- According to new research published in MIT Sloan’s Management Review, diversity, equity and inclusion goals are best achieved with core values top of mind. U.S. Army DEI lead Anselm A. Beach and UNC Chapel Hill business professor Albert H. Segars unveiled their values/principle model (VPM) on June 7.
- The four values are representation (speaking up on behalf of marginalized people, akin to allyship), participation (meaningful action in organizational activities), application (putting DEI principles to work) and appreciation (recognition and enjoyment of the benefits of DEI).
- The study was the result of interviews with 55 executives, 33 middle managers and 73 team members about DEI goals and effective methods to achieve them. Interview analysis resulted in what the pair considered an effective path to guiding principles.
The VPM has seven principles. This includes “willful interrogation,” engaging in frank discussions about privilege and identity, to develop fresh “mental models.” The latter phrases, Segars and Beach explain, encompass a person’s worldview or rationale regarding how systems operate in the world. “Organizations have mental models that provide the reasons behind organizational structures, processes, rules and systems. They require attention because they can perpetuate racism, exclusion and inequity, even if the people working within those flawed structures are believers in DEI,” researchers reported.
Beach and Segars encouraged business leaders and corporate managers to be ambitious, to expand their boundaries (i.e. be transparent about DEI in a public-facing fashion) and adopt entrepreneurial leadership qualities when it comes to problem-solving for DEI.
But perhaps one of the most noteworthy principles mentioned is to build a moral case. That is to say: ditch “the business case for DEI” conversation, which the MIT Sloan report acknowledges is overwhelmingly commonplace. “...DEI should not be primarily driven by profit. Business cases have legitimized exploitative actions throughout history,” they write. “Choose to build DEI because it is the right thing to do. Embed DEI into the collective mission.”
Increasingly, the voices of experts who want to push the HR industry further are being heard in regard to moving past the business case. Notably, one DEI training expert once told HR Dive that business leaders need to feel the imperative for DEI at “the emotional level, not just at the business case level.” Leaders need to feel a sense of ownership around their company’s goals, and in turn, inspire a sense of urgency in their workforce.
“There is a moral case for DEI that is centered on meeting people’s and society’s needs and making an honorable profit by ending exploitation of people and the environment,” researchers continued. “Making the moral case — saying DEI is right and wearing it on your sleeve — signals that the work of achieving transformational change is rooted in values that are deeply held in the organization and not subject to changes in business conditions.”
The report contains an example of what increased inclusion and equity looks like and the benefits therein. Beach and Segars described how Marvel Comics increased diversity and inclusion “by introducing ethnic minority characters into roles traditionally held by White characters.” They nod to Sam Wilson, formerly the Falcon and now canonically Captain America, and Miles Morales, the Afro-Latinx Spider-Man.
“When Marvel created new characters with logical and compelling backstories, the result was transformative. Readers saw themselves in the characters, and these characters created opportunities for new storylines,” they wrote. HR leads that embrace the moral case for DEI can uplift workers and celebrate real progress with accountability.