To Make D&I Initiatives Stick, Share Stories

March 21, 2019 Dawn Burke

Workhuman Conference Stage

Diversity and inclusion is a hot topic that is finally making some forward traction in business thanks to social media that sheds light on inequities younger generations can't understand, and reasonable people just can't tolerate.

Equally important, social media exposes the masses to stories – human stories. Relatable stories. Stories that make us say, "I know how that feels," or "My kid has dealt with that too," or "Yes, that is the funniest cat video I've ever seen."

And here is the magic. When we relate to a story from someone who doesn't look like us, sound like us, or live next door to us, it becomes harder to fear others for those differences. When stories hit a common chord – or, even better, a heart-string – barriers crumble and the inclination to hate those we don't understand is diminished.

The power of sharing stories has not gone unnoticed in the workplace. According to the panelists in the Workhuman 2019 session titled, “Workplace as a Healing Ground,” it is a critical component in modern D&I initiatives.

Namrata Yadav, senior vice president, head of inclusion at Bank of America, explained that when she took the role, everyone had suggestions on what needed to be fixed. From unconscious bias training to educating middle managers on D&I  competencies, there were simply too many potential initiatives to focus on. Yadav realized a "check-the-box" mentality toward D&I would not have a lasting impact.

Instead of imposing mandatory D&I training, Yadav and her team set out to create an internal movement where employees would want to be involved. Instead of presenting a roster of classroom trainings, her team created a series of virtual, online offerings. The sessions were conversational in nature, emulating a "talking over coffee" vibe. Most importantly, they shared stories – relatable stories.

The virtual classes were not mandatory, yet there were 540,000 completions – a great indicator that an internal movement was taking shape. And since the classes were virtual, the message could easily be transferred outside of the workspace to employees’ families.

Whether your company is beginning its D&I journey or elevating current initiatives, don't neglect the impact of shared stories. Not only do they bridge understanding, but they are also the breeding ground for shared experiences. When people share experiences, that is where the seeds of trust are planted. 

About the Author

Dawn Burke

Dawn Burke is an HR leader with 20 years of experience and the founder of Dawn Burke HR.

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