The ACT process is designed and proven to be effective in building and enhancing equitable and inclusive workplace cultures. It stands for Align, Connect, Transform.
Why ACT? Because according to a BCG study, 97% of organizations they surveyed had DEI programs, but only 25% of their targeted population reported any benefit! The ACT process evolved from the collective experience of our DEI experts and practitioners working with organizations of various sizes in different phases of their DEI journey.
Best of all, since the focus of ACT is to transform the workplace culture, it is scalable, sustainable and resilient to changes that are inevitable in the lifecycle of an organization, including changes in leadership, ownership or the external environment in which the organization operates.
STEP ONE: ALIGN
Any successful transformation can only happen with alignment. It starts with leadership communicating their own commitment to equity and inclusion, as well as identifying the key champions and change agents to lead the process with them.
The Align phase begins with assessments, including executive interviews and input from key stakeholders to understand three (3) essential components:
Structured instruments can be used to get a more quantitative baseline for the DEI Maturity of the organizational processes, policies and infrastructure, as well as the voice of employees through an Employee Survey with DEI focused questions. Employee Listening sessions are highly recommended to get a full understanding of the employee experience.
The key deliverable of the Align phase is the DEI Plan is a 12-month blueprint, approved at the highest level of leadership, which defines the Why, the What and the How.
The Why. The organization’s strategic priorities and business drivers need to be defined or re-stated by the leadership team to ensure there is a shared vision for what follows.
The What. The role of HR and DEI leadership in the organization is to bring forward DEI objectives that are clearly linked with the strategic priorities and business drivers defined by leadership.
The How. The actions the organizations will need to complete to achieve the DEI objectives will depend on the market, the industry and other factors. They need to be achievable in the period of time defined by the DEI Plan (typically 12 months) to ensure early wins and a successful start.
The DEI Plan provides the roadmap for the rest of your journey. However you decide to get there, it’s critical to take the time to develop the DEI Plan for at least the next 12 months. Without such a plan, you will not be able to focus your time and resources appropriately to get results and demonstrate value of DEI to everyone in the organization. If the DEI investment and efforts are initiated without a solid plan that represents a shared purpose and alignment, they will likely not result in the desired outcomes, which will make it challenging to secure more resources to continue the effort.
STEP TWO: CONNECT
The Connect phase is the key step to motivate everyone in the organization to engage in building an inclusive culture, using the DEI Plan as a blueprint for specific actions. This phase is a great opportunity to foster allyship and amplify marginalized voices. Unfortunately, it is also often missed or delayed in a rush to start DEI initiatives and activities, led by upper management or HR.
When the goal is cultural transformation, it is essential for the Connect phase to start as soon as possible after the Align phase. The steps below will help you start a successful Connect phase and sustain that connection for the long term:
Educate. To broadly engage the majority, education is a critical first step. Education provides a common language and the mindset that are essential ingredients of healthy and productive communications and engagement. Concepts that are often unfamiliar, like intersectionality, allyship, and microactions can be explained and explored. Education also helps surface fears, reservations or concerns early, so they can be addressed in an open and honest way to avoid unproductive and unnecessary issues later on.
Communicate. Leaders need to clearly communicate their vision and commitment towards building a culture of equity and inclusion. A combination of in-person townhalls, virtual webinars, email messages, print and other media are often used to communicate as broadly as possible. It is important to ensure the communications are inclusive and consistent and
distributed in a variety of ways to reach all key stakeholders.
Engage. An effective engagement strategy starts with a small group of early adopters. Various means must be provided to engage everyone. In 2020 and beyond, with the COVID pandemic driving social distancing and significant increase in remote work, a safe internal platform such as OurOffice Culture App has been highly effective in maintaining connection and a feeling of belonging. Feedback from the early adopters is extremely valuable to adjust and improve the engagement strategy. The early adopters can also serve as ambassadors for change and building a culture of inclusion, advocating and
creating content, reaching out to their peers and engaging in discussions with employees who may have questions.
STEP THREE: TRANSFORM
Transformation takes a long time and you need more than the initial alignment and connection to achieve it. The key is to gain real-time insights and visibility to a comprehensive set of analytics to correlate DEI objectives and business outcomes, track progress and adjust as needed. On-going alignment of every-day actions and decisions consistent with the objectives established in the DEI Plan is also critical. A repository of lessons learned is needed about what works and what doesn’t work as well. Last but not least, ongoing listening to the voices of employees must be part of any successful change management process. Expert advice and guidance are also needed to make adjustments as needed, detect and overcome the barriers and avoid potential derailers.
Accountability and consistency are essential for sustainable change with regular reporting and reviews. Sometimes organizations get a great start with a lot of focus and attention, only to be disappointed later due to loss of leadership attention and broad engagement.
Automation and digital tools can be highly effective for real-time visibility and course correction. As an example, OurOffice provides analytics about workforce representation, pay equity, growth and development, and about applicants in different stages of the hiring pipeline, as well as the maturity of the infrastructure capabilities, and its processes and policies.
The ACT process is designed for successful and sustainable change management that transforms the organizational culture to be more diverse, equitable and inclusive.
Check Out: Ultimate Guide to DEI
Read More: How To Get Started?