education & trainings

DEI competencies

Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Competencies?

As a land-grant institution, Colorado State University has upheld a commitment to educational access since its inception. The notion that all who have a will and desire to learn should be able to join the Colorado State community and thrive, has long been prioritized by administrators and university policies. To thrive is to grow and develop where you are, regardless of your social identities and background.

We acknowledge that many of our students and employees experience individual and systemic barriers that prevent them from thriving, accessing university resources, and, ultimately, from participating in the spirit of access that the university was founded upon. For this reason, it is imperative that our community develops competencies to engage with and meet the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce and student body. To achieve this goal, the Office of Inclusive Excellence has created a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Competency model to guide our university toward greater awareness, knowledge, and skills.

The following is a list of research-informed competencies which seek to develop knowledge areas within three domains: 1. Within Myself, 2. Within my Team, and 3. Within my Organization. This model provides examples of both intermediate navigation of the competency as well as mastery.

Recognizing that learning is a life-long process, each university community employee is encouraged to select one or two competencies from each domain to develop over the year. The employee annual review process is an opportunity to identify and evaluate these competencies. The Office of Inclusive Excellence encourages that we individually and collectively commit to ongoing learning, self-reflection, and enhanced knowledge.

Defining Competency

A competency is an identified standard to which a person is expected to perform. A competency is made up of several components: the awareness, knowledge, and skills necessary to act or demonstrate an understanding of the competency through behavior. All competencies are behavioral competencies: they should include all three components; neither awareness nor knowledge is enough without the demonstrable ability to put the skills into practice. (Triec, n.d.)

Underlying Principles of DEI Competencies

The type of inclusive work environment that allows an organization (and the people within it) to thrive requires guiding principles:

  • Commitment to long-term, sustained action. Inclusive work environments cannot be built overnight. They require time, effort, and learning which is grounded in actual experience.
  • The individual and their environment cannot be separated. One influences the other; inclusive work environments address all aspects of the organization from individual members to teams, leadership, structures and policies.
  • Inclusion is a journey, not a destination. Individuals and organizations are all moving along a continuum, and by identifying and reaching milestones they can measure how much they have progressed while keeping the vision of a fully inclusive organization as their aim.
  • Equity must be included in diversity and inclusion efforts. Inclusive work environments that allow people and organizations to thrive must commit to embracing diversity, inclusion and equity of experiences and resources available to employees. We must acknowledge that some members of our community experience inequity in order to promote equity and inclusion.

Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Organizations

Our goal at Colorado State University is to be a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization: 

diversity in social identities is present across all positions; equity is prioritized at individual, organizational, and structural levels; and a cultural and environmental feeling of belonging is experienced by all employees.

DEI organizations center diversity, equity, and inclusion in organizational functions, priorities, and employee culture. They can be assessed to the extent to which employees are valued, respected, accepted and encouraged to fully participate in the organization. Efforts such as the Employee Climate Survey have served to benchmark the extent that employees experience belonging, or exclusion and isolation, throughout the organization

Employees in inclusive environments feel appreciated for their unique characteristics and are therefore often comfortable sharing their ideas and other aspects of their true authentic selves. We recognize it is through this sharing that we will capitalize on the tremendous value of human diversity as an organization. Therefore, it is in our community’s interest to prioritize inclusive communities where belonging, respect, and inclusion are promoted and attained. (Inclusive Leadership, 2020; Triec, n.d.)

DEI foundations at Colorado State University

  1. Increasing diversity and inclusion efforts at the university is essential to the continued excellence of the institution.
  2. Inclusion intentionally creates work, learning, and service environments which are mindful of every member reaching their full potential.
  3. Underrepresented populations or groups have been historically excluded and marginalized from social systems and academia, both intentionally and unintentionally.
  4. Systems which exclude and marginalize members based on social identity do not maximize potential of all members or achieve Inclusive Excellence.
  5. Diversity and inclusion policies and practices are essential to stay competitive and competent in the global marketplace and are necessary in the recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce.
  6. Differing backgrounds and experiences, both intentionally and unintentionally, impact how we are perceived and treated at Colorado State.
  7. Differing backgrounds and experiences, both intentionally and unintentionally, impact how we perceive and treat others at Colorado State.
  8. Implicit bias and stereotyping can negatively impact our interactions and hiring practices at Colorado State.
  9. Inclusion intentionally values all voices and contributors.
  10. Diversity and inclusion must recognize both domestic diversity and international diversity.
  11. Interrupting intentional and unintentional incidents of bias and using inclusive language are necessary to create inclusive spaces.
  12. Each member of the university community impacts the climate of diversity and inclusion positively or negatively through everyday attitudes and actions.
  13. Multicultural awareness and competency allow our community to more effectively act with integrity and respect.
  14. Inclusion practices must be implemented at individual, group, and organizational levels.
  15. Striving for inclusion is challenging and necessary to achieve excellence.

Overview of Competencies

A) Within Myself

Refers to intrapersonal competency development within oneself.

  1. Articulates the University’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion as it relates to one’s role at the university.
  2. Demonstrates a willingness to examine one’s own biases, assumptions, and attitudes.
  3. Demonstrates awareness of one’s own social identities (e.g. race, gender, disability status, religion, etc.) and their relevance in the workplace.
  4. Engages in personal and professional development on issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
  5. Engages in on-going self-reflection and continues to advance their knowledge and skills related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
  6. Recognizes and addresses one’s own explicit and implicit bias and takes steps to mitigate and change personal biases which negatively impact others.

