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DEI Staff Buy-In

What is an effective way to get buy-in from staff as we roll out our DEI work?

If you’re a leader and have decided to implement broad-based DEI efforts in your organization, you may be wondering, “How do I get Buy-In”? It’s a reasonable question. DEI work is complex. Let’s dissect it. First, we are talking about change. Change is hard for many of us. Most organizations are rooted in a pre-established routine of policies and practices. Introducing anything new into the mix evokes fear, uncertainty, anger and resistance. We call people resistant to change C.A.V.E.R.S. – Colleagues Against Virtually Everything. The true credit for this term goes to one of our senior partners, Briana Williamson. We all know those colleagues. They are the people that already know that anything new is going to be more work and be more trouble than it’s worth.

Exacerbating the challenge is that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion begins to challenge individual values and ideals. When a staff member feels that the institution is “forcing” work that conflicts with a personal belief structure, resistance is the natural outcome. Conversely, leaders feel the weight of political pressure to walk a neutral line. The result is a lukewarm DEI effort that is often thought of as window dressing. The victims are diverse students and their families.

A true commitment to implementing a DEI plan means systemic change. Culture shift takes time and BUY IN. REAL DEI work is not a ONE-OFF training or event. It is woven into the fabric of the organization. Now, we are at the heart of the original question.

“What is an effective way to get buy-in from staff as we roll out our DEI work?

1. Begin with Open Conversation

Talk to your staff about what DEI work really means. Hold several small group discussion opportunities to create a trusting environment that invites open communication. Remember, ambiguity encourages the imagination to run wild, so be ready and willing to listen and respond to concerns and questions. Here are a few natural questions to consider:

•What are your organizational goals for equity and inclusion?

•Why does the organization want to focus on this work?

•How does DEI work interface with individual performance expectations and organizational deliverables?

These are just some of the questions that staff will be asking.

Set ground rules for your dialogue groups. Here are is our 5S Ground Rule System:

1. Seek to Understand

2. Show Respect

3. Share and Be Open to Others Sharing

4. Shield Your non-verbals and engage in active listening

5. Speak from your own perspective and experience – Use “I” statements

2. Focus on Information and Self-Awareness

It’s critical to provide definitions of terms and data that has informed your DEI work. You can only work from common ground, if everyone involved understands the language of the work.

Define Diversity

Define Inclusion

Define Microaggressions

Define Equity

Next, tie self-awareness education to the work. It’s critical to help your staff connect their own experiences, stereotypes, and conceptual ideas to the DEI terms and expectations that you are trying to implement. Here again, training can’t be a once per year experience. DEI training must be integrated into all professional development experiences.

3. Use data to inform your practice

Comb through your organizational data to demonstrate why DEI work is critical. If you’re in an educational organization, here are some questions that the data can answer:

What are the racial demographics of your district?

What is the academic performance data of your students by race, gender and age?

How many students of color are identified as gifted?

How many students of color enroll in AP classes?

What is the disciplinary break-down by race?

How many students of color participate in extra-curricular activities? Break this down by activity and race.

What are the graduate rates of students of color in comparison to White students?

What does the community data tell you?

If you find disparities, it’s important to use this as a discussion topic with your staff.

4. Focus on creating a safe learning environment

What does a safe learning environment look like? Ask your staff to create the ideal classroom that encourages inquiry by all, promotes equity, and teaches respect.

5. Work collaboratively to create an action plan

It’s critical to have everyone involved in the planning and implementation of a DEI action plan. Here are a few of the topics that should be considered:

•Academic Achievement

•Allies and Accomplices

•Inclusive Curriculum

•Community Engagement

•Family Involvement

•Equity-based district policies and practices

Use an equity lens to look closely at each of these areas, as you develop your plan. A tool like Kinect’s trademarked Equity Rubric will help you further examine areas that may be lacking on the equity scale. If you have your entire team involved in the process, you’ll find greater buy-in to the greater goal of systemic change. Start by tackling low-hanging fruit. What does this look like?

-Do you have passive education and Equity positive messaging in your buildings?

-Do teachers have multicultural books and resources in their classrooms?

-Do your leadership meeting agendas always include diversity, equity and inclusion as a regular agenda item?

As you begin to chip away at the quick-fix items, begin setting your sights for loftier goals. This might include hiring a cohort of teachers of color, closing the achievement gap completely, and an actualized bias response process.

6. Don’t rely on your staff of color to lead the conversation or the work

The process of infusing DEI into your organization requires courageous leadership. A courageous leader does what needs to be done, regardless of political fall-out. The responsibility for directing the work falls upon the shoulders of organizational leadership. Resist the urge to rely on staff of color to advise and guide the process. DEI work will only be successful if everyone is on board. Incentivize and reward those staff that go above and beyond, but don’t allow staff to opt out. Momentum means everything, but follow-through is key. Once everyone understands that your organization is embodying DEI work for the long-haul, it will be an expected part of the culture and the job.

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