a)plan coaching

Does Your Organization Need a DEI Consultant, Coaching, or Both?

Many of today’s most change-making organizations have done the work to weave Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) into the fabric of their operations and values. Companies are committing to DEI initiatives not simply because it’s the right thing to do, but also because inclusion in the workplace drives measurable business results. It’s a win on all fronts.

For those exploring how exactly to double down on DEI, where should you start? Some of the most common solutions available include DEI consultants and DEI-focused coaching programs. In this article, we’ll explore the difference between these two solutions, making a case for the value and ROI created by leveraging both.

The Role of a DEI Consultant

DEI consultants are experts who provide specialized knowledge and strategies to help organizations understand, develop, and implement DEI initiatives. They are adept at identifying opportunities for enhancing DEI commitments, and can offer actionable advice related to those opportunities. 

Consultants are particularly valuable in conducting initial assessments and high-level suggestions, however, they are less likely to be involved in the execution of recommended strategies. As is often the case for consultants, they may leave it to the organization to ultimately make changes and/or improvements.

The Role of DEI Coaching & Training

DEI coaching is a resource commonly leveraged by organizations to follow through on high-level DEI strategies, ensuring that change takes root for the long haul. While consultants help from a distance, coaching is often where the real transformation happens. 

Coaching provides a confidential space for individual employees, managers, and leaders to get into the weeds related to DEI. The work commonly involves working through challenges, goals, and personal and professional development areas. With coaching, a personalized approach helps uncover systemic trends, issues, or biases at the individual level. That information can then be leveraged by organizations to make fundamental change through a bottom-up approach.

Note that DEI coaching shares some overlap with DEI training, and the two may be used in tandem. At a)plan, we’ve found that DEI topics often require some initial training in order for organizations to get the most return on investment. Once employees have all been brought up to speed via training (topics are chosen by the organization), we embark on the “follow through” work via one-on-one or team coaching. For more on this training-coaching style program, check out our quick case study covering our recent work with the City of San Francisco.

Exploring DEI consulting or DEI coaching for your organization? Let us know more here.

3 Key Benefits of Combining DEI Consulting & Coaching

When deciding between DEI consulting, coaching, or training, keep in mind that it doesn’t need to be an “either or” proposition. In fact, we’d argue that some combination of all of these resources is the ultimate answer. By leveraging them all, organizations can take a multi-faceted, multi-angle approach to make sure change takes hold—or as we say at a)plan—to “operationalize equity.”

Our typical DEI engagement at a)plan combines all three of these resources. Our highly-trained team specializes in coaching program design, and every engagement gets individualized attention. This approach, in effect, is our version of consulting. We discuss organizational needs and issues with the executive sponsor (the point-person at the company we are serving), until we are able to effectively recommend a program. Our DEI programs most commonly leverage both training and coaching.

Why is our DEI approach among the best in the industry? A handful of reasons stand out. Here are three key benefits of our combination approach to DEI consulting and coaching.

1. We Cover All the Bases

At a)plan, we never assume what the recipients of our coaching know or don’t know. That’s a major reason we start off many of our DEI programs with accessible training sessions. We recognize that DEI work can be nuanced, and every person at your organization brings a unique collection of experiences and knowledge. By leveraging both training and coaching, we cover all the bases, ensuring no employee feels left out and setting up the coaching portion of the engagement for maximum success.

2. Sustained Change

While a DEI consultant’s insights may be helpful, ideas alone don’t create change. But combine consulting with coaching, and an organization can maximize its efforts to create sustained behavioral change. Coaches provide ongoing support and accountability at the individual level, which we’ve found to be essential for long-term success in DEI initiatives.

And while our engagements typically have a start and end date, our coaches are available to continue supporting employees in an ongoing fashion. We have dozens of cases of clients who continued coaching many months after their organization-wide program ended. This is a testament to the profound positive impact our coaches have on our clients. 

3. Ultimate Customization

As we like to say at a)plan, we are not a coaching factory. While some of our bigger competitors offer out-the-box coaching solutions, we have chosen to go a different route, maintaining our standing as a boutique coaching firm. As a result, we champion our customer’s bespoke needs, working with them closely in the “consulting” phase of our engagements. With a service as human-centric as coaching, we believe customization is not just a benefit—it’s critical for success.

Landing on the Right DEI Resource

Ultimately, the best DEI solution for you and your organization is unique—every organization is structured differently, holds unique values, and approaches challenges in their own ways. Some may need a light tune-up in their efforts to commit to their DEI values, while others may need a complete overhaul. Where your organization lands will inform the best resource.

What we can say from working with dozens of change-making organizations in this field is that there’s no better time than now. We consistently hear from our own customers how coaching moved the needle on key DEI metrics like belonging and inclusion. As a result, not only are employees happier, they stay longer and tend to put their best foot forward at work. We truly believe that when organizations champion and invest in DEI, everyone wins. We are proud to play even just a small role in these win-win outcomes.

To learn more about a)plan and our DEI services, we encourage you to reach out! We’d love to chat about supporting your work with a customized coaching and/or consulting program.

Interested in DEI consulting and coaching?
Let us know more about your organization here.

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