Equity & inclusion does not belong in human resources

Equity & inclusion does not belong in human resources

Yes you read that right!

Whatever you would like to call it: EDI, DEI, D&I, DI&B does not belong under human resources. While I am not currently involved in this work, through my own research, I have come to find that too many times that this work reports into human resources departments or other areas of an organization for the life of me can’t figure out why this is still the case, especially in Canadian organizations.

So why is that to this day consultants hired by an organization still advise that equity and inclusion rest within HR fully cognizant that it is an organization wide issue? As well, why do we organizational leaders continue to hire one person, mainly on a one year contract to do all the work with no support? It is already bad enough many executives want to see the “business case” for equity and inclusion, yet when equity practitioners are hired, especially those who report to HR leaders, they become underutilized. These concepts where discussed in episode 2 of the Urban Equity Chats podcast “The Party of One” with Dr. Shana Almeida and Meeta Gandhi.

As we discussed, these one person teams are set up to fail. There is immense pressure to deliver which eventually leads to burnout. If HR includes personnel management, why would an organization want to see this occur?

I will explain why this should stop being the normal practice.

Let’s define what the profession of human resources is all about.

Human resources (HR) is the department responsible for maintaining a company’s personnel, employee relations and workplace culture. The many functions within HR include recruiting, hiring, terminating, training, professional development, policy implementation, benefits, payroll, government regulation, legal compliance and safety and often mediates conflicts and concerns between employees.

HR partners with management to address personnel concerns as well as provide support and resources where needed so that managers can focus on running their department operations.

But when there are discussions surrounding racism, homophobia, misogyny, ableism, neurodiversity, etc, should this not be a function of just more than people but something that is organization wide. These issues are systemic across departments, which include human resources.

There are several problems with equity and inclusion (E&I) practitioners reporting to human resources.

  1. It signals to your non-HR people that E & I is not their job. It is the responsibility of everyone within the organization to promote equity, inclusion and belonging. Leaders must be aware of the differences of the lived experiences of racialized and marginalized populations. If equity and inclusion is placed under HR, it signals that employees cannot foster inclusion or they should not. I continue to see this time and again when internal departments do not address equity.
  2. There are implications that there is nothing that other business functions can do to promote equity and inclusion. Equity and inclusion, and more so the hiring of a Principal Equity Officer (PEO), must be its own business and must be operationalized. So much of this work falls outside of equity and inclusion. The image below is a perfect example.
via Toby Egbuna https://www.chezie.co/bluepages/diversity-equity-and-inclusion-should-not-be-under-hr

PEOs must be

“nimble in supporting varying needs of workers and staff, while also strategizing about how to weave E&I into the organizational structure for long-term impact. They will develop plans to help organizations tend to the conditions of employees identity and values that differ with the changing times. A key element of a PEO’s role is working with the CEO or COO to develop initiatives to support equity, inclusion and belonging. This means that they support leadership in strategy and structural planning.” 

Netta Jenkins Head of DEI Shouldn’t Report to HR https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/head-dei-shouldnt-report-hr-netta-jenkins-mba-as-seen-on-forbes-/

3. E&I practitioners who are reporting into HR signals that organizations do not give precedence to E & I related metrics, key performance indicators, goals and progress. While I will credit those organizations who prioritize metrics, many of these positions highlight only the metrics related to HR functions. E&I should not be a five minute update in a executive leadership of staff meeting.

There are so many key points from this PhD project podcast episode that highlight these issues. I started the video from the 22 minute mark.

Chief Diversity Officers have a seat at the table…but which table? Via PhD Project.

It requires every single member of an organization, regardless of level for true change to occur. Leaders must be adaptive to change in order to deal with the complex socioeconomic issues of the day that affect an organization.

PEOs should be at the same level as other executives and be equally as instrumental towards transformational and adaptive change. They should lead a team of people responsible for procurement, strategic policy development and implementation, data governance, infrastructure and project management. Other areas include the liaison with internal employee resource groups and external partnerships.

E&I is not the sole responsibility of HR . It must be implemented organization-wide and be a greater part of its culture. A fully-funded E&I department with a PEO at the helm signals the organization’s serious in being accountable and its willingness to be sustained. An organization will more than likely be successful if it brings credible strategies, metrics and KPIs to advance equity and inclusion.


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