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Avoiding The DE&I Tick Box: Shola Aminu

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) is something no learning leader can ignore. If you’re going to change behavior in your organization, you can’t just reach for an off-the-shelf compliance module. That’s why Shola Aminu, Global Director, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Ogilvy, is putting DE&I front of mind in his organization. Find out how his pioneering approaches make it anything but a tick box exercise. Explore how your business can take every employee on an authentic journey with DE&I.

Pioneering DE&I approaches that are anything but tick box

Top tips to create an effective DE&I initiative

Don’t have time to listen now? Here are some top tips from Shola:

  1. Don’t make DE&I a tick box exercise: Use a hybrid of compulsory and optional learning to engage people in effective behavior change.
  2. Create a learning journey, not just a course: Training is valuable, but its impact is limited. Rather than a one off course, design a journey with meaningful touchpoints. 
  3. Start with the context: Don’t rush ahead with your content. You can’t design an effective solution until you’ve understood your organization’s context.
  4. Make it seamless and authentic: DE&I shouldn’t be limited to your initiative. Lock in place policies and practices to make DE&I authentic to your organization.

1. Don’t make DE&I a tick box exercise

DE&I is often grouped with other compliance training topics. Subjects that are mandated by legislation or regulation that people have to be trained in.

Shola sees some benefits of making training compulsory. It can help you achieve certain engagement KPIs, such as completion rates. You can create consistent organization-wide actions, such as employee commitments or pledges. But, if you’re making people complete your training, will it lead to real change? 

“When thinking about behavior change, I’ve just always had that belief that [mandating training] doesn’t necessarily lead to change. I think leaders should lean towards a programme that’s a hybrid of compulsory and optional. In my prior role, I worked on the expansion of a DE&I learning journey, and the engagement and vibrance that you get at every level, at every stage of the learning journey when you engage leaders is phenomenal…It creates that fear of missing out. It has folks who are passive interested in seeing what it’s all about. And that’s how you kickstart that catalyst for behavior change.”

2. Create a learning journey, not just a course

When it comes to DE&I, training is valuable, but its impact is limited. It’s great for raising awareness and building knowledge about issues. But it doesn’t necessarily lead to behavior change. 

Shola is clear that any DE&I initiative needs to be an ongoing learning journey with a variety of real world touchpoints. Engage your learners in a long-term commitment to change. Help them try things out and discover what works for their team. When you do that, you don’t need to make learning compulsory, as people spread the word. You have ambassadors on the ground and it markets itself.

The challenge for most leaders is: what’s next? You’ve run this great program or series of training modules and you’ve made the investment. You’ve even sparked curiosity amongst folks, but what actually happens next?…I just try and take that lens and take the leaders on the journey itself. It definitely takes a bit more time. I would say that [you need] a 12-month window with various touchpoints and activation moments when we’re going to ramp up how we engage with our team.”

3. Start with the context

So, if you’re looking to design an effective DE&I learning journey, where do you start? Don’t rush ahead with learning content. You can’t begin to design an effective learning solution until you’ve understood the context. 

Digging deeper from the start will help you get to the real DE&I needs in your business. Shola suggests starting with simple questions. What does DE&I mean at your organization? And what are the expectations of your people?

“Do folks even understand what the expectation of them is in this business? What are the business’s values beyond the commercial, like collaboration etc? What is the company’s stance on this subject area? And what do we expect of you – no matter your level or function? If that isn’t clear, it doesn’t really matter what comes after, because it hasn’t set the kind of foundation for how we work.”

4. Make it seamless and authentic

DE&I shouldn’t be limited to your initiative. Even the most engaging learning journey won’t be effective, if your business isn’t committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. Whether it’s inclusive hiring or flexible working, when effective policies and practices are locked in, DE&I becomes seamless and authentic.

Shola highlights three areas that are key: commitment from leadership, consistent resource allocation and aligned communication. With these in place, you start to see the impact of your work. And, whether it’s a growing sense of belonging or a truly inclusive environment, you can start celebrating these successes.

“You start to notice the change of an organization, when you have policies set in place that meet various different folks’ unique needs. So, people feel better. People are referring their mates to come and work. And you slowly start to see the image of your organization change but also the culture and how people feel, how they operate.”

A quick recap

Too often seen as a one-off compliance activity, Shola has four strategies to make your DE&I initiative holistic, collaborative and impactful. 

  • Use a mix of compulsory and optional learning to support real behavior change 
  • Create a learning journey with real world touchpoints, not just an elearning course
  • Understand what DE&I means for your organization and the expectations of your people
  • Lock in policies and processes that support your DE&I efforts to create a diverse and inclusive workplace

Want to find out more? Check out the full podcast. 

About Shola

Shola has over 10 years’ multinational professional experience in a variety of roles. He has a passion for DE&I and expertise in implementing initiatives that deliver organizational change, increase employee engagement, and achieve corporate governance goals. 

You can find out more and get connected with Shola on LinkedIn.

On Shola’s reading list

Check out the book that Shola wishes he had at the start of his DE&I leader journey.

DE&I Deconstructed: Your No-Nonsense Guide to Doing the Work and Doing It Right, Lily Zheng

Shola recommends that anyone working in L&D and DE&I should have this book. It takes a human focus and looks at the impact our work can have. 

Looking for more reading tips? Check out our book blog.

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