When it Comes to DE&I, Actions Speak Louder Than Words




By Lydia Riesch, AEM Project Director, Human Resources & Operations —

Stop talking about diversity, equity & inclusion and start doing something about it.

No matter what your role is within your organization -- executive, manager or team member -- you should recognize and embrace the idea that you can help create the space where a diverse array of team members can share thoughts, feelings and perspectives, and also create an environment where they want to speak.

We all have biases that influence aspects of our lives. These thoughts can influence our actions, and when those actions are based on an unfounded “truth,” there can be consequences for those around us within our organization.

Leverage your curiosity to serve as a strong antidote to bias. Intercept your thoughts with questions. Perhaps most importantly, open yourself up to new levels of understanding.

The action list below, based on my experience and research, suggests impactful actions for organizations and individuals to not only be “inclusion doers,” but also be real catalysts for change and make measurable, positive impacts on DE&I within their respective companies:

Organizational Level


The organizational standards we set go a long way in communicating what priorities are important to us. That being said, it’s often work that needs to be conducted at an organizational level. Working with a human resources decision-maker is a good place to start to put the proper policies in place for your company.

One policy to consider is the development of flexible work arrangements. After all, a person’s caregiver status, cognitive diversity, mental health status and dis/ability are just some attributes impacted by the work environment. Providing a flexible-in-office schedule, with flexible work hours, allows employes to take care of themselves and bring their best self to work-- whether virtually or in person.

An additional policy option to consider is related to establishing floating holidays. Many company-wide holidays are centered around traditions that are not universally recognized. So, consider adding one or two “floating” holidays lets employees recognize days of personal, religious or cultural significance.

The Physical Work Environment

Open-office floor plans designed to promote interactions between employees can sometimes be a challenge for employees who require less stimulation or private space to meet spiritual and emotional needs. Additionally, gender-specific restrooms create difficulty for team members whose identity is not consistent with the labeling of binary restrooms. While changing your office layout is very likely not a feasible solution (especially in the short term), making some small adjustments can also be an effective approach:

  • Allow (and communicate) private meeting space as an option to conduct individual quiet work, prayer or meditation.
  • As previously mentioned, taking steps to establish a flexible work arrangement can make a significant difference.
  • Convert single-occupancy restrooms to be gender inclusive by simply switching out the sign.


Organizational culture is influenced by the content we provide and promote. By enriching the personal and professional lives of those who work with us, we can cultivate an environment of support and growth that ultimately leads to greater innovation and productivity. With that in mind, consider the following strategies and tactics:

  • Acknowledge diverse monthly themes.—A quick internet search will pull up monthly DE&I recognition calendars. Select themes that are relevant to your organization and to your employees. If purchasing food for a celebration or special event, consider supporting a local business that reflects that month’s theme.
  • Provide educational opportunities on topics such as unconscious bias, bystander intervention, and conflict resolution. -- Right to Be is a non-profit group that conducts free virtual trainings for the public, and reasonably priced customized training for groups. However, it’s important to not just stop at the training. Continue the application of that knowledge by encouraging debriefing conversations between managers and their respective team members.

Personal Level


A significant benefit of diversity is the blending of ideas from unique perspectives and experiences to develop a better product or outcome. It doesn’t just happen by throwing a diverse group into a meeting. Some team members need more processing time, or they are unintentionally excluded based on one or more attributes of difference.

It’s critically important to ensure all voices are heard within your organization. In certain situations, it’s appropriate to prompt team members who are silent in the conversation to contribute and politely ask more assertive and vocal people voices to hold their thoughts to ensure the group can hear from everyone in the room. Just be sure to provide advance notice for any questions or contributions participants are expected to make, so as to ensure everyone has an opportunity to prepare.


When team members build connections with each other, mutual respect and understanding often follow. Recognizing shared humanity bridges gaps.

Ask questions. Look up and around at what’s going on with your colleagues. Eat lunch with a coworker. Sometimes it’s just as simple as that.

The evolving journey to a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture within an organization presents you with an amazing and ongoing opportunity to better the environment around you. It may not be easy, and success may not come quickly or easily. But progress can be made.  

While there are many more transformative actions you can take to foster greater levels of inclusion in the spaces you influence, the above list serves as a great way for organizations like yours to get started. The time for talk is done. Now is the time for action!

For more perspectives from AEM staff, subscribe to the AEM Industry Advisor.  


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