The Journey to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Six Steps Your Company Can Take

January 11, 2021 1:05 PM | Anonymous

By Lynell Meeth, Director Member Content MRA

With all the benefits that come from making diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI ) a priority, some might wonder why we still need to make a business case. The plusses of a successful DEI strategy are hard to beat. Take a look at these compelling outcomes from a culture rich with DEI at work.

Commitment. Organizations with a strong DEI culture are more likely to attract and employ people with greater job satisfaction as well as higher levels of engagement and trust. According to ZipRecruiter’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Survey, 86 percent of job seekers say workplace diversity is an important factor when looking for a job.

Success. DEI can help the bottom line. A McKinsey & Company study found that organizations in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity on their leadership teams resulted in a 33 percent increase in profitability.

Innovation. A 2018 study by Harvard Business Review found that the most diverse companies also tended to be the most innovative. Employing people from all different backgrounds brings more brainstorming, ideas, and creativity.

Ready to dive into your organization’s DEI efforts? Check out these six steps to get started.

1) Know why DEI is important to your organization.

If your organization doesn’t have a vision statement around DEI, create one. It’s critical to have clarity around the benefits that are realized from investing in DEI initiatives—like widening your candidate pool for qualified talent, fostering a more creative and innovative workforce, and supporting employees who can contribute to their fullest potential within an inclusive environment.

2) Make sure everyone is on board and will champion DEI efforts, especially top management.

From the C-suite to frontline employees, everyone needs to see and understand their part in the company’s DEI culture, and the top leaders must be supportive of DEI efforts. Leadership needs to set the tone and example, and all employees should understand how their behaviors contribute to inclusion.

3) Assess the current state of your work environment by asking employees what they think and how they feel.

Employers who assume they know what the challenges are run the risk of missing the mark. To establish a baseline of the current reality, employers need to hear directly from their employees. Ask and listen. This can be in the form of an assessment, like the Spectra Diversity Inclusion Assessment™, or setting up focus groups or listening sessions.

4) Examine workplace practices with DEI in mind and make necessary changes.

Employers need to identify if there are barriers that get in the way of the employment, opportunity, and inclusion of individuals from different backgrounds. Do any policies or practices need to be adjusted or tossed? Some to consider include:

  • Employee referral programs. While beneficial, some referrals can bring about "like me" recommendations, where employees refer candidates of the same race, religion, or gender. Encourage employees to make referrals of individuals from varied backgrounds, and even open up the program to nonemployees, such as vendors, partners, and customers to recommend great candidates.
  • Unconscious biases. If a department is considerably less diverse, less impartial, or less inclusive than others, a review of the department manager’s procedures may be in order.
  • Promotions. When managers don’t advance (enough or at all) underrepresented individuals in their organizations to positions of more power, take a closer look at leadership development to determine why few employees of diverse backgrounds are moving up in the ranks.
5) Let employees decide what DEI initiatives are important and let them take the lead in organizing.

It’s kind of like having your kids help make dinner. There’s a better chance they’ll actually eat it because they had a hand in making it. Similar concept here. If your employees are interested in starting a committee, resource group, book club, or community alliance, support their passion to get involved. Not only will they feel empowered and heard, they will be more engaged and then everyone benefits.

6) Understand what DEI metrics to track and how you will determine what success looks like.

Tie metrics to your overall vision and what is important to your organization. Maybe you have fewer women in management or lack a disability-inclusive environment. Set goals to make that change, collect data, watch for (and remove) roadblocks, and hold people accountable until you are successful in turning it around.

A key to getting started with DEI efforts, especially in smaller organizations where there isn’t a dedicated position or team, is to remember that HR should be supportive, but should not own the outcomes of DEI. HR can assist with providing the foundation for change, influence decision makers, and foster the right environment, but ultimately the accountability for progress should come from the top.

Companies everywhere strive for profits, mastering their craft, and securing top talent, and detailed plans and strategies are used to get there. Why not put a strategic plan in place for DEI initiatives at your organization?

Be sure to visit the MRA website for more information and tools to help your company’s business imperatives around DEI. 

Director, Member Content

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