Driving Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI): Go Beyond the Checkbox to Enable True Transformative Change

Driving Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI): Go Beyond the Checkbox to Enable True Transformative Change

Jun 26, 2023

By now, we all know the value of creating more diverse and equitable workplaces — but even with all of the available information, learning how to drive true change in our organizations can still be a challenge. In this article, hear from three JEDI experts about how a custom approach can help organizations achieve their goals and build more innovative and resilient workplaces. 

As we all learn the data about how diverse and inclusive workplaces outperform competitors, experience increased creativity and innovation, and have higher rates of employee satisfaction, nearly every company today is trying to figure out how to embed JEDI principles (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) into its organizational structure. But for leaders who are committed to living these values, integrating JEDI principles is an ongoing priority that requires analysis, education, and support. 

“JEDI is not a one-size-fits-all approach,” says Integrated Work JEDI Consultant Trent Norman. Every company starts from a unique place that encompasses many factors — the type of work it does, its location, its number of employees, its organizational structure, what JEDI practices are already in place, what resources it can dedicate, and on and on.

So how do you approach a JEDI framework in a way that will lead to tangible outcomes and be compatible with your organization? What outputs should you look for, and what challenges can you expect? 

To examine these questions, we spoke with three Integrated Work leadership consultants who have spent years specializing in incorporating JEDI into the workplace. Read on to understand what true systemic JEDI work looks like and —  when done well — the transformative effects it can have on your organization. 

  • Mikayla Branz, Integrated Work Consultant: Branz holds two Master’s Degrees in Social Work and Public Health and comes from a nonprofit and grassroots organizing background.
  • Sofia Gonzalez, Integrated Work Consultant: Gonzalez holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and has spent over five years advocating for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace on a local and national level.
  • Trent Norman, Integrated Work Executive Consultant and JEDI Consultant: Norman holds a Master’s Degree in Social Psychology and has more than 25 years of experience leading social justice work.

Starting on the Same Page: A Custom Organizational Assessment  

Many places offer professional courses and consulting that enable people at your company to “tick the box” on JEDI training. However, any JEDI work that isn’t customized to your organization is destined to fail. “People want to get involved, diversify their workforce, and fix their organizational culture, but what does that actually mean?” Norman says. “We have to have a conversation.” 

Justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion can look very different depending on your needs – for JEDI integration to be successful, you have to customize it to fit your organization’s unique experiences. That means a critical first step is an organizational assessment to see where you’re starting and to begin to understand the gaps. “An assessment can help provide the connective tissue so when people say, ‘We want to help our organization grow and become better,’ we can dig in and understand what will actually be useful for their organization,” Norman says.

Even this organizational assessment shouldn’t be cookie-cutter. It needs to be created specifically for your team to provide effective outputs. “Anybody can Google an equity assessment and send it out,” Mikayla Branz says. “We really want it to be grounded in the values, culture, and needs of a particular organization.” 

The more insights into your organization that are baked into the assessment, the more meaningful your results will be. “Each organization will have a unique history and background, as well as approach,” says Sofia Gonzalez. “The assessment can vary due to resources, organizational size, capacity of employees to collaborate, and even attitudes toward the process.” 

Getting Everyone Involved: Center Inclusion  

Who will be involved in your organizational assessment? It’s often tempting for organizations to limit professional development, such as JEDI training to company leadership — but not including everyone comes with a price. You won’t see how JEDI principles play out in the lived experiences of people across your organization. Therefore you’ll also lose sight of how this work can create a transformational systemic impact. “Diversity lives at different levels,” Norman says. “Someone working in leadership is going to have a completely different experience than someone who may be an entry- or mid-level employee.” 

While it’s imperative for your organization to have strong leadership involvement with JEDI development, you’ll be most successful when all levels of the organization share their experience and feel like they are represented and seen as a valued part of the process. “It’s really important that the leaders are connected to our intentions behind the work and the outcomes, but the whole organization has to get behind it,” Branz says. “It shouldn’t feel like it’s a ‘top-down’ approach. It should come from everybody’s input.”

Including all levels in the assessment can help leaders gain valuable — sometimes unexpected — insights and hear from their team in a new way, Gonzalez says: “Because the needs assessment takes employees’ and stakeholders’ points of view into the final recommendations, it provides a space to share thoughts, desires, and concerns in an anonymous way. JEDI needs assessments can bring out important information about staffing, systems, and other key areas of organizational life.”

Bravely Reflecting and Gaining Self-Awareness: JEDI Leadership

Reflection, on both a personal and organizational level, is a critical component of JEDI leadership. To understand how to move forward, you must first examine the practices, systems, and norms that created your current organizational culture. Taking a realistic view of what you and your organization may be struggling with is a difficult, but necessary, task. “Organizations looking to go through this process should be ready to have difficult conversations and make real systemic changes to the way they operate,” Gonzalez says. 

Examining big-picture questions about individual habits and attitudes and organizational practices can help you understand unconscious biases or traits and the systemic barriers that may be blocking JEDI principles from being truly realized across your organization. Here are just a few examples of the types of questions that can help you evaluate your practices and organization through a JEDI-centered lens:

  • In what ways do you make an effort to interact with people who are different than you? 
  • What practices, policies, and procedures in your organization cause inequities? 
  • What identities are proportionally or disproportionately represented in your organization’s leadership? 
  • How does your workplace accommodate and celebrate different identities and abilities? 

Once you accept the state of your organization in its most authentic form, you can begin realigning toward a more just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive workplace. Understanding your needs, strengths, and shortcomings prepares you to incorporate JEDI principles in a meaningful way.

Taking Strides: JEDI Principles at Work 

JEDI work is an ongoing commitment that changes and evolves over time. When you commit to JEDI leadership, you commit to it every day. So, why put in the effort? 

Done well and with a commitment over time, JEDI principles are proven to help create more resilient, innovative workplaces where employees share a dedication to success. “After working with one client, we saw the communication between the board, the C-suite, and employees increase significantly,” Gonzalez says. “That level of transparency was something they had not seen before as an organization. They also gained the language and tools to talk about JEDI in an informed way and as a whole were more willing to create solutions that ended in impact for their clients and staff.”

While many organizations today value justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, they often describe JEDI initiatives as fragmented, or they aren’t sure what success looks like. By putting together a full JEDI framework, you provide a way for efforts across the organization to fit in with a broader context, reducing the chance of them losing momentum and fading away. 

Building an organization-wide JEDI framework also helps close the gaps between goals and real-life experiences. “We mostly work with organizations that have JEDI values and want to incorporate them well,” Branz says. “But a lot of times, there’s a gap between where they are now and where they would like to be, and that gap can be different for people in leadership and people who are, let’s say, answering phones.” 

By aligning around your values, customizing your approach, and including everyone, you can help build meaningful initiatives that center JEDI principles across your organization, leading to a more dedicated and thriving team. “We don’t have a way of doing things that we force clients to fit into,” Norman says. “There are a lot of JEDI assessments out there that will come in and say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.’ For us, everything has to be customized for the people we work with. Otherwise, we don’t feel like we’re giving them what they need; we’re just imposing what we think they need…We haven’t done a good job if our clients just take this work and go, ‘That was fantastic,’ and then file it away and never look at it again. We want to make sure we’re giving people something useful.” 

Integrated Work offers JEDI organizational assessments and other JEDI-centered consulting and training. If you would like to start a conversation about how we could help you reach your justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion goals, fill out the contact form here.