are chomping at the bit to roll out their equity programs, and employees are hungry for a culture shift.

When implementing an equity program into the workplace, leadership can’t just throw around trendy buzzwords and expect an overnight change. When introducing this topic, it must be done with care. Here are some tips on how to introduce the topic of equity into the workplace.

Start with a conversation

A great place to start is to predict as a leadership team how its audience will receive the training program. That is, how will all workers in the organization, as well as the outside community, respond to the materials and conversations around this topic.

An excellent way to attempt these predictions is to form a focus group of individuals who will go through this “pilot” program with the intent of providing genuine and helpful feedback. To gain the most beneficial results, be sure to create a safe space for this group to express concerns and ideas, ask questions and provide feedback. Additionally, this group needs to be aware that this is a pilot training. With that in mind, they need to be open and willing to accept that you’re allowed to make mistakes. Express to them that you genuinely care about the organization and how this topic is going to be received, which is why you’re asking for their help

Hopefully, this process will give you an idea on what improvements are needed before sending this content out organization-wide. Some companies are hungry for this change, and some shy away from it because it’s not something they’re comfortable with discussing. Depending on your company’s culture, your approach may need to be adjusted and customized to reach your audience.

Engage with the managers and supervisors

When your program is ready to be sent to the organization, it's your middle-level managers and supervisors who will be your vessel in which you communicate your equity initiatives through. They are going to be your boots on the ground implementing the training programs, and they are who employees will go to with questions and concerns. Because of this, two things are an absolute must before launching your program.

First, you MUST train your managers BEFORE launching this program. Make sure they fully understand the expectations, provide tools, resources, language to use and be sure they are ready to represent this plan. Second, all managers MUST BELIEVE in this plan. You may find that some of the managers are not on board. Even a joke or a slight negative comment about equity can severely harm your message during the implementation process. If you find some of your managers aren’t on board, this is something that needs to be dealt with ASAP. Your managers MUST be on board and be willing to encourage and empower their staff. Otherwise, your efforts will fail, and this could create tension throughout the organization.

Have a plan

DON’T start firing off all staff email chains with the first article about diversity that comes across your desk. As soon as you make equity a priority you’re going to be anxious to get content out the door and start today. However, you need to have a plan. The last thing you want to do is to come off as insincere or offensive.

Careful planning and assessing may take time, but it will be worth it in the long run.

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Emily PurryEmily Purry is a Life Strategist and Educator in Portland, Oregon who helps individuals experiencing disabilities achieve their personal and professional goals. Before joining the INCIGHT team, Emily was a disability rights advocate and trainer. Legally blind herself, and in chronic pain from a recent, debilitating injury, she understands the daily challenges faced by a person with a disability. Her own life experience as a person with disabilities and as a mother of a child with a disability informs how she helps her clients overcome daily challenges and work towards long-term goals. Emily has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a Master’s in Business Management & Organizational Leadership, a license in massage therapy, and is certified as a personal trainer. She also is a certified drug and alcohol counselor. Emily offers effective life coaching and public speaking services to individuals and families nationwide. She is also available as a trainer on topics related to disability and equity.