50 Years in the Making: Learning from the Experts in DEI to Enact Workplace Change

The Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group is a culture change firm that’s been championing workplace equity for close to five decades, before the words “diversity” and “inclusion” were commonplace. Their work assists organizations in creating inclusive, collaborative workplaces that leverage differences to achieve higher performance and engagement.

This year, the BLM and social justice movements have sparked positive momentum as leaders amplify  efforts within their organizations to create a more equitable and welcoming environment where employees feel safe to be themselves and to contribute fully.  For many, this motivation leads to asking tough questions and facing hard truths in order to enact change.

Roy Notowitz of Noto Group Executive Search recently interviewed Judith Katz and Fred Miller, principals of KJCG on the How I Hire podcast to discuss how they draw on their foundational framework, Inclusion as the HOW, to enable clients to achieve higher performance and accelerate results.  Judith and Fred have co-authored four books on diversity, inclusion, collaboration, trust, authenticity, and teamwork: Safe Enough to Soar: Accelerating Trust, Inclusion, and Collaboration in the WorkplaceOpening Doors to Teamwork and Collaboration: 4 Keys that Change EVERYTHINGBe BIG: Step Up, Step Out, Be Bold, and The Inclusion Breakthrough: Unleashing the Real Power of Diversity.

Miller says the phone at their firm has been ringing “off the hook” with companies eager to start or continue the work toward effective and sustainable change. 

“This year redefines what it means to be supportive of diversity and inclusion, and now we need to leap forward, organizations need a more comprehensive and impactful strategy” says Miller.  

While moving quickly may appeal to many organizations and leaders, working within manageable timeframes and toward realistic and sustainable goals is an essential part of Katz and Miller’s work. 

“There’s a new set of competencies that are really required to effectively engage, lead, manage, and coach, a diverse workforce, and many managers and leaders don’t have those competencies,” says Katz. “So part of what has to happen in the change process is really instituting those new mindsets, new behaviors, and to hold people accountable for those as well. So it’s not just saying you want diversity and inclusion, but it’s really behaving differently as well in your interactions.”

Some organizations will need to “slow down to speed up.”  Miller says the process doesn’t always necessarily take longer, but that companies and leaders need to be prepared to be patient in cases where it very well may.  

“One of the things that’s been fundamental to us is positioning, positioning, positioning. I think a lot of times organizations feel like they’re under a stopwatch to just do things quickly.  In our experience with {one client}, we spent a lot of time positioning for hiring. Spent a lot of time thinking about who would come in and give them assistance. And although sometimes a client is impatient around that, if you build a good foundation, if you do great positioning, it pays great dividends.”

As COVID persists, organizations are planning for how diversity and inclusion will be incorporated into remote hiring processes, as well as into their company culture when and whether employees return from work from home.  With social justice now in the forefront of our zeitgeist, workplaces are eager to begin and affect sustainable change.  Miller sees a moment of opportunity that will have significant benefits today and well into the future.

“I think this is an incredible opportunity and I think that’s one of the reasons our phones are ringing off the hook because organizations are feeling like, one, they’re behind on some of these issues. And it’s really about, how are we as an organization? How are we treating our people? And then how are we treating subgroups within our people’s population? We’re talking about, how do we up the game for all organizations around people?”

Katz agrees that this moment is a key opportunity for most organizations.  

“We’re adapting and changing in terms of doing this remotely, like everyone else. We’ve always had to adapt. We’ve been in business 50 years, the work has changed. The world has changed. We’re having new consultants join us. And we’re really trying to think about, what’s the fundamental learning that people want and need to have?

I think this moment in time, there’s an eagerness to really address racism, to really want to be different. And organizations know that some of what they’ve done up until now, has not gotten them all the results that they wanted to.

So I think that we’re in this amazing moment of rethinking and relooking at how racism and/or dehumanizing behaviors manifest in our organization, how behaviors that make people feel small or that they have to hold back their thinking is embedded in our organizations and really thinking about how do we prepare for the future in a very, very different way?”

Looking to learn more from the experts?  You can listen to this and other HowIHire podcast episodes here.