June 6, 2023

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have continued to evolve since they swept through the business world a few years ago. They now go beyond any one initiative, program, or single effort. More than just a “thing” we do, DEI is becoming a part of who we are, giving shape to the fabric of our organizations and solidifying our commitment to a new future.

So, it makes sense that, rather than a destination, DEI is more of a journey that requires us to think about current cultural implications, apply organization-wide self-reflection, and act with intentionality. Let’s explore the five stages of that journey and how you can find your way to making, and showing, meaningful progress along the way. But first, it’s important to remember the “why” of DEI—and what it really means to people and the organizations we serve.

The heart of the DEI journey: Universal human values

Amid legal and political conflicts, the heart of DEI, and what it means to people and their organizations, isn’t always at the center of the story. So, let’s pause and consider that here.

When we think about DEI, let’s remember one overarching idea: At its core, DEI is about universal human values, like fairness, respect, understanding, and appreciation for people who are different from ourselves. It’s about creating an inclusive environment where people feel appreciated, enjoy a sense of belonging, and have a feeling of psychological safety and well-being. Keeping this at the forefront of our minds as we commit to advancing DEI gives our efforts true purpose and meaning that can help transcend the challenges you may face along the way.

Your DEI journey can help you thrive in a competitive environment

And it doesn’t just benefit people. DEI has increasingly become a major organizational differentiator in today’s competitive and sometimes volatile business environment. Speaking with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Shelley Zalis, founder and CEO of equality services company The Female Quotient, offers these thoughts on why DEI holds more business importance than ever before: “Research shows that diversity plays a key role in innovation, creativity and a positive bottom line while also inspiring more effective solutions to complex problems. … Bottom line: We must create work environments that support everyone. … Only then will businesses successfully retain the talent they previously struggled to keep.”

This assertion is echoed by research from Deloitte showing that belonging, a critical part of DEI, “… can lead to a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% reduction in turnover risk, a 167% increase in employer net promoter score, 2X more employee raises, 18X more employee promotions, and a 75% decrease in sick days.”

Belonging can lead to:



167% increase in employer net promoter score

So even as the business landscape evolves, DEI continues to create benefits for organizations, making them stronger, more adaptable, and resilient in the face of change—factors that resonate with stakeholders like leaders, boards, and shareholders.

5 stages in the DEI journey—taking action and showing progress

We’re in a world where there are heightened expectations for delivering on DEI. It’s no longer enough to say you value DEI; you have to be able to show you’re making demonstrable and concrete progress. Understandably, that can feel daunting, but there’s a way to break down the journey to show progress at each stage.

Let’s look at how to align this macro thinking with the micro reality of your organization. While every organization is unique, here are five general stages that can help shape your journey and ways to demonstrate your commitment at each interval.

1. Setting your ambition

This first stage is often the hardest because it requires recognition that there’s work to be done. But it can also be an incredibly unifying step. Start with holding listening sessions with your employees and managers to ensure their ideas, thoughts, and concerns are considered. If you then articulate your intent in a thoughtful and sensitive way, employees, customers, and other stakeholders are likely to appreciate your desire to create meaningful change. Central to success at this stage and throughout is a strong, enduring, and unwavering commitment from leadership.

Questions to ask:

  • What level of commitment does your organization have in starting the journey toward a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce?
  • What are you trying to accomplish and why?
  • Are your leaders ready to be the voice that carries your commitments forward?

Showing your progress: Begin creating awareness. Acknowledge that you’re taking the first steps. Work with leaders to articulate your aspirations, and be honest and authentic in explaining your reasons for wanting to bring about change.

2. Assessing and diagnosing

This is the time for gathering and examining qualitative and quantitative data. Start with considering what you learned in stage 1, and then take a deeper dive. Collect and evaluate workforce data (i.e., advancement differences, pay equity); employee opinions on your organizational culture; and policies and practices. At this stage, you’ll determine where you are and how far you need to go to meet your aspirational goals.

Questions to ask:

  • What is your starting point?
  • Have you taken steps already (what worked and didn’t work)?
  • Based on your metrics/data, what key areas will you need to address?
  • What input have your leaders, managers, and employees provided?

Showing your progress: Explain that you’re doing your due diligence to better understand where you are and how far you need to go. Also, be open and transparent about the challenges you’re facing.

3. Creating your plan

Set your goals, strategies, and tactics, and establish meaningful metrics, with the intent to create (or improve) a concrete, multifaceted program that lays out your approach. Aim for the program to be realistic, appropriately resourced, and integrated across the organization, and have a clear implementation plan that will work in both the short and the long term.

Be intentional with your choices in a way that will be authentic to your organization. Managers will be pivotal to your success, so include them from the very beginning, and ensure you take their input and ideas into account.

Questions to ask:

  • What barriers are you facing, and how will you overcome them?
  • What are your stakeholders’ expectations?
  • What can you implement immediately, and what will take more time?
  • Is your plan designed to evolve over time?

Showing your progress: Provide highlights of your plan with a well-articulated explanation that summarizes critical points and outlines how you’ll evaluate your progress at major junctures. Be open to adjusting your plan depending on the feedback you receive.

Traliant Resources 

For more information on Traliant’s DEI training click here



Veronica Bocian