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Diversity Fatigue- What it is and How to Overcome it?

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The concept of Diversity Fatigue first appeared in the year 1990, when the equality of opportunities became a significant corporate concern. The word was used to define the feelings of frustration and exhaustion involved with attempting to attract candidates from diverse pools and generate opportunities for more diversity within businesses, according to a 2017 report in The New Yorker, "The Year of 'Diversity Fatigue."

According to Atlassian's 2018 State of Diversity Report, employees were 50 percent less likely to participate in diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs than they were the previous year. More than 40 percent conclude that individuals from underrepresented communities in their organization need no improvement.

In simple words, diversity fatigue is a kind of exhaustion that arises from diversity and inclusion debates. Despite widespread focus and awareness on diversity and inclusion, we see no substantial strides in developing teams that are inclusive. Employers' and employees' interest in diversity and inclusion have started to evaporate.

It is associated with the amount of time and resources needed to address the challenging issues in diversity, equality, and inclusion. As a result, it becomes more challenging to remain committed to long-term measures. It is a severe threat in many companies because, as fatigue sets in, progress gets stalled.

So, what can we do to prevent it in our company? In the first place, leaders need to work smarter, not harder on their initiatives. Here are tips that can help overcome, or in fact, avoid diversity fatigue. Read on.

5 Tips To Avoid Diversity Fatigue

1. Diagnose the particular D&I issue the company is facing.

Every D&I plan looks great on the outside and challenging on the inside. While making the plan, you must be able to answer the following questions. Why do employees need your strategy, and what will it solve? Most leaders have no idea about it which creates opportunity gaps and ooze out severe challenges in the long run.

For example, if most employees follow a misogynistic culture, merely providing an on-site creche will not work. Similarly, if you don't work on employee engagement or retention, the investment made in hiring diverse employees will fail. Spending efforts on the wrong solution cannot cover the real problems. For effective D&I strategies, you just need to understand your organization's pain points before making the investment decision.

2. Set small win goals with realistic expectations.

Diversity and inclusion is not an overnight journey. It's always better when you consider its long term nature.

Sometimes, it can be a hard-fought battle that will require significant resources. You cannot expect magical results just after one or two years of dedication. But as you climb up the hill, there can be specific small win goal posts that will measure progress made.

Yearly or quarterly engagement surveys are the best way to measure and articulate your goals around diversity and inclusion.

3. Make your D&I efforts relevant to everyone in the company.

According to a Russell Reynolds Associates' Diversity and Inclusion Pulse survey, men are around twice as likely as women to believe that there are no barriers to the D&I policy of their organization.

A common weakness of D&I programs is that they center solely around the diverse groups. It tends to neglect those who may not consider themselves different. As a result, a considerable part of the organization may not realize how to help the diverse team. They fail to understand how profoundly a messed up culture influences others.

Thus, holding your employees up to date with what you are currently doing to improve diversity, belonging, and inclusion is critical. It is vital to have an annual briefing on the progress achieved against overall D&I objectives to the whole organization. In the same way, one can reveal the new targets for the coming year.

To develop the momentum of your D&I program at the organizational level, diversity training courses can be the first step. It will teach people how to express and tolerate differences. All employees should be provided with real and unique opportunities to support and embrace people who are different. For example, building organization-wide learning about race can increase knowledge and help lower the discomfort faced by black employees.

4. Daily reinforcement of D&I initiatives by unit leaders.

The support of CEO's and other top management officials are a priority. However, the functional and business unit leaders should actively promote the diversity initiatives in the day to day business. It is only then employees will feel the effect of the investment on diversity programs made by the organization. Leaders may be flexible in their strategy by being open to new suggestions from employees. It will help them see the importance of a sense of belonging from a wide range of viewpoints.

5. Empower employees to take part in the program.

Employees must be empowered and motivated to help create a more welcoming workplace. Often D&I is considered as "all talk" and "no action." Employees can counteract this impression by understanding the practical tasks they should do. Only when leaders provide scope for them to create and execute on any of their ideas will increase diversity.

Five ways to empower employees:

  • Starting an Employee Resource Group or committees that organize diversity-related events and activities.
  • Encouraging them to become the spokesperson for diversity issues.
  • Helping with tips for leading inclusive meetings.
  • Welcoming ideas for diversity and inclusion activities, that are more interesting, creative, and engaging.
  • Educating those who initially were unwilling to work with specific categories of people like those with disabilities.

Promoting dynamic and welcoming cultures needs a strong dedication as it can be draining. However, leaders can guarantee successful D&I strategies by approaching it thoughtfully instead of responding out of societal pressure. It is sure to prevent the diversity fatigue that we all worry about.

This article is written by Susmita Sarma, a digital marketer at Vantage Circle. She was involved with media relations before shifting her interest in research and creative writing. Apart from being a classical music buff, she keeps a keen interest in anchoring and cooking. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com

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