Fostering diversity in the workplace isn’t just the right thing to do; it makes good business sense too.
Study after study tout the benefits of diversity and inclusion for businesses. From increased innovation and employee engagement to improved financial outcomes and customer experiences, it’s clear that diverse and inclusive organizations have a competitive advantage—and executives are taking note.
Designed to encourage representation and participation of diverse groups of people—including those of different genders, races and ethnicities, abilities and disabilities, religions, cultures, ages, and sexual orientations—a sound DEI strategy can help your organization create a dynamic, diverse workforce with a thriving culture where everyone has a seat at the table.
Ready to double down on your organization’s DEI efforts? Use these seven steps to develop, implement, or improve your DEI program.
7 steps to a sustainable DEI program.
1. Do the research
When organizations take on a business initiative, leaders create thoughtful business plans to ensure the program’s success. A DEI initiative is no different. Every successful business plan starts with data. Researching your employee and customer demographics can help your organization identify opportunities for improvement, which can inform your DEI program’s mission and goals all while serving as a benchmark for progress.
Most companies look inward first, considering the demographics of its current employee population, retention numbers, and executive and leadership positions. Then, they look at external targets.
2. Get commitment from the top
Your DEI program needs C-suite and executive-level buy-in. In some organizations, leaders volunteer to oversee the initiative’s success while others have dedicated positions for DEI or corporate social responsibility. Participation at the top will motivate other managers and employees to join the effort.
3. Start the conversation with employees
Leaders overseeing DEI initiatives should be ready to communicate with employees and receive feedback regularly. Get the ball rolling with surveys, roundtable discussions, town halls, and other forums.
The conversations and feedback received can set the stage for future employee participation and will help you better understand the needs and concerns of your workforce.
4. Create a DEI committee
Employee involvement is key to your program’s success. Create a committee and invite employees to join. It’s helpful to designate a point of contact. If you anticipate a strong response, ask questions to see how each employee wants to be involved and where their interests lie.
A robust DEI committee features employees at all levels and never turns down participants. You can establish subcommittees and employee resource groups to allow all interested team members to join. Not only does it demonstrate your commitment to inclusion, but you can tap into these engaged employees for feedback and leverage them as DEI champions to promote and support the initiative.
5. Define your mission and vision
With your data insights and a diverse committee of stakeholders, your brand can begin to define your DEI program’s parameters. Establishing a clear mission and vision will drive your program forward with a clear purpose and strategic goal.
Consider these thought starters as your team defines the mission and vision of its DEI program:
- How do your organization and committee define diversity, equity, and inclusion?
- Why is each concept—diversity, equity, and inclusion—important to your organization?
- What is the purpose of your DEI committee?
- What does your committee and DEI program seek to address, change, or improve?
6. Set measurable goals
Transparency and accountability are the pillars of solid DEI plans, and measurable goals are the foundation on which they stand. Stakeholders should define program goals, action plans, and timelines for each one and how to measure progress.
Your DEI program goals could include:
- A set number of accessibility initiatives for underserved communities (internally or externally)
- 100% participation in quarterly diversity staff training
- Increasing workforce diversity by a certain percent
- Initiating mentorship programs to develop underrepresented groups for leadership roles
- Implementing or increasing community outreach with diverse businesses and nonprofits
7. Keep it going
Successful DEI programs require an ongoing commitment. Keep committee members involved with recurring meetings. Hold special events and send regular updates to keep employees engaged. Your program might include monthly committee meetings, quarterly staff updates, and other reports including employee-led holiday and cultural celebrations.
Share everything from achievements and roadblocks to action plans and new initiatives. Your updates can outline what’s implemented, in progress, and not started. These transparent communications increase employee engagement and trust and may reveal changing priorities. (Pssst, the progress made during each of these steps merits an employee update!)
Always-on and ever-evolving.
Your organization’s DEI journey is fluid and always progressing. The steps you take to get there—and the order in which you take them—may be different, and that’s ok.
Still, committing fully to developing the framework of your strategy is the first step and points the way toward an initiative that goes beyond the fluff and filler talk on diversity to deliver real results.
Over time, the work you put in will help cultivate a diverse, productive, and engaging workplace culture that’s inclusive, equitable, and sustainable for the long term.
Need help creating a successful DEI strategy that builds brand value and strengthens your competitive advantage? Contact us.