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What is Organizational Culture?

Organizational culture encompasses the beliefs, values, norms, and behaviors that shape how people within the organization interact and work together. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) values focus on creating an environment that 1) acknowledges and addresses past and present societal and systemic inequity, exclusion, and underrepresentation of certain identities and 2) strives to respect and value the unique characteristics, backgrounds, and perspectives of all individuals. A healthy organizational culture includes and even prioritizes DEI values to create a sense of belonging, encourages diverse perspectives and ideas, and embeds inclusion and equity into the foundation of the work experience.

Why is Organizational Culture and DEI Important?

Organizational culture sets the foundation of how the wider community, including employees, experience the organization and the work environment. It informs the norms, attitudes, and behaviors within the organization, shaping how individuals interact, collaborate, and make decisions.

Being intentional about building a culture that values and embraces DEI enables organizations to actively contribute to addressing systemic inequalities and create even more positive social change.

Why is this Topic Different for Employment Social Enterprises?

Employment social enterprises have a unique opportunity to build an organizational culture that reflects and reinforces their social mission and values. A positive and inclusive organizational culture with DEI values can create a sense of purpose and community among employees who are committed to the organization’s social impact.

Best Practices

Here are some best practices for building organizational culture with DEI values:

  1. Acknowledge the existence of systemic inequities: Start by acknowledging that systemic inequities based on race, gender, ability and other parts of identity exist and that addressing them is necessary to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion values, intentions, actions and interventions into your organization’s functions and operations.
  2. Demonstrate leadership commitment: Leaders should actively demonstrate a strong commitment to DEI and cultural values and be responsive to feedback and diverse perspectives. Leaders should also provide shared leadership opportunities to collaborate with employees and partners.
  3. Implement inclusive hiring practices: Such as using diverse candidate slates, structured interviews, and skills-based assessments to minimize bias and ensure equal opportunities for all. This means actively seeking out and recruiting candidates from a broad range of backgrounds and experiences.
  4. Provide ongoing training and education: Provide regular training and education for employees on topics such as unconscious bias, cultural competence, and inclusive communication to promote awareness and understanding. This means making DEI and cultural education an ongoing part of employee development.
  5. Empower employee resource groups (ERGs): Encourage the formation of ERGs, where employees with shared identities or interests can come together, share experiences, and provide support and advocacy. This means creating a space for employees to connect and build community. Leaders can empower ERGs end employee-led groups by providing resources, support, and shared leadership opportunities to contribute to organizational culture and DEI values.
  6. Review and update systems, policies and practices: Review and update policies to ensure they promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, such as flexible work arrangements, equal pay practices, and accommodation policies for diverse needs. This means examining policies through a DEI lens and making changes to ensure they are inclusive.
  7. Foster transparent communication: Foster open and transparent communication channels that allow employees to voice concerns, provide feedback, and share ideas for improvement. This means creating a culture where feedback is valued and acted upon.
  8. Provide inclusive leadership development: Provide leadership development opportunities that emphasize the importance of inclusive leadership behaviors, such as active listening, empathy, and empowering others. This means equipping leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to create inclusive environments.
  9. Celebrate diversity and cultural events: Recognize and celebrate diverse cultures, holidays, and events to foster a sense of belonging and create opportunities for cross-cultural understanding. This means creating a culture where diversity is celebrated and valued.
  10. Implement regular assessments and metrics: Implement regular assessments and metrics to track progress and identify areas for improvement in DEI and cultural initiatives. This means setting concrete goals and measuring progress towards those goals.
  11. Embrace a mindset of continuous improvement: Embrace a mindset of continuous improvement, regularly reviewing and refining DEI and cultural strategies to ensure they remain relevant and effective. This means being open to feedback and making changes as needed.

Foundational Concepts

There are several key concepts that underpin effective building of organizational culture with DEI values:

  • Values: The shared beliefs and principles that guide an organization’s decisions and actions.
  • Culture: The shared values, beliefs, behavior, and attitude that characterize an organization, which influence its employees’ behavior and decision-making.
  • Psychological Safety: The practice of creating a work environment in which all employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas, concerns, and feedback without fear of negative consequences.
  • Diversity: The range of differences among people, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, and ability.
  • Inclusion: The practice of proactively creating conditions to support a work environment where all employees feel welcome, valued, and supported.
  • Equity: The practice and outcome of considering the unique needs and barriers of employees to support access to the resources and opportunities they need to succeed, regardless of their identity or lived experience.
  • Unconscious Bias: Implicit biases that affect our perceptions, decisions, and behaviors, often without our awareness. It’s crucial to address and mitigate unconscious bias to foster inclusivity.
  • Intersectionality: Recognizing that individuals have multiple aspects of their identity, such as gender, race, sexuality, disability, and socioeconomic status, which can intersect to create unique experiences and challenges.
  • Allyship: Proactively supporting and advocating for individuals from marginalized or underrepresented groups, using one’s privilege to amplify their voices and advance their rights and opportunities.  

