If you are wondering how to create greater diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, you’re not alone. Organizations often seek to broaden DEI but don’t always know how to turn their good intentions into meaningful action.
To get started, organizations need to create a company-wide program to raise DEI awareness and ensure it is an integral part of organizational culture, training and business strategy. These 6 steps provide a program foundation for effectively integrating DEI strategies into your organization’s goals, policies and practices.
1. Define strategic goals
The first step in building a DEI program is to set strategic goals that clearly identify what the organization wants to accomplish. Boil the list down to a few strategic goals that will have the greatest impact, such as:
- Increasing representation at multiple levels of the organization
- Providing training, professional development and promotion opportunities for underrepresented or marginalized groups
- Implementing equitable and inclusive workplace culture practices
2. Establish a benchmark
Everyone within an organization will be coming to the DEI conversation with a different perspective. To gain a more holistic view of how inclusive an organization is or isn’t, look at the most recent employee engagement survey. This can serve as a benchmark for tracking progress.
3. Get key stakeholders onboard
Securing the commitment of senior leadership is a critical step in rolling out a DEI program. Participation increases when leaders and frontline managers can clearly explain the program’s purpose and the role that every employee plays in its success. Tying the program to the organization’s goals, priorities and professional development objectives helps motivate employees to join the effort.
4. Reinforce DEI values with behavior-based training
The focus on creating a more inclusive work culture requires employees to intentionally change their habits and behavior. Choosing a behavior-based training approach goes beyond simply raising awareness. It involves understanding the different types of behaviors that promote or prevent DEI, and what it means to think and act inclusively — whether interactions are in-person or online. Training should include courses on recognizing and managing unconscious bias — the subconscious stereotypes and preconceived judgments we all have about people — and preventing microaggressions, which often manifest in everyday snubs, slights and gestures.
5. Mix up teams
The understanding and learning that comes from diverse voices, experiences, beliefs and cultures spurs creativity within teams. Invite people of different genders, races, cultures, backgrounds, ages, abilities and other characteristics to join initiatives and projects. It will generate multiple perspectives, inspire fresh thinking and different approaches to problem-solving.
6. Measure progress
The best way to understand how employees are feeling is to ask them. Employee engagement surveys are excellent tools for measuring employee perceptions on DEI and psychological safety. By comparing survey results against benchmarks, organizations can identify inclusive teams as well as trouble spots. Focus groups, employee resource groups and ongoing conversations are additional ways to gather qualitative information about data trends and the experiences of specific groups of people.
With senior leadership setting the tone, each individual in an organization has a role in collectively building a workplace culture that everyone can feel proud of and belong to. A well-executed DEI program provides a strong foundation for positive change when it’s aligned with an organization’s strategic goals, clearly communicated by leadership and regularly reinforced through training and other measurable initiatives.
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