Have You Checked Your Team's Motivation Levels for DEI?

When it comes to DEI, the motivation levels of individuals and the overall motivational profile you are dealing with matter. We’ve repeatedly heard that leadership commitment is critical to DEI effectiveness and trickles down to effect the organizational tone and commitment. What motivates an individual can come from different places, it can be intrinsic or extrinsic, but motivation underlies commitment.

To increase diversity, equity and inclusion in your organizational culture, you need both strong and varied levels of motivation to spark the conversations, bridges and practical actions that make DEI change happen. 

Then, increasing equity and inclusion will also motivate and empower more people to effectively contribute to the organization. In other words, harnessing motivation towards DEI will have ripple effects on broader employee motivation and engagement.

But how motivated are your team members to engage in DEI, today? And how do you begin to leverage and impact those motivation levels? 

How Does Motivation Affect Employee Engagement in DEI?

We’ve repeatedly heard that leadership commitment is critical to DEI effectiveness and trickles down to effect the organizational tone and commitment. What motivates an individual can come from different places, it can be intrinsic or extrinsic, but motivation underlies commitment.

Motivation is also core to management. It can serve to improve performance levels, to challenge or change indifferent attitudes, to reduce resistance to change, to reduce employee turnover and absenteeism, to increase efficiency and productivity, to achieve goals, to develop relationships and to bring stability and cohesiveness to teams. Previous evidence has shown that organizations who create successful DEI programs have “genuine, organic interest of at least 10% of non-managerial staff” and “a demonstrated commitment of executive staff.”  

When it comes to DEI, the motivation levels of individuals and the overall motivational profile you are dealing with matter. At Pulsely, we look at three levels of motivation each person may hold, regardless of their inclusion beliefs:

  • Passionate: Passionate employees are willing and ready to share their opinions on DEI. They are vital to the organization and a key component for building inclusion and driving change. However, enthusiasm may also create judgment about the beliefs of others or inhibit willingness to listen to different perspectives. This can cause division and lead to roadblocks.

  • Moderate: Moderate employees are open to discussing DEI, when the need arises or if driven by others. Their willingness to engage with DEI in a less emotionally charged manner can reassure those with greater concerns and lead to improvements in perspective sharing within the workplace.

  • Disengaged: Disengaged employees avoid the topic of DEI, whether they believe it is irrelevant, have a feeling of helplessness, or because previous negative experiences when expressing the beliefs make them want to avoid the topic altogether.

Again, these levels of motivation are regardless of inclusion beliefs. For example, a big supporter of inclusion who is passionate will be an advocate for your DEI efforts. But on the flip side, a big opposer who is passionate will be a defender of the power status quo. While someone who is receptive and learning in their beliefs about inclusion will often play a facilitator role. 

Additionally, you can see that different levels of motivation are even supportive of effective DEI. The highly inclusive, passionately motivated individual will be an advocate who brings the topic of inclusion up to the foreground and catalyzes conversation and action. But the highly inclusive, moderately motivated individual may also act as a progressor in navigating conversations, policies and practices at the everyday level: which is the consistency of action that builds inclusion.

Obviously, you need passionate people who are inclusion-oriented to drive DEI, but the good news is you don’t need only those people. Individuals with moderate motivation can be more receptive to listen to others and help build the bridges that challenge indifferent attitudes or disengagement that can inhibit DEI progress.

What are the 3 Components of Motivation?

Now that we’ve summarized motivation across three levels, let’s consider what contributes to these levels of motivation within any individual. At Pulsely, we’ve identified three dimensions that shape motivation levels:

  • Strength of Opinion: How much emotional energy does this person have to engage with inclusion as a topic?
  • Prioritisation: Is inclusion a high priority in their life, or are other things competing for their attention?
  • Personal Impact: Is inclusion something that is personally relevant to them or is it something they could easily dis-engage with?

Some people inherently feel they have opinions to contribute around diversity and inclusion and others do not. Beneath the surface, it’s also likely some have never been asked to consider their viewpoints, fear their viewpoints are irrelevant or even are inclined not to develop them based upon social fear or cancel culture.

Some people are so overwhelmed with demands that they do not see DEI as a priority. But this is also an organizational pitfall of failing to see how DEI ripples out to impact people and the business. When organizations fail to create and uphold DEI visions, strategies, goals, and performance accountability that are integrated in the business vision, it’s no wonder employees don’t prioritize it or see it as their job.

Some people feel more directly impacted by DEI efforts and outcomes than others - such as individuals in the groups that are historically excluded or devalued. Or individuals who had early experiences that taught them about the harmful impacts of exclusion. Going further, mature leaders who may not appear personally impacted may realize that when inclusion is lacking, their effectiveness is inhibited. Meaning, exclusion affects everyone. 

As Korn Ferry put it, “biography matters” to developing a personal lens towards the transpersonal impacts of inclusion: “Experiences that expose leaders to a broad range of geographies, people, and contexts can increase their understanding of culturally driven preferences by challenging their assumptions and ways of doing things." 

How to Increase Motivation and Engagement in DEI?

By knowing where your leaders and employees stand in terms of DEI motivation, you will be better positioned to leverage the existing motivation you have present in your organization! Who and where are the highly inclusive, passionately motivated advocates? If they are not being leveraged to catalyze others, you are underutilizing the DEI resource readily on hand.

Secondly, knowing where leaders and employees stand will better equip you to improve upon levels of motivation - by meeting people where they are and bringing them along. As Lee Jourdan, former CDIO of Chevron, said when it comes to increasing capacity for DEI, we need to be motivated to our next personal level: “There's not a single courageous conversation because every individual and every organization is in a different place in the journey. The courageous conversation is whatever is going to make you uncomfortable and whatever is next in your journey.” Utilizing this approach, how can you motivate people who carry the benefits of moderate motivation towards higher active levels in DEI initiatives?

Thirdly, you may be able to troubleshoot motivation issues. We see that demoralization is the primary reason inclusive ideas are not championed. How much of your team or workforce is disengaging from DEI? Where are things getting stuck out of avoidance and indifference? What can you do to re-engage these people or set a different expectation around safety? 

Going further, how do leadership and organizational messages impact upon feelings around strength of opinion, prioritization and personal impact that create motivation? Is leadership and performance reviews modeling that DEI and accountability is an important priority in your company - or are you making it easy for people to downgrade DEI as a priority? Have you engaged people in a meaningful way so that they value and share their own thoughts on the topic? What stories are you sharing to convey that DEI impacts outcomes for every single individual in meaningful and tangible ways? 

Want to get started on understanding motivation levels towards DEI in your team or workplace and how they are impacting your organization? Contact Pulsely for an introductory 30 minute talk.

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