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Building DEI into your Company's DNA with the DEI Maturity Model

What’s your DEI Maturity Level?” A question you may have never been asked or thought about.

In a time of dynamic social change, this question has never been more crucial. Organizations are increasingly asked not just if they engage in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) activities, but whether DEI is fundamental to their existence. 

This distinction is vital, especially now, as national discussions around DEI and workplace well-being take center stage. It's no longer sufficient to simply participate in DEI initiatives; the imperative is to embed these principles into the very fabric of organizational life, making them indispensable to an organization's identity and success.

Throughout my 26-year career in organizational transformation, I have consistently underscored the importance of weaving DEI into the organizational DNA. 

This belief is grounded in a simple truth: organizations that fully embrace DEI not only foster more inclusive environments but also outperform across a wide range of metrics. From enhancing innovation and collaboration to boosting profitability and reducing employee turnover, the advantages of a mature DEI approach are clear and compelling.

Leaders frequently approach me with what they perceive as programmatic DEI challenges. Yet, upon closer examination, these issues often reveal deeper systemic questions related to the organization's identity and its commitment to DEI. 

This observation underscores a critical insight: DEI should not be siloed within specific initiatives or nested under the leadership of one person.  To be sustainable and impactful, DEI strategies should be integrated across all dimensions of organizational operations, culture, policies, and structures.

What are the stages in the DEI Maturity Model?

This understanding inspired the creation of Wilson and Associates' own version of the DEI Maturity Model, an integral feature of the updated membership program at the Equitable Leadership Table within the DEI Dinner Party. This model provides a structured framework for assessing and advancing an organization's DEI practices, outlining six stages of DEI maturity:

  1. Unaware: A stage characterized by a basic lack of DEI awareness or understanding.

  1. Compliance: Where organizations possess a foundational DEI awareness, largely motivated by legal compliance.

  1. Programmatic: This stage involves the establishment of initial DEI programs and policies.

  1. Strategic: DEI objectives are aligned with the organization’s strategic goals.

  1. Integrated: DEI is seamlessly woven into every aspect of organizational operations.

  1. Disruption: Organizations at this stage lead industry-wide change by innovatively applying DEI principles.

Why Engage in a DEI Maturity Model Assessment?

Engaging in a DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Maturity Model Assessment is a strategic step for organizations committed to meaningful change. 

This process not only diagnoses the current state of an organization's DEI efforts but also maps out a path for growth and integration of DEI principles into all aspects of the organization. 

Here are 5 compelling reasons and benefits for an organization to undertake a DEI Maturity Model Assessment:

  1. Clear Baseline Establishment:  The assessment provides a clear baseline of where the organization currently stands in terms of DEI. Understanding the starting point is crucial for setting realistic goals, tracking progress, and measuring the impact of DEI initiatives over time.

  2. Strategic DEI Integration: It enables the strategic integration of DEI into the core business processes and practices, aligning DEI efforts with the organization’s overall goals and objectives. This alignment ensures that DEI is not treated as an isolated or peripheral issue but as a central component of the organization’s strategy and success.

  3.  Identifies Areas for Improvement and Prioritization: A thorough DEI Maturity Model Assessment highlights specific areas that can be enhanced, allowing organizations to prioritize actions and allocate resources effectively.  

  4. Fosters a Culture of Inclusivity: The assessment process itself, especially when you engage employees from across the organization, can foster a culture of inclusivity and open dialogue. It sends a strong message that the organization is committed to learning and making continuous improvements.

  5. Demonstrates a Transformative Commitment:  Because the model encourages organizations to move beyond programs and towards culture change, engaging in a DEI Maturity Model assessment demonstrates its commitment to DEI as being transformative, not performative.

Utilizing the DEI Maturity Model enables organizations to pinpoint their current position on the DEI spectrum, facilitating intentional development and deeper integration. 

How We Use the DEI Maturity Model

At Wilson and Associates, we leverage this model to assess DEI maturity across eight "DEI Influence Levers", thus providing a comprehensive roadmap to achieving sustainable change. 

Our assessment tool is designed to not only evaluate DEI Integration, but also to inspire action.

The case of Chani, a pioneering astrology and mindfulness company, exemplifies the transformative impact of fully integrated DEI in their job posts and public-facing communications. Through its commitment to diversity, economic equity, and progressive workplace policies, Chani has influenced a broad spectrum of organizations, setting new standards for workplace culture and DEI strategies.

The DEI Maturity Model is not just about assessment, though it is a great assessment tool.  The model offers organizational leaders a blueprint for making DEI a core component of their identity, driving both internal transformation and broader societal progress. By adopting this model, organizations position themselves at the forefront of creating more inclusive, equitable, and diverse workplaces.

Key Takeaways:

  1. DEI Is Integral to Success: Emphasizing DEI as foundational, the article underlines the shift towards making DEI core to an organization's identity, critical for achieving inclusivity and excellence.

  2. The DEI Maturity Model Guides Improvement: It showcases the DEI Maturity Model as a strategic framework for evolving from basic awareness to leading DEI innovation, providing a clear path to strengthen DEI initiatives.

  3. Assessment Unlocks DEI Progress: Engaging in a DEI Maturity Model Assessment yields significant benefits, including clarifying DEI status, identifying improvement opportunities, fostering inclusivity, and affirming a genuine DEI commitment.

  4. Full DEI Integration Transforms Organizations: The narrative exemplifies how complete DEI integration, illustrated by Chani’s example, revolutionizes workplace culture and establishes new industry standards, demonstrating DEI's broad impact.

Are you ready to build your organization's DEI Maturity Model? We can help with that. Reach out and learn more about how we can work together.

If you enjoyed this article, join our newsletter "Recipe for Thriving" where our CEO, Chrysta Wilson, shares rich insights and colorful stories every Friday to support you in building more equitable and inclusive spaces.

Chrysta Wilson, the CEO and Founder of Wilson And Associates Coaching and Consuling LLC, is on a mission to help leaders build the skills and strategies to create equitable and inclusive spaces and places. This work can be overwhelming and that puts leaders at risk for burnout. That's why she's on a personal mission to make sure that people like YOU get the resources and support you need to do good work WELL, with doses of joy along the way. Chrysta teaches and uses an interdisciplinary approach to organizational culture and social change that includes personal development, systems change, emotional intelligence, racial justice, DEI, organizational psychology, change management, coaching, and more. Changing the world requires a community effort: welcome to the movement!

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