Examples of Cultural Values

  • Positive Social Impact: Integrating social responsibility into business practices, actively contributing to the betterment of society, and addressing social and environmental challenges.
  • Mission Alignment: Ensuring that all actions and decisions are aligned with the organization’s mission and purpose.
  • Empowerment: Fostering a culture that empowers individuals to take ownership of their work, make decisions, and contribute to the organization’s success.
  • Ethical Leadership: Demonstrating ethical behavior, integrity, and a commitment to ethical decision-making in all aspects of the organization’s operations.
  • Transparency: Practicing open and transparent communication, sharing information, and involving stakeholders in decision-making processes.
  • Continuous Learning: Encouraging a growth mindset and supporting ongoing learning and development for individuals at all levels of the organization.
  • Collaboration and Co-Creation: Promoting collaboration, teamwork, and the co-creation of solutions by leveraging diverse perspectives and expertise.
  • Agility: Embracing flexibility, adaptability, and responsiveness to navigate and thrive in an ever-changing environment.
  • Well-Being: Prioritizing the well-being of employees and creating a supportive work environment that promotes work-life balance, mental health, and overall wellness.

Concepts in Action

Building a positive organizational culture with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) involves taking actionable steps to embed these values into the organization’s operations.

  • Co-create with employees and community partners: Involve the community in the creation and integration of DEI and cultural values to ensure that their needs are reflected and prioritized. This could involve community-based focus groups, advisory committees, or partnerships with local organizations.
  • Conduct a DEI review and audit: Conduct an audit of your organization’s policies, practices, and culture to identify areas of strength and opportunities for improvement related to DEI and cultural values. This could involve analyzing data on employee demographics, conducting employee surveys, or reviewing policies and procedures with a DEI lens.
  • Prioritize values-aligned suppliers and partners: Partner with diverse suppliers and vendors to support and promote diverse businesses and communities. This can help build inclusive supply chains and contribute to economic development in underrepresented communities.
  • Engage in community outreach: Engage in community outreach to build relationships and partnerships with communities your organization may exist in or impact. This can involve participating in community events, volunteering with local organizations, or sponsoring community initiatives.

Success Metrics

To measure the effectiveness of building organizational culture with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) values, consider the following success metrics:

  • Employee satisfaction on alignment with organizational culture and DEI values: Regular employee surveys or focus groups can be conducted to gather feedback on how well the organization’s culture and DEI values are being reflected in the workplace and how employees are experiencing the work culture. 
  • Employee retention rates: Retaining talent can be a good indicator of how well the organization is supporting its employees and creating the conditions of an inclusive workplace. Retention rates can be measured by comparing the number of employees who left the organization in a given period to the total number of employees during that period.
  • Employee engagement rates: Engaged employees are more likely to be successful and contribute positively to the organization’s mission and success. Employee engagement can be measured using metrics such as attendance, productivity, and participation in company events.
  • Achievement of organizational goals: Building an inclusive and supportive workplace culture can have a positive impact on the organization’s overall success. The achievement of organizational goals can be measured by regularly tracking and updating employees on progress and alignment with organizational goals.

Additional Resources

  • Create a Culture of Psychological Safety: This article discusses the importance of psychological safety in the workplace and provides tips for creating a culture that fosters it.
  • Culture & Relationships: This resource provides guidance on how to build a positive organizational culture and develop strong relationships within the workplace.
  • How to Develop and Use Core Values: This resource offers practical tips and guidelines for developing and using core values to guide organizational decision-making and behavior.
  • Diversity and Inclusion in Social Enterprise: An article that discusses the importance of diversity and inclusion in social enterprises and provides practical tips for promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

About S P A C E

S P A C E is a consulting firm that transforms the employee experience by creating a safe and positive work environment for all, particularly those who are most vulnerable to workplace adversity. They offer a range of services, including human-centered HR strategy and advisory, organizational development, and personal and professional development coaching and support.