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October 16, 2023

Ditch the DEI Initiative

written by

Rob Gaedtke

President & CEO

There is so much strength in diversity. There is so much empowerment in equity. And the push for more DEI over the past decade has been awesome to see, but in a way, it’s also quite sad—sad that we need committees and strategic initiatives to ensure that something so fundamental to people, progress, and innovation is happening at our companies. But it does make sense. Sometimes, it is hard to see the wonderful beauty of the Amazon when you are staring at one single tree—and those trees are table stakes, just like choosing what to have for lunch or having gender-neutral bathrooms. True diversity is about listening (and hearing) all schools of thought. True equity demands that all are given their due weight. And true inclusion means that all people have a seat at the table.

“Yeah, yeah, sounds good. But how the heck do you make that work?” Here are 10 DEI practices that we uphold at KPS3. They are foundational to our company culture. Once they become foundational to your company culture, you too, can ditch the DEI initiative. Here we go:

1. People from all levels are comfortable calling you out.

Sometimes it can be easy to say, “We’ve done it this way before” and roll with it because it’s comfortable. But that does not lead to innovation. Instead, create a space where it is clear everyone is respected, so no one is afraid to bring their ideas to the table.

Let's agree to disagree. Our backgrounds and how we were raised colors how each of us sees the world, and how we show up to a project or meeting. There is no shame in disagreeing—only in making your people feel uncomfortable to speak up in the first place.

2. Ownership and leadership reflect the community and clients you serve.

This is a big one, because it makes a difference that your owners and leaders are able to relate to their community and clients. Make sure your leadership is made up of people of different genders, different heritages, and different ages. Are your owners only your most senior staff? You can’t amplify voices that aren’t even in the room.

3. Your client base represents the diverse set of businesses in the world.

By serving a diverse client base, you ensure that your solutions are not only comprehensive, but also deeply attuned to the multifaceted challenges and opportunities faced by enterprises worldwide. This helps you leverage knowledge from multiple industries to push boundaries and try things where it’s never been done.

4. No one should make more than 10% of another in the same position with the same experience.

While there are contributing factors of course, pay doesn’t depend on what you look like or what you were born with.

*This is a real stat that we run the numbers on frequently and that we are proud of.

5. Choosing a career path is up to the individual.

Growth can mean a lot of things, whether that’s moving up the ladder, pivoting specialties horizontally, or forging your own role based on a need that you notice and want to pursue. And it can also mean working at another company, even a competitor. All should be supported and even encouraged. Holding someone hostage or shaming someone who doesn’t fit in and wants to leave doesn’t feel very DEI-friendly to me.

6. No position is above any task, and no task is above any position.

Everyone helps out. Enough said.

7. Everyone has access to resources and feels supported by all team members.

From technology and educational stipends to open door policies for all employees and their growth goals, there are plenty of ways you can give people what they need to succeed. How these resources are used is up to the individual—but everyone deserves access.

8. At the office, you don’t talk like you are at a club with your friends.

Language matters. We don’t just mean throwing around an occasional cuss word in the office or on a Zoom call, but rather making sure you are not being exclusive. When you work somewhere for a long time, you make memories and some are worth laughing over after all those years. If someone is in the room with you who was not around for that, bring them in on it.

9. People are not shamed for having computer struggles… or for not knowing cursive.

We have a whole Slack channel dedicated to IT issues because they happen to all of us, no matter our age or experience, and anyone can help solve them. And just because someone doesn’t know how to write without a computer, doesn’t mean the words they type are not profound.

That extends to things beyond tech-savviness and handwriting. It is important to recognize that everyone has different skill sets and different blinders. If you hire people based on what their strengths and passions are, you can lean on them if you or another employee struggles in that area. Besides, it would get pretty predictable if you were with a bunch of people who were all the same, right?

10. Dads are people, too, and so are animals.

Policies speak wonders about your viewpoints. Mothers getting maternity leave, but not fathers? Bereavement for relatives, but not pets? I don’t know about you, but I hurt a lot more when I lost my first dog than that second cousin I never knew. And bring your dog to work? How about cats or lizards? A sound review of your 1999 policies might spark some great conversations about assumptions that need revisiting.

DEI makes us better. Period.

Our actions prove we are “Human. On purpose.” And that means that we sometimes mess a practice or two up. We catch biases, we use phrases that were recently canceled, or we mess up a pronoun. What matters is that we keep trying. We work harder. Because it’s not perfection—it’s progress.

Side note: There were 42 comments on various drafts of this post. Olive Giner (account & public relations coordinator) called out my bad use of sex as an identifier vs. gender. Three VPs changed various parts and added two additional points that I totally missed. Shyene Joubert (copywriter) wrote much of the first draft and then added comments throughout the process. So, even this post isn’t one person's idea… instead, it’s the collective work of KPS3.

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