The 12 Days of DEI Christmas: Worthwhile Resolutions for 2023
One of the most annoying—yet catchy—tunes of the U.S. holiday season is “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” First popularized by Bing Crosby and later covered by Grammy award winners, Pentatonix, the song is ubiquitous this time of year. It combines the “list approach” with a repetitive melody that endlessly loops itself ad nauseam, forcing the listener to submit and sing-along within two minutes of play.
It’s the type of song that you love to hate. You hate it because of its monotony, but you love it because it is so damn memorable! And regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas or another winter solstice holiday, few jingles can get members at a gathering to stop whatever they are doing and join the fun like this classic! Which got me thinking: What if we set our 2023 (DEI) aspirations to the tune of this unforgettable staccato? Would it improve our ability to keep our People & Culture hopes in mind no matter what arises during the first quarter? The question felt compelling enough to summon the singer-songwriter in me, and I decided to try setting my DEI New Year’s wish-list to the prolific ditty.
Disclaimer: This list isn’t meant to be comprehensive or systematic. It is supposed to be fun–either read or sung! There is no “one size fits all” approach to DEI work. The most effective strategies are informed by a combination of active-listening and research-based practices. The following list is not meant to be prescriptive. So, contextualize as much as you can! Write your own song based upon your identified objectives for 2023, and be sure to get a group together so you can share it, post it, and enjoy it.
On the first day of Christmas, my workplace gave to me—a thoughtful leadership team.
With downsizes, mergers, and strategic realignments being recurring themes throughout 2022, many were left feeling like the XLT (Executive Leadership Team) only had their own well-being in mind. A foundational aid to establishing a psychologically empowering culture is having a leadership team at the helm who is as empathetic as they are strategic—as sensitive as they are ambitious. We need leaders who can move workplace cultures from the industrial age’s time, team, task work model to the experience age’s curiosity, clarity, credibility work model. We need leaders who invest time in building authentic relationships instead of settling for transactional partnerships.
On the second day of Christmas, my workplace gave to me—two ERGs (Employee Resource Groups).
Whether you have been in ERG cultivation mode for years or just a couple months, setting the goal to establish two new groups during the first quarter of 2023 is an attainable aim! Organizing these groups with the intent to center whomever they target (and not the allies) is a key variable in the long-term sustainability of each ERG. Oh, and one more thing, make sure you compensate your ERG leaders (it takes a lot of work to nurture a healthy employee resource group).
On the third day of Christmas, my workplace gave to me—three schedule options.
2022 was a year when many returned to onsite work; however, many more found themselves craving the flexibility of remote schedules. Two camps soon emerged—pro remote versus pro on-site. Truth is, polarized arguments are most often defused by a third idea. Hybrid work schedules offered us a chance to experience both ends of the spectrum. Our 2023 work cultures will benefit from hybrid arrangements being offered alongside the on-site or remote options.
On the fourth day of Christmas, my workplace gave to me—four focused quarters.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion work is still being relegated to a seasonal point-of-emphasis instead of being conceptualized as a year-long value that is embedded into every level of the organization. Aiming to initiate ‘four-quarters-of-focus’ is the best way to signal an internal shift away from sporadic engagement to a collectively shared (everyday) responsibility.
On the fifth day of Christmas, my workplace gave to me—five floating off-days.
Floating Holidays are an HR benefit that empowers employees to select PTO holidays that are culturally meaningful to them. In the United States, most default, work holidays center Christian or American norms. Adding a floating holiday benefit is one way to acknowledge and include multiple cultural perspectives within the workforce.
On the sixth day of Christmas, my workplace gave to me—six useful trainings.
Professional development opportunities are becoming increasingly valuable as the post-pandemic workforce demands holistically beneficial workspaces. In today’s workforce, people are not only asking, “How will I improve this place?” They are also asking, “How will this place improve me?” Strategically planning relevant, health-giving, professional development opportunities will be an essential retention strategy in 2023.
On the seventh day of Christmas, my workplace gave to me—seven revamped workdays.
This one might be the most controversial on the list—especially since many will see this type of self-determination as either reserved for the highest positions of privilege or “a bridge we’ve already crossed.” Yes, it might be difficult to envision a restructured work-week (where we autonomously dictate our hourly investments), but this DEI wish isn’t about the numbers; it is more about considering how we operationalize becoming more than what we “do” at work. Our vocations are only a part of who we are, and it’s time to start demonstrating this fact by developing a new work-life-balance standard.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my workplace gave to me—eight resolved conflicts.
Throughout 2022, we saw workplace conflicts rage on topics such as microaggressions, white supremacy culture, patriarchy, homophobia, xenophobia, antisemitism, and myriads more! And where cancel culture was quick to call for estrangement, the healing work of repair rarely received airtime. If 2022 was a year focused frequently on separations, how can the coming year be one where we highlight reconciliations?
On the ninth day of Christmas, my workplace gave to me—nine celebrations.
DEI practitioners are quickly gaining the reputation of being “pallbearers,” assisting us in laying to rest our dearly beloved (albeit toxic) practices. It’s true, becoming aware of unconscious and conscious faux paus can be a sobering experience; however, DEI practice should embody both the mourning and the joy of change management. For every funeral, there should be a party! Intentionally planning celebrations for successfully reaching a people & culture goal or value can boost morale and strengthen our ability to navigate the tough conversations.
On the tenth day of Christmas, my workplace gave to me—ten rare promotions.
One of the best metrics for measuring equity in an organizational culture is to aggregate data, across several years, on who received promotions. What demographics are disproportionately represented in this data set? What was the tenure of these selected candidates? What was their self-identified gender, ethnicity, and disability status? Which promotions were made available to internal hirers? And how long did the promotee remain in the role? These questions can provide a candid look at the implicit and explicit biases that could be embedded into hiring practices and procedures.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my workplace gave to me—eleven mental health days.
Mental health is a rising area of concern across industries. Themes like neurodiversity and post-traumatic stress are becoming commonplace topics in HR trainings and seminars. So, it makes sense that mental health days would also rise in popularity. It’s becoming more popular for benefits packages to include a certain allotment of mental health days, but, even if yours doesn’t, taking one mental health day a month (excluding December since it oftentimes provides opportunities to step away from work) is a great self-care habit to adopt in 2023.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my workplace gave to me—twelve months of check-ins.
Keeping your hand on the people & culture pulse (year around) isn’t easy, but it is possible. Hosting periodic listening tours, compensating employees for participating in bi-annual focus groups, releasing Inclusion and Belonging surveys multiple times a year, and providing equitable performance evaluations (at least once a year) are some ways to facilitate valuable check-in moments. Few things communicate care like receiving a genuine, non-transactional request to see how you’re doing, feeling, and managing.
So in summary . . .
Twelve months of check-ins,
Eleven mental health days,
Ten rare promotions,
Eight resolved conflicts,
Six useful trainings,
Five floating off-days—
Four focused quarters,
Three schedule options,
and a thoughtful leadership team.
Traditionally, the Twelve Days of Christmas begin the last week of December and end the first week of January, but this list feels too significant for our momentum to stall during the first month of 2023. Somehow, this year must be the year when the aspirational dreams that dawn upon us over the final days of the Gregorian calendar outlast the holiday hangover that routinely suffocates our resolutions. And maybe this irksome song can become an unforgettable pneumonic device that keeps these objectives fresh in our minds, hearts, and ears. Here’s to a better, brighter, 2023 in our workplaces.