The 3 Big Rocks of Your EDI Effort

Simply put, your Big Rocks are your priorities. They are your mission-critical objectives, often focused on accomplishments within a given year. Establishing the 3 Big Rocks related to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in your organization will position you for clarity of commitment, efficient resource allocation and maximum impact. 

Rock 1: Lay a Solid Foundation

EDI in most organizations has been a series of fits and starts, sometimes spanning decades. Ranging from one-off training and diversity dinners to employee resource groups and supplier diversity programs, the efforts are often in response to demands from employees, customers and/or policy changes. This reactionary response leaves the organization in a consistent defensive state. Leaders are ill-equipped to implement an EDI agenda that builds momentum, has longevity and reach.

Develop an EDI Vision

A better option is to begin, rather than with reaction, with reflection. Develop an EDI Vision. Consider, what do we want? Why is EDI important to us? Avoid pithy sentiments like “It’s the right thing to do''. Using a Change Agenda is a helpful starting point. The center columns list important elements of your organization, like resource allocation and change management. Fill in the left column describes where you are now relative to each of the elements. Use the right column to imagine a future and better alternative for each of the elements listed. A Change Agenda exercise is a powerful way to engage organizational leaders, managers, and a broad range of stakeholders in the process of clarifying and coming to a shared vision. 

Create an EDI Communications Playbook

As a shared EDI vision is being developed and socialized, use the insights and aspirations to create an EDI Communications Playbook. An EDI Communications Playbook includes the organization’s EDI Narrative, or journey, an EDI Statement, an affirmation of values and commitment to act, and Definitions, useful for consistent use of language, a necessary ingredient in for transformation, and ensuring understanding of important terms. 

Invest Consistent and Broad Employee Up-skilling

The final element of your first Big Rock is investing in consistent and broad employee upskilling. According to a 2021 World Economic Forum Insight Report, “There is an enormous opportunity to reconfigure the world of work at this critical juncture and embark on an upskilling revolution that will give people across the world the ability to participate fully in the future of work…” Normalizing ongoing up-skilling for all employees related to the full array of EDI issues–from Reducing Bias to Inclusive Management best practice creates a shared base of understanding, language and core skills

Rock 2: Make Strategic Investments

(RE) Position EDI for Impact

EDI is often perceived as a cost center. A much more powerful positioning is EDI as a core business differentiator with the ability to generate revenue and grow the bottom line. DJA uniquely does not position EDI within HR. We position EDI as an organizational through thread–horizontally rather than vertically positioned for maximum integration, accountability and potential for extending beyond internal-only organizational goals. The benefit of this approach is that every leader, manager, and employees has accountability for driving EDI goals, as is the case with other core business functions. The complexity, for most organizations, is that the EDI is often co-mingled with HR functions, so structural change is needed for the desired level of broad impact. Repositioning EDI means that the EDI leadership will be a member of or report directly into the C-Suite, performance accountability will be integrated horizontally across all portfolios and investment strategy will require impact measures that reflect and inform resource allocation.

Develop a Framework

An EDI Framework paints the picture, to employees, stakeholder and investors, of how EDI is being integrated across the organization. It aids in the shift in thinking about EDI being relegated to training or cultural celebrations alone. It helps leaders, managers and stakeholders understand how resources are being allocated and impact measured beyond traditional approaches. 

Enlist Managers

Managers have a particularly important role in socializing and aligning their own and employees' efforts. Visionary leaders and proclamations do not drive real organizational change—managers do. They are the conduits between vision and interpretation of vision into everyday practice. They have the ability to recognize and reward practices that drive EDI goals, like use of tools that interrupt bias in workflows or encourage and support the participation of team members who have experienced marginalization.

Rock 3: Pursue a Curated Path

Today, episodic or performative EDI efforts are beyond tolerable. Employees are quiet quitting. Boards and investors are emphasizing impact. Young people have and will continue to send the clear message that nothing less than the most honorable organizations and leaders are acceptable; they will exercise their power with their voices, votes, career choices, and call-outs. Ongoing investment is a necessary commitment, from the beginning of your EDI efforts and for the foreseeable future. Ongoing investment in employees requires continuous access to learning, development, and integration of knowledge and skills that reflect the organization’s inclusive and equity-based values. 

Identify and Equip Internal EDI Leaders

In addition to broad employee up-skilling, a key to organizational "sticktoitiveness" is having a solid internal team who can keep momentum moving forward and act as subject matter experts. Your internal team will need their own support system of others who, like them, are playing key roles in organizational and cultural change. An ongoing community of practice provides your internal team with: 

  • Techniques for developing the skills they will need to be internal consultants, subject matter experts, and change agents

  • Others who can help them strategize

  • Perspective from different organizations, industries and geographies

  • Resources for building or enhancing the tools available for education and implementation in your organization, without incurring the cost of building or buying it yourself

  • Emotional support 

Use Meaningful Measures to Track and Reward Progress, Demonstrate Accountability

New impact models are being developed worldwide, from industry lead standards like GIIN Racial Equity and Gender Equality Scorecard to global frameworks like ESGs and SDGs. As these standards continue to scale, be tested and implemented, it is incumbent that organizations begin active experimentation with them. Have and use frameworks that force meaningful collection of data, rather than “butts in seats” or “checking the box” approaches of the past. As we continue to invest in new measures, learning will become more prevalent and accessible.  

The 3 Big Rocks are meant to focus your attention on the most important elements of your EDI Journey. Don’t let the list intimidate you, get started. There is much to do, and doing nothing is not an option. Along the way, celebrate learning and effort, and seek guidance from others who can provide feedback and suggest course corrections. As always, DeEtta Jones and Associates would be honored to be part of your journey.


Learn more about our EDI in Action Series that can help you grow your organization's EDI efforts, extend the EDI conversation more broadly within your organization and establish a base of EDI knowledge and shared language across all of your employee groups.

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DeEtta Jones & Associates (DJA) guides leaders and organizations on a journey that builds capacity, strengthens innovation, and increases organizational performance by creating a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive environment.

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