B) Within my Team

Refers to interpersonal competencies needed when working with others and promoting inclusive culture.

  1. Demonstrates respectful behaviors in support of CSU’s non-discrimination statement: “Colorado State University is committed to providing an environment that is free from discrimination and harassment based on race, age, creed, color, religion, national origin or ancestry, sex, gender, disability, veteran status, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or pregnancy…”.
  2. Maintains productive work relationships while considering multiple perspectives.
  3. Demonstrates awareness of others’ social identities (e.g. race, gender, disability status, religion, etc.) and their relevance in the workplace.
  4. Resolves cross-cultural conflicts effectively.
  5. Articulates the unit’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and the reasons for its importance.
  6. Promotes a respectful, diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment in which concerns are addressed effectively.
  7. Forms respectful relationships with individuals and organizations representing diverse constituencies
  8. Seeks regular input to better understand diversity, equity  and inclusion issues and enhance recruitment and retention efforts.
  9. Promotes a collaborative workplace climate that recognizes, celebrates, and rewards diversity, equity  and inclusion.
  10. Recognizes and addresses incidents of explicit and implicit bias in the workplace.
  11. Holds team members accountable for problematic behavior.

C) Within my Organization (including unit, department, or division)

Refers to competencies needed to understand structures which promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.

  1. Knows where to find diversity-related organizational policies, procedures, and resources.
  2. Can identify unit policies and practices that have a disparate impact on specific populations.
  3. Recommends policies and practices to advance an equitable, inclusive work environment and counter racism, sexism, and additional forms of institutional bias.
  4. Articulates importance of diversity, equity and inclusion to CSU’s organizational mission.
  5. Uses data to identify inequitable policies and practices in their unit and implements continuous improvement strategies to ensure more equitable outcomes.
  6. Coaches and teaches others to develop diverse, equitable and inclusive work environments, including supporting unit’s understanding of strategies to address institutional racism, sexism, and additional forms of bias.
  7. Operationalizes diversity, inclusion, and equity within unit strategic planning.

Demonstrating Progress

Behavioral competencies should be developed in a continual feedback loop. This allows for knowledge to be acquired and then applied in varying contexts, enhancing the skill. In this scenario, a person develops awareness and knowledge of a competency, gains confidence to apply it, and then is provided with feedback to assess the competency. What is learned from this process can add to understanding, thus subsequent application. A process of learning, application, and feedback is encouraged to gain deeper understanding of various applications and further knowledge.

Process of Feedback

The following scale can be used in both self and external competency assessment efforts:

Stage 1: Ready

The user is aware of where competency is needed.

Example: I just sat through a meeting of mixed racial identities where the only ideas that were complimented where those of the white folks. I noticed this pattern, it made me uncomfortable, and I didn’t know what to do about it.

Stage 2: Understand

The user has learned the theory (perhaps by personal reading, or after conversation with a mentor, or by attending a training), but has not yet had the chance to put it into practice. Their competence is primarily conceptual, they are far from fully competent.

Example: In conversation with a group of coworkers, one of them said “let’s have a powwow about this.” I knew this was a racist statement, as it demeans the specific and significant nature of a Native American Pow Wow, and I knew I should interrupt and let my coworker know this, but I did not.

Stage 3: Respond

The user takes the first tentative steps to apply the theory to their real-life situation. In many cases this will be at a largely conceptual level (for example identifying issues or adjusting one’s communications) and making the first careful and hesitant attempts to put the learning into practice when interacting with real people.

Example: When I was talking with my friends about the disproportionate amount of funding provided to people with uteruses, I used the term “reproductive health” rather than “women’s health” to acknowledge that not only women have uteruses, but also people who identify outside the gender binary.

Stage 4: Perform

The user now performs routinely, putting into practice what has been learned and acting with confidence.

Example: When in a meeting today I made the group aware that the men were dominating the conversation and asked for a more conscious sharing of the airtime with folks of other genders.

Stage 5: Coach & Support

The individual shares their experience of DEI skills by helping others to gain them, perhaps by acting as a mentor. Not all people in the colleague role will reach this stage, although many supervisors and managers may do so. At this stage the competencies in the second domain (“within my team”) will be developed more fully than at the earlier stages.

Example: I taught my coworkers how to make documents accessible for use with screen readers.

Stage 6: Lead & Transform

Creating DEI initiatives and changing the systems and culture to promote DEI, structures and policies. though not all positions are able to change structures at the university. At this level of mastery, community members can strive to be change agents within their individual units. In addition, the competencies in the third sphere (“within my organization, workplace and community”) will be developed more fully than at the earlier stages.

Example: I created a faith and belief accommodations policy for my team so that adherents of non-majority religions would be able to take time off work to observe significant holy days without penalty.

Applications of Competencies

Competencies can be used in a variety of settings. Individual departments and units are encouraged to determine the best mode of communication and dissemination of competencies. Examples include:

  • Job descriptions
  • Training needs assessment
  • DEI planning and monitoring
  • Organizational policy development
  • Continuing professional development
  • Recruitment, selection and promotion
  • Supplier and community development initiatives
  • Learning objectives for programs