If you’re looking to create a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) program for your company, good. It’s time for businesses to stop talking and start acting. To that end, this post is intended to provide actionable tips on how to start accomplishing your DE&I goals.
But what this post can’t do is solve all your DE&I challenges. Diversity, equity, and inclusion—and the work culture they help shape—is a huge topic that can’t be covered in a few thousand words. DE&I is more than a list of tactics for attracting diverse talent: It should be woven into your company’s DNA. But even though true diversity, equity, and inclusion is a long-term goal without a short-term fix, there are some relatively easy ways to jumpstart the process of achieving it. So keep reading!
DE&I 101: The Basics
Obviously, discrimination isn’t new. It’s systemic, it’s destructive, and it’s been present in business since the get-go. But eradicating it has become even more urgent since the devastating events of 2020.
When a police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd for eight minutes and 46 seconds, Mr. Floyd called for his mother. After his murder, millions of protesters answered that call, flooding the streets around the world to express their pain and fury and to demand the world acknowledge that #BlackLivesMatter. The protests have led to legislative proposals on every level of government, monument removals and name changes, and policy changes throughout corporate America.
The #MeToo movement has also impacted the workplace. As high-profile men were toppled one after the other, more and more victims of sexual harassment and assault have come forward, changing the conversation—and the policies—that guide how the world does business
. These movements helped create a seismic shift, bringing to light deeply rooted inequities and lighting a fire under the efforts of businesses to begin, improve, and expand their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
The business case
If you’re reading this, you already know that DE&I is both the right and the smart thing to do, but here’s a snapshot of the evidence (there’s plenty more):
- Companies with a diverse, inclusive workforce perform better and generate higher revenue with lower debt to equity ratios.
- Diversity of experience, thought, and perspective sparks more creativity and innovation.
- Diverse work cultures create happier, more productive employees and lower turnover rates.
- By 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millennials. And millennials expect inclusion.
- Companies that reflect the world can better serve the world. A homogenous workforce is ill-equipped to connect with customers from other cultures.
|Check out these DE&I studies – they bring valuable data you can use.|
We often use the words diversity, equity, and inclusion interchangeably, but they’re actually quite different. The Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice does a great job at pinpointing the nuances:
Diversity is the representation of all our varied identities and differences (race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, tribe, caste, socio-economic status, thinking and communication styles, etc.), collectively and as individuals.
Equity seeks to ensure fair treatment, equality of opportunity, and fairness in access to information and resources for all.
Inclusion builds a culture of belonging by actively inviting the contribution and participation of all people.
Now that we’re on the same page in terms of the why and the what of DE&I, let’s talk about the how.
Do You Need a DE&I Expert?
The answer is: maybe. Take a look at your team. The leader of your DE&I efforts needs to know what they’re doing.
There’s plenty of training available (try a Google search or ask your network for recommendations), and deepening knowledge never hurts. But your efforts should be led by someone whose understanding goes beyond what a traditional sensitivity training course might offer. So, if you have the resources, consult with an expert. You’ll have plenty to choose from—a new DE&I consulting industry is cropping up in answer to current events. An expert in the field can advise on a diversity audit, talk to employees about their experiences, set up leadership and employee training, develop formal programs, help with conflict resolution, and more.
If resources aren’t available for outside help, there are still lots of ways to make individual, impactful changes at your company while you work on broader initiatives, changes that will promote a diverse, inclusive workplace from the inside out.
|Here are some DE&I influencers that you may want to follow.|
Launching a DE&I Program: Where to Start
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the thought of starting a DE&I program. Jennifer Kim, who helped build a diverse workforce at Lever as their Head of Employee Experience & Development, suggests starting with “impactful steps you can take right away,” and then working up to bigger initiatives.
To take those impactful steps, however, you need to know where you’re starting from. Begin with an audit of your diversity status. You can do this by examining your company’s:
- self-reported employee demographics like gender expression, sexual orientation, political views, socioeconomic background, etc.
- other employee demographics like age, education, etc.
You should also identify your starting point in terms of equity and inclusion by looking at:
- access to high-profile and stretch assignments
- company-sponsored cultural events
- employee resource groups (do they exist and are they engaged?)
- promotions structure and visibility to upper management
- supplier diversity
- volunteer opportunities
A good way to get a read on your current equity and inclusion is to conduct an anonymous survey for baseline scores on:
- accessibility of opportunities
- having a voice; feeling heard
- sense of belonging
- sense of equity
Once you’ve completed an audit to understand your current situation, you can define your goals for where the company needs to go next and create a roadmap for how to get there.
|Learn more about starting a DE&I program from scratch.|
→ Pro tip: Many companies publish diversity annual reports in which they assess their own performance against their stated goals. Identify companies of a similar size and scope to yours, download their reports, and use them as a benchmark.
Ideas for Jumpstarting Equity and Inclusion
You’ll notice the title of this section doesn’t include diversity. That’s because before you can recruit a more diverse workforce, you need to make sure they’ll feel welcome when they join you. The last thing you want is to create a disconnect between the perception and reality of your company. That’s where equity and inclusion come in (remember our definitions: Equity seeks to ensure fair treatment, equality of opportunity, and fairness in access to information and resources for all; inclusion builds a culture of belonging by actively inviting the contribution and participation of all people).
