Initiatives aimed at increasing diversity, equity and inclusion are an integral part of most modern organizations’ business strategies, thanks to the proven benefits of operating in a fair, inclusive manner that benefits stakeholders at every level.
To ensure these efforts have the desired impact, however, company leaders must make sure DEI initiatives are implemented properly. An inauthentic approach may be viewed as lip service instead of real change to better serve employees of all backgrounds and promote a truly equitable and inclusive culture.
For guidance on where and how to begin in order to make sure the end goal is achieved, see the tips for implementing a successful DEI initiative that members of Forbes Coaches Council share below.
1. Start With A Culture Assessment
Recognize that DEI initiatives are about more than just focusing on the numbers. Employees’ perceptions of equity and inclusion are driven by organizational culture and the behavior of leadership. Every DEI initiative should begin with an assessment of the organization’s culture. – Michael Couch, Michael Couch and Associates Inc.
2. Align DEI Initiatives With Organizational Goals
Using metrics, benchmarks and milestones, align DEI initiatives with organizational goals. Ensure the program’s progress is reported, monitored and owned by a senior executive who is responsible for its implementation and success. If an organization doesn’t set standards and take action using numbers to ensure diverse staffing, pay equality and promotion, then it is likely not serious about DEI. – Amera McCoy, McCoy Consulting LLC
3. Consider Invisible Factors
Some parts of DEI are visible and others are not, but all of them need to be considered. The three invisible forces that can make or break a team are often neglected: drive, cognitive diversity and psychological safety. The ability to measure, visualize and optimize those is the foundation of creating an inclusive environment where diversity can flourish. – Csaba Toth, ICQ Global
4. Be Transparent About Demographics And Salary
This is going to be controversial, but just be transparent when implementing DEI initiatives. Have a dashboard where the recruitment team reports on the demographics of applicants for open roles. Publish salary bands for all roles in the organization so that employees know they are within a band and don’t feel s as if they are getting paid less due to gender or race. – Kevin Kan, Break Out Consulting Asia
5. Stop Saying Words And Start Thinking Action
It’s easy to craft a blog post or a company statement about your commitment to diversity—it’s another thing to follow through on it. Partner with organizations such as the Center for Respectful Leadership or the Center for Creative Leadership to get initiatives in motion with transparency. It’s important to show movement and progress to prove to your organization that you are in action. – Maresa Friedman, Executive Cat Herder
6. Create Standards And Practices To Ensure Success
Most DEI initiatives fail because of a “check-the-box” mindset. Many organizations put the conversation on the table but fail to (or in many cases, choose not to) create standards and practices to ensure their success. Without enforcement, what’s revealed during discussions becomes nothing more than empty rhetoric. Enforced consequences are the only way to demonstrate a genuine commitment to DEI. – D Ivan Young, Dr. D Ivan Young
7. Empower BIPOC Leaders And Align Your Behavior With Allyship
It’s the responsibility of leadership to authentically demonstrate the importance of DEI to alter the organizational culture. One way to do this is by empowering BIPOC leaders in the organization to lead the initiatives and compensating them for the extra work they will be doing. Leaders must also exhibit behaviors aligned with genuine allyship in what they say and do to facilitate the change. – Jacqueline Ashley, DSW, WorkLifeHealth.design
8. Hire BIPOC Voices And Faces To Champion The Initiative
Hire BIPOC consultants and enable BIPOC employees to champion your organization’s efforts. Too frequently, DEI initiatives in businesses and organizations are led by white voices and faces who already reside within positions of power and authority. DEI initiatives are best championed by BIPOC voices and faces who better understand business culture issues and problem areas. – Dave Ursillo, Lead Without Followers, LLC.
9. Consider The Business Advantages Of DEI
DEI is not just a humanistic issue. It’s actually good for improving your business. At the heart of diversity and inclusion is getting diverse thinking in your organization. This surfaces more diverse perspectives, which leads to more creative solutions for improving your business and service for a diverse population of customers. It also creates more ownership and dedication from all employees. – Mark Samuel, IMPAQ Corporation
10. Create A DEI Action Committee And Advisory Board
The action committee is responsible for delivering on the intended initiatives, with ongoing feedback based on deliverables in place. The advisory board will steer and make recommendations aimed toward the future focus of shaping and embedding DEI in the DNA of the organization. This dual layer of oversight ensures accountability and leading with intent. – Arthi Rabikrisson, Prerna Advisory
11. Take An Individualized Approach
There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Every company has to define the optimal level of diversity and then fill it with life. Policies are just a piece of paper. It’s about creating awareness of the different types of diversity in the company. Everyone needs to understand the benefits and costs of DEI for individuals, teams and the entire organization. – Michael Thiemann, Strategy-Lab™
12. Make DEI Part Of Your Organization’s DNA
DEI initiatives have to align with the organization’s vision and mission as part of its DNA, not just glitzy words on a website. Inclusion, inclusive leadership, inclusive behaviors and inclusive cultures should be at the core of it. Diversity in recruiting and representation doesn’t necessarily equal inclusion. First, define how diversity looks for the organization—it is not only about race and color. – Sahar Andrade, MB.BCh, Sahar Consulting, LLC
13. Be Prepared To Coach And Manage The Change
DEI is not an initiative; it is a practice of growing awareness of others in a new way. Be clear on the outcomes you expect in your company. Reward those who are approaching their interactions in a new and more inclusive way. Be prepared to coach those who need ideas and support to meet your expectations. And always be prepared for late adopters. They are not bad, just late in adapting. Manage the change. – Bobbie Goheen, Synthesis Management Group
14. Reexamine All Processes Through The Lens Of DEI
Too many organizations are looking for a quick fix when it comes to DEI, and this can really backfire. Real progress usually means systemic change, starting from the top down. Simply mandating something such as unconscious bias training won’t do it. All processes involving people must be reexamined and adapted through the lens of DEI. – Kathy Bernhard, KFB Leadership Solutions