Is Your Company Prepared for Implementing DEI Initiatives?

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) has been a corporate trend for several years, but 2020 brought it to the forefront, highlighting that DEI initiatives need to extend beyond meeting statutory compliances. Companies need to ensure that their DEI strategies aren’t focused on hiring employees from diverse backgrounds but also on providing them with a fair and equal opportunity to grow and be promoted. The aim should be to create a workplace culture that ensures that every employee is given equal opportunities to succeed and thrive. In the long term, successful DEI initiatives benefit the company’s performance as happy and motivated employees are more productive. Whether your company already has DEI strategies in place or is considering implementing them, these steps will serve as a guide to ensuring they are successful.

Step 1: Gather and review data

Before framing policies or working out strategies, it’s essential to understand where the company stands in terms of diversity. The best way is to gather demographic data on all employees. Besides standard data such as age, family status, disabilities, and ethnicity, sensitive data such as sexual orientation, religion, and race need to be included in the survey for a more realistic representation of the employees. Furthermore, the data collection should ideally be outsourced or done anonymously to avoid employees withholding sensitive details and fearing bias. Be sure to include a few open-ended questions in the survey that allow employees to share their experiences or concerns. Reviewing the data will help get a better idea of the issues and areas that need addressing or adjustment. For instance, if the data shows that the company is doing fine in terms of diversity in entry-level hires, but the same doesn’t carry through to people of color or women being promoted or serving in leadership positions, then policies need to be framed to address the issue and provide equity to all employees.

Step 2: Identify how DEI policies tie in with business goals

Ensure that DEI initiatives align with business objectives. Hiring to create a general impression of diversity won’t succeed in the long term unless it improves productivity. For example, if the company hires a product development team, ensuring a representation from diverse backgrounds will result in more innovative ideas, helping develop unique or niche products that succeed in the market. However, the strategy will not succeed if employees do not have adequate training or awareness to eliminate biases that prevent them from cohesively working as a team.

Step 3: Buy in senior management support for DEI initiatives

Unless the senior management understands how the proposed DEI initiatives tie in with business goals and are onboard with implementing them, the measures will likely fail. Ideally, you should identify a DEI champion from the senior level to lead the implementation of the initiatives. Alternatively, you could set up a diverse committee represented by employees from various levels in the organization and with a notable senior-level presence or hire an external DEI specialist to implement the program.

Step 4: Plan and implement DEI initiatives

Chalk out an action plan to implement DEI initiatives in the company. It could involve a multi-pronged approach encompassing changes in existing policies and practices, training programs, awareness events, and targeted recruiting. Each initiative should have specific timeframes for implementation. It’s advisable to start with initiatives that are easy to achieve and impact business value as they will help build momentum for implementing the rest of the items on the action plan, some of which might have intangible benefits. The initiatives must be communicated clearly and regularly to keep the momentum going.

Step 5: Review and correct

A significant part of the DEI action plan is to review the outcome after a specific timeframe to assess whether the initiatives are making the desired impact. If not, measures must be taken to adjust policies or strategies based on feedback or other indicators. For instance, if the desired outcome is an increase in representation of specific groups in the workforce, then a review of the data after the timeframe would indicate the progress or failure of the initiative. Successes can be communicated throughout the organization to boost the momentum. If the initiative does not bring the desired outcome, corrective measures need to be taken to get it back on track. In the end, businesses need to approach DEI in the workplace with a shift in attitude that goes beyond the tokenism of creating the right public image. Organizations need to adopt a more honest approach by continuously listening to employees’ views and concerns and resolving discrimination, exclusion, and biases. Only this will help create an equitable environment that recognizes the uniqueness of each employee and provides them with the opportunity to achieve their best, in turn contributing to business success.

About Diverseek

At Diverseek, we help our clients take the first step towards building a more diverse workforce. We use a combination of data-driven insights, expert-led evaluations, and assessments by our dedicated team to improve the hiring experiences and outcomes.