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Motivate Employees to Engage in DEI

Learn how to decrese resistance and increase motivation for DEI initiatives.

Brief Summary

Employees prioritize what their leaders prioritize. Research reveals executives vocally support DEI efforts externally but almost 80% of them privately say these efforts are overblown. It isn’t enough to make performative statements of commitment to DEI. Employees know the true priorities of leaders by their leadership shadow.

The dual approach of connecting DEI to the head (data) and the heart (personal connection) is effective in decreasing resistance and increasing motivation. An effective strategy is to identify the business case for DEI and focus on the common value of fairness. Presenting data revealing inequities appeals to a sense of fairness for some. Also enable everyone to see how they can personally benefit from inclusion and show them how exclusion impacts the people you know and respect.


Lack of prioritization and lack of personal connection for DEI contribute to resistance and decreased motivation. 5 common beliefs that lead to resistance:

  • Denying Systemic Barriers: a belief that the workplace is currently a level playing field
  • Diminishing Returns Mindset: inclusion implies a cost rather than a benefit; or implies winners and losers among demographic groups
  • Solve for Today: DEI is a short time problem
  • Closed Mindset: an understanding of the world based solely on their own experiences rather than openness  to the different realities of others
  • Diverse Talent Being a Risk: seeing talent outside the “norm” as a risk they’d rather not take


Lasting change requires a shift of heart (how everyone personally benefits from inclusion) and mind (business relevance):

  • Acknowledge Systemic Barriers: look for ways to address it in the systems, policies, & behaviors
  • Expansive Mindset: envision how DEI will help grow the business through innovation and higher productivity
  • Vision for the Future: endeavor to become an industry benchmark for DEI rather than level off at compliance standards
  • Receptive Mindset: approach DEI with a sense of humility and a genuine desire to learn
  • Diverse Talent Is an Asset: see value in diverse talent, fostering candidates’ innovation and ability to reduce groupthink
dei progress

Proposed Actions

  • Increase prioritization of employees by increasing prioritization of leaders. Gain DEI commitment and role-modeling by senior-most leaders to motivate others to broaden their perspectives.
  • Provide a mechanism for all employees, but especially leaders, to become aware of their own inclusion beliefs.
  • Humanize DEI through storytelling to foster an emotional understanding of the impact of the lived experiences of colleagues.
  • Validate everyone’s experiences, so that they feel heard and ready to learn about the challenges of others. Shutting them down will result in them shutting down in return.
  • Have a multi-pronged approach to address resistance to change. Different people, at different points on their own inclusion journey, will be motivated differently.

Valued Guidance

Implementation Plan

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