Your Employees Are Already Burned Out. Should You Still Engage Them In DEI?
Welcome to my weekly Q&A roundup. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)
If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions—tough questions, brave questions, you name it. The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. So each week, I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.
The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusivity.
Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.
Inclusivity: bringing others along in the journey.
Stop Burning Out Your Employees With More DEI Programs
I want to offer my department more opportunities for inclusive allyship and diversity learning. How can I do this while at the same time being conscientious of their time? I don’t want to aggravate employee burnout.
Is diversity a policy at your company? Or is diversity a program? If it’s the latter, you likely already have employees who are experiencing diversity fatigue.
You might have a calendar full of lunch n’ learns, implicit bias trainings, and ERG meetings, but you lack the top-down, systemic overhauls needed to create a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace.
This scenario leads to misalignment between awareness and action. Misalignment leads to cynicism and eventually, burnout.
Make DEI A Policy, Not A Program
If, on the other hand, diversity is a policy at your company, you understand what it takes to drive change. You understand that you can’t put all the weight of DEI on the backs of employees. You need a system-wide approach with executive buy-in and managerial influence.
While your desire to offer employees more opportunities for DEI engagement is admirable, their engagement cannot become the default option. We can’t ask them to fix a system they didn’t break.
Data: Employees Are Burning Out
Fixing a system you didn’t break is exhausting, especially at a time when employee burnout levels are soaring.
72% of employees said they’re currently burned out.
In early 2020, “only” 42% of employees said they were currently burned out.
38% of employees ranked struggling with burnout as one of their top job stressors during the pandemic.
Does this mean you should cancel ERGs or mentorship opportunities? No. These programs play an important role in fostering inclusion and belonging in the workplace. Does it mean you should renounce responsibility for DEI (if you’re not part of the executive team)? Again, no. Everyone should take steps toward a more equitable workplace.
Does it mean you should be aware of how different stakeholders influence and are impacted by DEI? Yes.
How To Balance Employee Burnout With DEI
In your pursuit to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace, I would encourage you to do three things:
Ask the employees in your department what would help them feel more supported and included right now. Don’t try to read their minds.
Keep in mind that many underrepresented employees are dealing with multiple layers of burnout. On top of pandemic-related burnout, they also face representation burnout from the fatigue and stress of being the “only” person from a diverse group.
Find out what your company’s leadership is doing to advance DEI. Audit the approach. Is it system-wide? Is it intersectional (gender + race/ethnicity)? Does it address inequities throughout the entire employee lifecycle? Where does the onus of responsibility fall? What accountability measures are in place to ascertain progress? If you can’t find answers to these questions, then perhaps your organization is ready to upgrade its diversity strategy.
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© 2021 Katica Roy™, Inc.