Newton’s first law — the law of inertia — states that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion. The same law can be applied to diversity and inclusion programs in organizations.
Diversity inertia occurs when organizations, after much fanfare, introduce programs to make the workplace more diverse and inclusive. They introduce diversity workshops, internal focus groups and even Diversity Vision and Mission statements but after a while there is very little, if any, progress.
Diversity inertia is different from “diversity fatigue”, a form of mental exhaustion brought on by the constant attention required to create or increase diversity in the workplace.
Diversity inertia, happens when well-meaning organizations with diversity and inclusion programs fail to implement several key elements of a diversity and inclusion strategic plan.
The inertia is caused by “upward pressure” from competing priorities that are deemed to be more important and “downward pressure” from organizations resting in their comfort zones.
Newton’s law also states that an “unbalanced force” must be applied to the object to put it into motion.
Organizations must be careful that the “unbalanced force” that moves or reactivates its diversity and inclusion program is not a negative force, such as a costly human rights or harassment complaint.
Here are some positive forces that can help to overcome Diversity Inertia:
- Revisit the original Diversity Mission and Vision statements. Circumstances inside and outside the company may have changed since it was created.
- Have a staff retreat focused entirely on diversity and inclusion where new ideas and approaches are explored
- Replace the person currently responsible for the D&I file. They may be exhausted. (This is hard work)
- Invite a motivational speaker to inject some energy into the diversity and inclusion conversation.
- Conduct a diversity and inclusion pulse survey to measure staff perceptions.