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Frequently Asked Questions About Corporate Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

Somen Mondal

March 24, 2021

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Corporate diversity and inclusion has become a hotly discussed topic in the last year and is now deemed essential for a company’s success. Even as the “people” experts, many HR professionals are struggling to implement policies for real change. This undefined ask for change has led to underdeveloped goals and a lack of direction with many employers trying to develop a diversity program on their own.

A 2021 report showed that up to 76% of employers have no diversity or inclusion goals at all, based on responses from 804 global HR professionals. “40% regard diversity and inclusion as a risk mitigation and compliance issue and yet have no comprehensive DEI strategy.” 

Treating DEI as merely a compliance issue misses the greater benefits that a diverse organization can receive. We’ve answered some frequently asked questions to help HR professionals, CHROs, and CEOs define their organizations in diverse, fair, and inclusive ways. 

What does corporate diversity mean?

Diversity simply means a company hires a wide range of diverse individuals. Diversity refers to gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, education, and variety in terms of background. 

What is a good diversity statement?

Here are some tips to get started on creating your organization’s diversity statement:

  • A good diversity statement only needs to be 20-75 words.
  • Focus on positive words such as “inclusive”, “grow”, “experience”, “freedom”.
  • Write from the first person “we” to demonstrate your collective goal.
  • Think about the future. How will your organization benefit and be attractive to new employees and customers? 

See some example statements on Salesforce, Genentech, and Schneider Electric

How do you promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

The first step is sharing the benefits of diversity with the people you work with. This messaging needs to come from the top of the organization. Communicate directly why these policies matter to everyone and why it helps the company be an employer of choice. 

One of the roadblocks to workplace diversity can be misinformation about the path forward. In some instances, people can perceive intergroup relations as a zero-sum game. If people believe minorities’ experiences are improving within an organization, they can make assumptions that things will get harder for majority group members. They perceive this as unfair and disengage. 

Successful DEI programs start with leaders being honest. Acknowledge that diversity is good, but also really hard. Research from a University of California, Berkeley study shows that this is a more effective message for leaders to communicate. It shows that you are able to work through the challenges because you know there are meaningful benefits to diversity and inclusion. 

What are some examples of diversity initiatives?

There are many components to successful DEI initiatives. Start small by focusing on what your goal is. 

For example, having a diverse workforce is not the same as an inclusive team. Creating an inclusive environment means establishing a sense of belonging for everyone. Inclusion is what will improve employee engagement and help retain a diverse array of people. 

So when you are planning initiatives with a goal of diversity, your true goal may be for better inclusion. Some examples of initiatives that promote inclusion are:

  • Workplace activities that appeal to a variety of people groups
  • Upskilling opportunities 
  • Mentoring
  • Career pathing to leadership roles 

For example, are you struggling to retain new grads and Gen Z employees? Your HR team can create better onboarding programs and find new ways to engage with this demographic. 

By measuring your corporate diversity and inclusion, HR leaders can gain a better understanding of what gaps their organization has. 

How do you manage diversity and inclusion issues in the workplace?

A diverse team is one that feels comfortable working in an inclusive environment. Taking an active approach to diversity and inclusion issues is an important step towards employee retention and helping everyone feel welcome.

As an example, here are a few guiding principles for how to talk about racist and sexist language with employees.

  • Set an example by speaking up when you hear insensitive remarks or see inappropriate behavior. 
  • Listen to your friends and colleagues who identify as part of minority groups. Start each conversation with the understanding that their lived experience may be different than yours.
  • Stay informed by following DEI experts and keeping up to date on diversity, equity, and inclusion campaigns in other organizations.
  • Don’t post videos or images of racial attacks. This can desensitize viewers to violence against minority groups or traumatize someone who sees it on your feed.

How do I create diversity goals?

Understanding your organization’s demographic groups is key to creating concrete goals. Demographic goals can be difficult to measure without a detailed diversity intelligence tool that can detect underrepresented areas.

Focus on a data-driven strategy that objectively looks at your current demographics at every level of the organization. Know where you stand today so you can point to the delta over time. 

  • Identify what your employees care about with surveys. This starts you out with a clear direction and leads to early wins.
  • Consider goals beyond hiring quotas. The number of diverse candidates promoted and the percentage of minority groups in leadership positions can have a long-lasting impact beyond entry-level positions. 
  • Target a number of attendees at internal events or training sessions to encourage continual commitment.
  • Set deadlines for checking in. What was the outcome of your initiatives after the first year?

Setting benchmarks and measuring your progress is key to tracking your success with improving diversity, equity, and inclusion at your organization. This is also an important way to showcase your improvement efforts to your employees, key stakeholders, and customers.

A successful DEI campaign always starts from the top of the organization. With every step organizations take to improve their corporate diversity and inclusion, their chances of success grows.