The Real Key to DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion)

August 5, 2021

DEI is a contentious, complex subject. But sometimes problems are complex while solutions can be simple (but not necessarily easy).

There are many books, programs, and teachers on the subject of DEI, but in my work I continually hear stories about how it divides people rather than brings them together.

I always remember my experiences at Zappos, and how we made it a very diverse and inclusive company. Even my team of just 20 people was a diverse group of men/women, black/white and various ethnicities — even though we never brought them on for those reasons!

So how did that just happen naturally?

My belief, formed from a career from a career helping others achieve this, is that companies that have very strong values produce a diverse workforce. When the hiring process looks for these qualities, the perfect candidates will naturally span all races/genders.  But think about what happens without hiring by values. What do people go by after experience?

Personal preferences and biases.

There used to be a maxim in Silicon Valley to hire people that you could “get a beer with.” But that means you only hire people you like or are like you.  And from a business perspective, we need a diversity of talent that can challenge us.  So the people we need may not be the people we necessarily like.

This is not to gloss over all the pain and injustices that the employees of a company may go through. I’ve found that having a crowdsourced conversation like Open Space helps to “empty the closet” and put everything on the table. And if tensions are really bad, the Obstacle Breakthrough process in my book, The Culture Blueprint, is a tested framework to work through it.

And once that is done, the company (through its leadership), must determine its core values that are unique, so that they attract the right people, and detract the wrong ones.  If a company’s values can easily be used at another company, then the leadership has not tapped into the true uniqueness of its own culture.

My book The Culture Blueprint has a process that I believe can work for any company that approaches it seriously.  You can download the entire audiobook here, at no charge. And if you want guidance through the process, I’m here to help.