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16 Expert Tips For Implementing Diversity Initiatives At Work

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at August 18, 2021

It’s important and productive for companies to foster a diverse work environment. Since diversity within an organization can take on many forms, implementing diversity initiatives requires careful consideration and planning. 

If your company is gearing up to enact new diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives for the first time, you’ll want some advice on how to make the implementation process go smoothly. Here, 16 members of Forbes Human Resources Council share their expert advice on the best ways to implement diversity initiatives at work.

1. Create A Collaborative Environment

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are DEI initiatives. The first order of business is to get buy-in from top leadership. This step is the difference between achieving success or stagnation. Once that’s done, establish a vision, set up a plan and then execute. Gain momentum by starting with the “low-hanging fruit” or those small initiatives that create immediate results. – Pamela Russell, City Of Murfreesboro

2. Have Clear Initiatives To Promote Inclusion

The biggest tip I have for companies enacting new DEI initiatives for the first time is to remember that diversity is not just about recruiting. Ensuring you are planning initiatives to promote inclusion within your workforce is just as critical. If not, you will find yourself in a place where you are able to get the talent in the door, but unable to retain them. – Tosha Perkins, Archer


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3. Consider How You’ll Measure Progress

We know that we measure what matters. As you begin to implement DEI initiatives, think about how you will measure your progress. How will you know that you are successful? You will build momentum for your initiatives and grow engagement if you can continually show that you have met targeted goals along the way. – Nicki McCraw, University Of Washington Medicine

4. Be Authentic

My advice is to simply be authentic. There is no point in trying to enact an initiative in an area where you have no passion or knowledge. Tap into what you and your staff are passionate about and bought into. – James Milligan, Hays PLC

5. Integrate DEI Meaningfully Into Operating Models

Companies must recognize diversity and inclusion as core to their business imperative and meaningfully integrate them into their operating models. The first step is creating a strategic umbrella and data foundation that is transparent and actionable. Some tangible steps might include documenting an employee life cycle of underrepresented employees and also increasing gender diversity in leadership. – Elizabeth Kiehner, Capgemini Invent

6. Collect And Leverage Baseline Data

Make sure to collect baseline data to build out your DEI action plan or roadmap. Survey your employees through an annual diversity or engagement survey that will measure how different groups of employees experience your company culture. This is valuable Voice of Employee (VoE) market research to guide your commitment statement, diversity programs and targets. – Caroline Faulds, Canada Pooch

7. Investigate Current Policies And Procedures

Organizations developing their first diversity, equity and inclusion programs should be careful to investigate and inspect their current policies, procedures and HR practices before jumping in and implementing anything new. Leaders must take a step back and reflect on how current employment policies and management practices may enhance or inhibit the implementation of DEI initiatives. – Niki Ramirez, HRAnswers.org

8. Define Success, Accountability And Expectations

In implementing any new DEI initiative, it is of vital importance to know what outcome you’re striving for. You can’t get to success unless you define what success looks like (for example, moving the needle on representation metrics or improving employee sentiment around equity). Alignment on success is key, but when implementing programs it is crucial to define accountability to set proper expectations. – Rob Catalano, WorkTango

9. Have No Tolerance For Empty Commitments

DEI initiatives today must show action, transparency and progress. There’s no tolerance for empty DEI commitments anymore. They need to include a full picture of inclusion, including both visible and invisible disabilities. When developing DEI initiatives, look inside for employees who represent diversity and can help design and deliver initiatives, including the one in five with learning differences. – Yvonne Cowser Yancy, Understood

10. Shape DEI Efforts For The Team You Envision

Lead with purpose, not optics. Employees are smart enough to see right through those token branding efforts to know that they may not be genuine. Ask your teams what they’d like to see more of and what policies or training you can implement. Build enterprise resource planning (ERP) goals into job descriptions and pay employees for that work. Shape your DEI efforts not just for the team you have but for the team you envision. – Faith Kibria, Milk

11. Maximize Value With An Inclusion-First Mentality

The ultimate value from any DEI program comes from the “inclusion” aspects of the initiative. An inclusion-first mentality is easy to publicize, but hard to institutionalize. How leaders at all levels model inclusive behaviors on an ongoing basis is the best predictor of the success of any program. Executive sponsorship, manager training and rewards are needed to build an “inclusive” culture. – David Bernstein, JobSync

12. Bring In A DEI Policy Expert

Bring in an expert. Showing your employees that you’re committed to educating yourself and them on DEI initiatives will increase awareness inside your organization and grow your people. Don’t assume everyone understands what DEI means. They might be afraid to ask. Help them learn, create buy-in on the initiatives and get them excited. Then throw a kick-off party to celebrate the cultural shifts. – Amy Odeneal, Business Enablement

13. Ensure DEI Initiatives Support Objectives

Lead with your business objectives and then use DEI initiatives as a way to support those. I see a lot of well-intentioned “noise” around DEI, and most of it comes from a good place, but business priorities have to come first. Otherwise, DEI initiatives fall by the wayside. – Ken Kanara, ECA

14. Include Emphasis On Change Management

Focus on a project management approach that includes emphasis on change management. Map out the workflow steps and respective owners. Then, consider the change impact at each step and provide clarity on how the change will be facilitated for a positive outcome. – Megan Leasher, Talent Plus

15. Create A Self-Nominated Resource Group

A self-nominated employee resource group is perfect for organizations early in their DEI journey. These groups tend to have natural diversity, and they take ownership over their output. It may take a courageous person to send that first “who’s interested?” invite. Find that person, and you’ll have your first DEI group. Once formed, a nominated steering committee will keep the group on task. – Jeffrey Pietrzak, Trusted Nurse Staffing

16. Make Sure All Voices Are Heard

It is critical to make sure all voices are heard for all DEI initiatives. If you have a group of non-diverse individuals making the decisions, how will they know what works for all the people? We need to make sure we have all views and backgrounds at the table. It is not enough to have someone saying, “I am an ally for all.” Even an ally cannot answer how your diverse people might feel. – Katie Ervin, Park University

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