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Six challenges faced by DEI and people leaders in the current climate

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

In the last year, we have seen more awareness and acknowledgement of the challenges and pressures facing those responsible for leading DEI work. Whether you are a DEI practitioner, HR expert, Employee Resource Group leader or a DEI sponsor or champion, you are likely to have noticed that the landscape has become more challenging in recent years, and it's taking its toll. Several recent studies point to high turnover of Diversity Leaders, and a recent survey by Work Vivo found that 98% of HR professionals had felt burned out at work, and 88% had dreaded work in the last 6 months.


In this edition, we set out six of the biggest challenges faced DEI and People leaders in the current climate. In the DEI space, it can feel difficult to prioritise our own well-being when leading work that has a profound impact on others, but as the saying goes, it's important to put on your own oxygen mask first. To help you to do just that, Inclusive Group's coaching offering, and trauma and burnout workshop can provide individuals and teams with a much-needed safe space to reflect, re-set and explore how to navigate these challenges.

A sense of overwhelm: For many DEI and People leaders, the task at hand can feel monumental, with work spanning policy, awareness and education, systems change, culture change, improving representation, achieving equity across key people processes... The list goes on, and for many of us it can be difficult to know where to start.

A mis-match in the level of demand and support from leaders: Many of us have worked with senior figures who'd like the moon on a stick, by tomorrow, please. DEI successes and accolades can bring reputational benefits for organisations and leaders. But sometimes the ambition and expectation for action and progress becomes unrealistic when it is not matched with tangible support.


Limited resources and budget: While DEI is a strategic focus for most organisations, we regularly hear the resources and budget allocated to this work are not sufficient to effect meaningful change. Periods of economic uncertainty can place already limited DEI budgets under scrutiny.

Performative vs transformative: Achieving meaningful and long term change in DEI often requires an analysis of root causes, and steps to address counter-inclusive behaviour and overhaul the systems and processes which have led to unfair outcomes. This work is intensive, yet DEI and People practitioners can often find themselves under pressure to pivot and focus on 'quick-wins' and optics that fail to address the real challenges.

Frustration and fatigue: In some cases, progress on DEI can be incremental and the pace of change can feel slow. In other instances staff can become naturally cynical when organisations talk a good game on DEI, but allow counter-inclusive behaviour to go unchecked and unchallenged. Whatever the cause, DEI fatigue and frustration is very real and it can affect even the most passionate and supportive DEI champions among us.

Loneliness: While a handful of organisations are fortunate enough to have a sizeable team to lead this work, those leading the DEI agenda often 'fly-solo'. If you find yourself navigating any one of the challenges set out above, it can be an incredibly lonely and isolating place to be.

Inclusive Group's 1:1 coaching support has been designed for those leading and operationally managing the DEI agenda in their organisation. Our approach is flexible, offering either a series of coaching discussions, or a one-off coaching conversation, giving you a safe space to explore how to respond to challenges or navigate complex issues. [Contact us] to find out more about our DEI coaching offering.


Led by a Trauma, Burnout & Recovery specialist, our 60-minute workshop is designed to help HR and people teams to bounce back after a period of pressure or change. Find out more about the workshop here Managing Burnout and Trauma | Inclusive] Group

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