4 Practical Ways to Develop a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy
Creating a diversity and inclusion strategy for your organization can seem like a daunting task, but there are practical steps HR leaders can take to get a framework up and running.
Change can be challenging and rewarding. However, there’s no shortage of studies that details the benefits of workplace diversity, including greater financial performance, innovation, and employee retention.
Diversity and inclusion definition
To start – diversity and inclusion are often treated as a single initiative. While they are interconnected, they are very different strategic priorities.
- Diversity is the presence of differences within a segment of people.
- Inclusion represents the extent to which people with different identities feel welcome and supported within a segment.
An important starting point in your diversity and inclusion strategy is treating these as separate, yet dependent aspects. Hiring a diverse group of employees may be a quick way of increasing your workplace diversity. However, without an inclusive workplace, new hires could quickly churn and bring your strategy back to square one.
1. Be honest about your baseline
Being aware of what areas need improvement is more important than turning a blind eye. The well-intentioned, but outdated idea of “not seeing race” doesn’t acknowledge systemic issues and inequities that many demographics face on a daily basis. Rooting out systemic barriers and unconscious biases is an important first step for meaningful change.
Your diversity and inclusion strategy starts with developing a full understanding of the diversity of your organization. Metrics to pay attention to:
What percentage of candidates received a phone call, interview, or job offer? Your new hires start with your shortlisted candidates, and that talent pool should reflect the available population.
Are there notable differences in salary across different demographics, including gender or race? Take note of pay bands across your organization.
Who is promoted in the last year? Succession planning and mentorship programs are a good place to start in areas of inequity.
Is there a group of employees more likely to leave or be terminated? Inclusion issues could cause some groups to leave at a higher rate.
Data is key to providing concrete goals and messaging. Vague statements such as “we need to more diversity and inclusion in the workplace” are not measurable. It also does not describe a specific outcome, which can lead to pushback about at what time the goal is ‘achieved’.
2. Use the right tools
PwC released a Diversity and Inclusion Global report which revealed that while most organizations tracked employee demographics such as race and gender, less than half measure discrepancies in compensation, performance, or promotions based on these attributes.
How effective is your organization at thinking about the broad spectrum of diversity and intersectionality, including neurodiversity, physical disabilities,
Treat your diversity and inclusion strategy as a data initiative. Follow these objective four steps every time your HR team builds out a new plan.
- Data collection and analysis
- Strategy design with organizational goal
- Creating timeline
- Evaluating and auditing plan
Be specific about your goals. Employees will appreciate when their organization has action-oriented policies with a tangible outcome.
By objectively measuring your demographic groups across the entire employee lifecycle, HR leaders can develop highlight specific areas to develop a clear understanding of how their diversity and inclusion strategy is working. With DEI intelligence, organizations can create actionable insights, understand where unconscious biases are interfering, and track your initiatives.
3. Hear from everyone
The workplace diversity perceptions gap is increasing, not improving. Glassdoor surveyed workers from different racial and ethnic groups to measure their perception of D&I in their respective workplaces.
Even when accounting for differences in occupations, industries, and genders, Glassdoor still found that Black or African American employees still rate workplace D&I nearly 8 percent lower than their counterparts and are not satisfied with D&I progress.
There’s strong evidence that in the current climate, different demographic groups disagree on the current state of workplace diversity and inclusion. Employee sentiment is an important measurement of inclusion, a difficult metric to track because it represents the feeling of everyone belonging.
Look to the Gartner Inclusion Index, newly formed to give a more balanced view of inclusion within a workforce.
The way forward looks different for every workplace. A good starting point is ensuring that you have a balanced view of workplace D&I sentiment beyond just the ‘average’ employee opinion. To ensure that majority groups are not dominating opinions, anonymous surveys are a good starting point to determine satisfaction levels.
The next phase with employee sentiment data? Layer it on top of your diversity and equity initiatives to quantify and track your organization’s inclusion.
4. Keep the momentum going
Every initiative benefits immensely from buy-in from everyone, including the upper management. When the entire C-suite communicates how important a safe and welcoming working environment is for everyone, D&I can become a core part of your organization.
As with all new initiatives, continued support is required to keep the program going. Inclusion is ongoing work, not a one-off training session. Organizational transformation leader Sabrina Clark says a good method is giving different leaders the agency to champion their own change and build better habits within their departments and teams. “This is much more effective than one-off training sessions which don’t move the needle; you want people to incorporate these ideas and beliefs into their daily lives.”
Instead of trying to achieve an abstract idea of inclusion, consider helping the individuals on different teams thrive. Ask your team leads what conditions their employees can efficiently contribute and collaborate in.
For example, who’s invited to meetings? Who gets to speak and how? Is there a way for all team members to have input, even if they’re working asynchronously? Is anyone left out whose input would be valuable?
Regularly check in with employees during one on ones, anonymous surveys, and within smaller units. Inclusion on a daily basis changes everything including hiring, onboarding, team-building, mentoring, performance management, and more.
Finding the right diversity and inclusion strategy for your organization may take time, and it’s important to be open to trying new things. With these four starting points, take note of your present blind spots and start working towards the future of your organization.