How to Succeed in Diversity and Inclusion through OD


How to Succeed in Diversity & Inclusion through OD

By Ragland Thomas G

“Diversity is about all of us and about us having to figure out how to walk through this world together.” Jacqueline Woodson

Diversity & Inclusion has been on the priority lists of CEOS & CHROs for a long time now and several efforts are being taken to make D&I a part of the DNA of the organizations. What began with a focus on gender diversity has broadened to include a range of factors and the question is whether there has been any progress in the D&I journey of organizations because of the efforts so far. While we can say that there has been progress, we can see that organizations are still struggling across a spectrum of issues from increasing gender diversity to creating a culture of inclusion at work.

In my roles as HR Leader I have witnessed a range of issues like supervisors being closed to creating flexible jobs to support women employees, resistance to hiring women employees, lack of culture of openness, fear of speaking the mind, lack of support to women employees who are in the family way, leadership teams which have 0% diversity and more. I have also implemented several initiatives like articulating a diversity hiring target, programs to develop women leadership talent and creating visibility for them, organizing training sessions on Diversity & Inclusion, developing D&I Champions and more. However I realized that I succeeded whenever I used an OD lens to diagnose and deploy the relevant interventions to achieve the objectives. Let me use a few OD inputs to show how we can create a culture of D&I in the organization.

  • Culture & Shared Values – If the D&I agenda should succeed we have to begin by creating and nurturing a culture that values D&I and in which everyone recognizes and believes the importance of D&I and aligns their values & behaviors to supporting & nurturing D&I. In the words of Ava DuVernay, “When we are talking about diversity, it’s not a box to check. It’s a reality that should be deeply felt and held and valued by us all”.
  • Leadership – The direction, style and actions of the Leadership in an organization is critical for making D&I succeed. The Leadership team needs to role model to others and that will mean that they fix the diversity % and behaviors at their level first before expecting that from the rest of the organization.
  • Strategy – Leaders should fine tune the strategy that will impact the whole system before executing any programs. The focus should on crafting a strategy that will suit the culture and framework of the organization and this means focusing on best fit vs. best practice. A best fit is important as that will mean that the strategy is aligned to the specific needs of the organization.
  • Structure & Systems – Leaders should assess and make relevant changes or adaptations in the organization structure and systems of the organization. What is the point in introducing Job-sharing, Part-time, Flexible work practices etc. if they are not supported by the relevant changes in the structure and systems in the organization?
  • Skills – Organizations have to empower all the people in the organization with the required mindsets and skill sets to facilitate the change. OD is an educational strategy to influence the beliefs and mindsets of people and will support in facilitating the transition.
  • External Environment – It’s critical to consider the external environment also to ensure a proper balance which means for making D&I successful we will take a Whole System view including the external environment. This is important in that organizations should understand the external talent pool, dynamics of the talent mobility and how to attract the talent into the organization.
  • Building Partnerships – The final glue will be the focus on creating an inclusive and participative environment with respect, listen to all members of the system, take in their views or provide any relevant feedback and take them along in the D&I Journey. The core values of OD is based on the humanistic philosophy, inclusion, respect and participation making OD the most appropriate approach for making D&I succeed in an organization.

So we can see that OD can play a significant role to make D&I succeed in an organization. The core nature of OD which values D&I, the Whole System View approach, diagnosing and intervening in all critical factors of the whole system and creating a culture of participation & inclusion are some of the key requirements to make Diversity & Inclusion success in an organization.

Ragland Thomas G, VP of Global Organizational Development & Strategy for the Institute of OD, offering online certification programs for those interested in Organization Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching, and OD Advanced Skills courses for ongoing learning.  He can be reached at  For more information about our certification programs and short courses, visit our website


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