Senior leaders everywhere are evaluating how diverse, equitable and inclusive their organizations truly are. If this is the first time you’re considering the most effective ways to boost diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within your own organization, you will first need to determine your areas of strength and those in need of improvement. Any plan developed and implemented before gaining a clear, comprehensive understanding of your company’s unique needs may fail to meet them.
How can you ensure that the initiatives you choose for your business to undertake will succeed in achieving its most critical DEI objectives? Here, 14 members of Forbes Human Resources Council provide their number one tip for companies new to DEI initiatives.
1. Start By Educating Yourself As An Ambassador of DEI
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is more than a policy or hiring quota. It has to be considered in all “people” aspects of your company, which include clients, employees, potential employees and vendors, among others. Leaders within your company need to be equipped to incorporate the topic into their leadership narrative, asking their teams what would make them more connected. – Jamie Hoobanoff, The Leadership Agency
2. Give DEI Its Own Seat At The Executive Table
If your organization is looking to implement new DEI initiatives for the first time, you will need to consider where “DEI” sits within the organization. Many will suggest that it is under the HR function; however, this will lead to a conflict of interest, especially when auditing. I would suggest that DEI have its own seat at the executive table, with HR being a peer. – Roshan Jayawardena, Elliott Scott HR
3. Incorporate Changes Across The Entire Organization
In addition to having defined, organizational-level DEI objectives and a supporting strategy, change management plays a significant role. It is important to identify and partner with change agents across all levels of the organization. Incorporating DEI philosophy into your talent management practices and having the required tools to measure the performance towards goals will ensure the success of DEI initiatives. – Suchi Kommi, Hubbell Incorporation
4. Lean Into The Uncomfortable Truths Head-On
If you uncover painful truths, don’t ignore them because discomfort is hard. Don’t be afraid of vulnerability when addressing outdated or ineffective initiatives. Discuss things the company might have done wrong, then outline a plan for change. Include employees in the finalized DEI initiatives. Don’t assume you know what they want or need. Ask questions. – Sidney Bruce, Everee
5. Benchmark Your Current State And Track Data To Measure Results
To be successful, DEI initiatives need to be based on data. First, benchmark your current state. Where do racial and other inequities exist? Then, set goals and measure progress. Bold statements are inspirational. Successful initiatives are tracked and measured. – Deborah Muller, HR Acuity
6. Set Goals And Hold Leaders Accountable For Meeting Them
Most business people react and operate best when they are given goals to reach and are held accountable to reach those objectives. So, for any DEI initiative, I believe it is important to establish specific goals and outcome objectives to reach and to then hold business leaders accountable for reaching those objectives. – David Windley, IQTalent Partners, Inc.
7. Train Senior Managers To Create Environments Built Around Trust
In order for DEI initiatives to be successful, the organization has to create a culture of trust. Inclusion needs to permeate the whole organization, with upper management supporting and holding line-level supervisors and middle management accountable. Employees at all levels need to feel safe to be their authentic selves. Management needs to be trained on how to foster an inclusive environment. – Karla Bylund, Soaring Bird Solutions LLC
8. Engage Champions To Align Initiatives With Your Mission
To build or refresh your DEI program, engage stakeholders and champions. Align initiatives to the mission, values and business need—in the workplace, marketplace and community. Be approachable in design and scale; assess, measure and continuously improve. – MJ Vigil, PEMCO Insurance
9. Make Sure Employees Understand The ‘Why’ And The ‘How’
Employees want to know that DEI efforts are authentic and meaningful for the organization and not just done to grab attention in the moment. Get leadership on board early and ensure that they communicate their support for the organization’s DEI initiatives. It’s critical to be clear about why the organization has decided to implement these initiatives and how success will be measured and communicated. – Jennifer Marszalek, Working Credit NFP
10. Invest In Feedback To Prioritize Your Team’s Needs
Agree on what the CEO and executive team’s commitments and financial investments will be for creating an inclusive and equitable experience for all. Then, create an action plan based on your workforce’s unique feedback by gathering data from surveys, focus groups and conversations. Prioritize what your team needs to feel a true sense of belonging, equity in reward and equal opportunity. – Keri Higgins Bigelow, LivingHR, Inc.
11. Interrogate The Rules For Sustainable Accountability
Organizations are governed by policies, practices and traditions. Interrogate these things. Ask the hard questions about who is advantaged and who is not. DEI initiatives are strategic business imperatives, not HR programs. We are what we measure, so track key metrics over time. Changing hearts and minds can be a goal, but sustained accountability for behaviors is how you shift culture. – Courtney Peterson, Sidwell Friends School
12. Demonstrate Senior Leadership’s Commitment
Senior leadership should demonstrate why they believe in equity. Involving all employees, including Black, Indigenous and people of color in the dialogue at the very outset, will show their leaders’ genuine commitment. Centering the narrative around how DEI initiatives yield higher profits and innovative teams, not just “diversity hires,” will ensure successful execution and adoption. – Jay Polaki, HR Geckos
13. Gather The Right Data To Propel Real Change
Look at your pay practices for inequities and fix them. Look at your policies and systems for biases and make them better. Observe your leaders for microaggressions and address the behavior. Observe your recruiters for unconscious biases and get them help to eliminate their biases as much as possible. – Lotus Buckner, NCH
14. Learn From The Lessons Of Other Organizations
If you’re new to DEI initiatives, network with other successful organizations who are further down the path. Their lessons learned provide valuable insights into where to start, how to start, what to measure and the pitfalls you may face. While your DEI initiatives will be unique to your company, input from others jump-starts your plans and provides go-to coaches to tune them. -Karen Crone, Paycor, Inc.