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What’s DEI Got to Do With Continuous Performance Management? A Lot!

Jason Diamond Arnold

December 22, 2021

Today, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts matter to employees and are critical to business success. We know, for example, that diverse teams are more innovative and generate higher returns on business outcomes in a 21st century economy. But to fully leverage robust DEI practices, they can’t simply be a stand-alone compliance course; they need to be put into practice throughout the entire organization. That’s why it’s critical for organizations to consider effectively integrating DEI practices into the Continuous Performance Management (CPM) process.

DEI issues and conversations should be happening on a regular basis and reflected in the pursuit of organizational, team, and individual Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) — the foundation of CPM. Connecting DEI conversations through the pursuit of OKRs will ensure your DEI efforts have the greatest impact possible.

To Make DEI Part of Your Organization’s DNA, Leaders Must Lead

Just like developing OKRs must be the responsibility of every employee, DEI efforts must also be shared across the entire organization. To be effective, DEI must be infused throughout your organization and not limited to a dedicated team or reserved for hiring initiatives that can be easily lost in the day-to-day hustle of business initiatives. A commitment to DEI becomes a central component of how you do business and develop company culture while achieving better business results — not an add-on that must be made to fit within an existing system.

Executive leadership must be the most prominent champions of DEI efforts. In addition to publicly supporting DEI efforts, CEOs must exemplify them in their communication and behavior, infuse these efforts into the company culture, and take responsibility for ensuring that they personally — as well as organizationally — make certain that the diversity of the organization is equitable and inclusive in all of their business practices.

Few would argue that there isn’t a need for improved DEI in the workplace. As a result, many organizations make promises to advance DEI, whether it’s through a published statement, instituting new initiates, or mandating company-wide training. While it has proved difficult for organizations to follow through on their promises related to DEI, companies can make increased strides toward equity when leaders set the tone and follow through with proven practices that improve DEI throughout the organization.

CPM Is the Ideal Vehicle for Embedding DEI Into Company Culture

Many organizations have moved to making “diversity hiring” a central pillar of their DEI efforts, but this strategy rarely works because it fails to factor in the employee’s experience once they’re hired. While most diversity training focuses on eliminating unconscious biases during the hiring process, it is not enough to incorporate DEI into your workplace culture. Working toward equity in your workplace is more than a concern for HR — the effort must be shared across your organization.

Managers have always played a central role in determining employee experience, engagement, and ultimately a company’s success. With CPM, managers coach and support employees during their work experience — primarily through regular one-to-one conversations that go beyond managing tasks, but also explore psychological needs related to the goals they are pursuing. To successfully integrate DEI efforts into your organization, progressive organizations should integrate diverse, equitable, and inclusive conversations into their CPM cadence. Today, leaders can use existing regular interactions to create safe spaces for employees and help managers make equitable decisions regarding performance management, promotions, and work assignments.

What’s more, when integrating DEI into regular CPM conversations, organizations have the ability to measure the positive effects of DEI practices through the pursuit of critical business OKRs. When leaders and employees meet regularly to collaborate and converse on challenges related to OKRs, they establish a foundation for having more meaningful discussions on issues related to their individual needs to thrive at work. These benchmarks can be referred to regularly, with their progress being tracked, updated, and analyzed by individuals and leaders. By embedding DEI into the flow of work, leaders and individuals can set and pursue OKRs that will increase diversity, improve equity, and ensure that every employee feels included in the organization’s efforts to serve their clients and the organization's mission, vision, and values. Doing so will normalize conversations around DEI, and send the message to employees that DEI is a core company value.

Bringing DEI to Your CPM

Just as all employees benefit from clear OKRs and the regular support of CPM, DEI can have lasting positive effects on your business. And by incorporating DEI into your organization’s CPM, these effects will be meaningful and measurable.