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How Can DEI Help State Agencies?

“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” James Baldwin

It is becoming increasingly important for organizations to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives into the framework of their culture. And it’s true that DEI efforts can improve an organization’s productivity, creativity, retention, and overall financial success. But the specifics of implementing DEI standards can be complex and daunting. This is no less true for technology and government entities. What steps should they take? How should they enact these initiatives?

First, a brief description of DEI. Diversity refers to representing the world’s differences, including, but not limited to, ethnicity, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, and ability. Equity simply means ensuring a voice among all people, fairly and without bias. Inclusivity promotes a sense of autonomy and well-being among all constituents by providing equal access to opportunities. “When diversity, inclusion, and equity go together, your workforce is empowered to bring their best to work,” says HR Technologist, a news and research organization.

Yet systemic inequities exist everywhere, even among government agencies that may be obligated by law to uphold and enforce DEI standards. The idea of exclusion and inequality have long histories, part of a structure that predates organizations themselves. Regulation and policies don’t account for the many barriers that marginalized communities face.

Addressing inequities begins with your own organizations and the clients you serve. Perhaps more important, according to the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, “to achieve long-term impact, changes must be sustainable.” Local and regional government agencies can implement policy changes to drive larger systematic change to better meet DEI goals.

It starts within

For its part, Accenture has been strengthening its commitment to DEI—internally, and with our clients. We have found that success often hinges on strategic collaboration and the right technology.

For example, one of our proud efforts was with the 58-county Joint Power Authority overseeing the California Statewide Automated Welfare System (CalSAWS) project. With leadership buy-in, we created the Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Advancement (IDEA) program. The idea was to provide resources, processes, and support for the diverse group of employees comprising CalSAWS.

The plan was first launched as a response to revitalizing awareness of social injustice and systematic racism in the U.S. As part of our efforts, we worked closely with 25 CalSAWS project team members and held a series of collaborative sessions to develop intentionally inclusive programs to advance DEI. Together, we created several highly constructive initiatives, which were instrumental in providing new resources and opportunities. These efforts included a mentoring program, DEI learning tools, DEI-focused leadership coaching, and guided safe space sessions. What began as a response has now become a constantly revisited approach, woven into the culture at CalSAWS and leveraged across the project team.

“Treating people, your individual team members, with respect and dignity is the cornerstone of everything the … IDEA team promotes,” says CalSAWS Executive Director John Boule. “As a result, focusing on DEI at CalSAWS is making us a stronger more inclusive team, which in turn improves the services we provide.”

Despite its virtual nature, IDEA was largely responsible for helping promote a culture of inclusivity and diversity. Through analysis gathered through a pulse survey, we learned that project team members felt a genuine sense of DEI individual growth and made genuine connections across CalSAWS, strengthening the program at large.

The IDEA initiative, Boule says, “has been a catalyst for bringing our diverse project team members together in safe spaces to discuss challenging topics in a respectful and educational setting.”

Two years after launching, the IDEA team has become an integral part of the CalSAWS family as it continues to grow, evolve, and refine powerful new ways to advance the organization’s DEI objectives.

Only the beginning

Accenture’s DEI practitioners are committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, even as we acknowledge that this is only the beginning and  there is far to go. We also believe that technology will play an instrumental role, particularly where analyzing data and conducting training are concerned.

Beyond technology, the essentials of a successful DEI initiative begin with real human understanding and empathy. “To conquer our implicit biases, we have to speak openly and honestly about them,” says former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho, host of Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man. “Uncomfortable conversation is all about addressing this kind of thinking, airing it out. We can’t let these ideas fester in silence.”

Initiating uncomfortable conversations, helping people discover and recognize their own implicit biases, and using technology to pinpoint DEI challenges are all positive steps. But achieving equity and inclusion among a diverse workforce also means closing the talent gap. Among other reasons, that’s why we developed the Accenture Workplace Accountability Resource Experience (AWARE). A human capital management solution using Oracle Analytics Cloud technology, AWARE provides data that helps organizations better understand workplace culture and create a more inclusive and equitable environment. The tool includes more than 80 dashboards that cross several key areas:

  • Core human resources and workforce management
  • Talent management
  • Attrition
  • Equal employment opportunity
  • Compensation
  • Recruiting
  • Onboarding and learning

Accenture’s Augmented Insights Senior Manager Trent Johnson says, “The ultimate value story of AWARE with our public sector clients is the empowerment to be transparent, strategic, and build a sustainable organization representative of its constituents.”

Next steps: Putting it together

Powerful concepts such as IDEA help raise awareness around DEI challenges. Tools such as AWARE help address the HR side of creating a more inclusive work environment. But even with these assets at our disposal, we understand we need to do more to address the systemic issues at the root of inequities in government.

First, it’s important to remember that local and regional government can implement policy changes to drive broader foundational change. Innovation and creativity are at the heart of these efforts. For example, Accenture has policy bots within its AI capabilities that review large documents and enact quick, widespread, sweeping change. Thinking creatively, we can envision ways to tweak these tools to unveil biases within broader governmental policies—not just within smaller organizations, but at the highest levels within the state.

This work takes time. Indeed, change doesn’t occur overnight. And it starts with leadership buy-in. Then, coupled with technology and creativity, we can continue to make the progress we need to have a full functioning diverse, equitable, and inclusive working environment within the public sector.

Accenture is firmly committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we are taking proactive steps to embed DEI into our own culture. With DEI being a part of Accenture’s array of practice areas, we have committed ourselves to helping clients in this space. Bringing innovation to DEI through user-centered design and booming technologies like virtual assistants and Oracle Analytics Cloud technology are only some of the ways we can help our government—in fact, all clients—reach and maintain their DEI goals.
Accenture's work with state and local government agencies across California reflects our commitment to helping our clients achieve high performance. Over 4,500 Accenture employees live and work in California delivering a broad range of services in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations, and are proud to help their clients make a difference in the lives of the people they serve.