So, how do you create a space that feels equitable, safe, and welcoming? Here are a few ideas to get your own ideas flowing:
Be aware of different needs
Look around your office through the eyes of different employee groups. Are tampons stocked in the restrooms? Do you offer swag in a spectrum of sizes? Is the office temperature comfortable for both women (who prefer it warmer) and men (for whom heating systems are literally designed)? Do you have a lactation room for nursing mothers? Do you offer bathrooms for all, including transgender and gender-nonconforming people?
Create a calendar of cultural celebrations
You’re probably already celebrating the major winter holidays. But what about Diwali? Pride? Indigenous Peoples’ Day? Consider developing a calendar that includes celebrations and events that are important in different cultures. From giving employees the day off for Juneteenth, to sponsoring a cultural potluck, to scheduling speakers for Women’s History Month, there are lots of ways to make a clear commitment to diversity that simultaneously cultivates inclusion.
Be gender inclusive
Pronouns are one of the ways we portray our identity. As transgender and non-binary people begin living more openly, pronouns have become more widely discussed. Respect for them can make a candidate or employee feel welcomed and seen. Misgendering, on the other hand, can lead to feeling disrespected, excluded, and even threatened.
A simple way to include everyone is to make sure all your communications use “they” instead of “he/his/him” or “she/her/hers.” (Don’t worry grammarians: Merriam-Webster has added “they” to refer to someone whose gender identity is nonbinary, unknown, or intentionally not revealed.)
To convey your company’s acknowledgment of the power of pronouns, ask your team to list their preferences in their email signature and LinkedIn profile. For example:
Suzy Q, Director of Talent Acquisition
This simple gesture can help highlight your intention to create a safe space for all.
Examine your benefits package
Do you offer parental leave or just maternity leave? Do you have paid adoption leave, coverage for fertility treatments, support for transitioning transgender employees? Do your spousal benefits cover same-sex couples?
Think about what benefits you offer (or don’t), and what that says about your company’s bias. Aim for creating a benefits package that supports all your employees—regardless of age, gender identity, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, etc. It’s yet another way to create a culture that’s equitable and welcoming to current and future employees.
Leverage your corporate social responsibility (CSR)
Another way to ensure DE&I is woven into your workplace DNA is to beef up your corporate social responsibility efforts. CSR drives employee engagement by supporting employee efforts to volunteer for causes they believe in. A good CSR program shows employees that your company puts their money where their mouth is when it comes to DE&I.
Learning and development
Learning and development is often focused on hard skills: those measurable, teachable abilities that we all love adding to our LinkedIn profiles. But if you expand your training to include soft skills like relationship building, communication, and conflict management, you’ll start to create a culture with high emotional intelligence—aka, a culture that’s welcoming and inclusive.
Energize your employee resource groups (ERGs)
ERGs can go a long way toward making employees feel included. These voluntary, employee-led groups improve employee engagement and foster a workplace that embraces and celebrates the interests, differences, and voices of its employees. ERGs also act as “boots on the ground”—they’ll help you reach out to underrepresented groups, flesh out your audit by providing self-reported employee demographics, make new employees feel comfortable during onboarding, and more.
Once you’ve taken strides towards improving equity and inclusion internally, you can turn to recruitment marketing to share your story outside the company and begin to attract more diverse candidates.
How Do DE&I and Employer Brand Work Together?
In our “What Is Recruitment Marketing?” post, we used the following definition for employer brand: Your brand is everything you think of when you think of an employer. It includes an organization’s font, logo, and tone of voice. It encompasses company culture, the CEO’s statement on the BLM movement, that thing your cousin’s friend said about an epic work party. Employer brand is the rumor about free beer on tap, on-site yoga, and an office masseuse. It’s that acquaintance from college who always posts about how much she loves her job. It’s a negative Glassdoor review and how a company responds to it. It’s everything.
Your employer brand is your reputation. And a big part of your reputation—especially as the world turns its attention to all kinds of injustice—is your commitment to and delivery of DE&I.
By now you realize that DE&I is a value that should be woven throughout your company DNA. We’ve touched on a few ways to do that internally. Initiatives aimed at current employees foster inclusion and create a safe space where employees can be themselves. Those initiatives will also be shared externally, as employees post on social media, discuss their jobs with family and friends, post reviews on Glassdoor, etc. Your internal work won’t stay internal—it’s all part of your company’s brand.
And then of course there’s your recruitment marketing, where you express your brand to the world. This is your chance to make sure diversity, equity, and inclusion are part of every conversation at every touchpoint. In the next section, we’ll discuss how to start that process.
Ideas for Jumpstarting Diverse Hiring
Write inclusive job descriptions
Pronoun preference in email signatures and internal communications dovetails nicely with external communications like gender-neutral job descriptions. There are so many turns of phrase that can turn off certain demographics. Superlatives like “world class,” for example, read as competitive to female candidates, who tend to be more collaborative. Research also shows that women are less likely to apply to a job unless they meet 100% of the requirements, whereas men feel they’re qualified with only 60% alignment. So, if you’re working to attract women to the team, try including more “nice to haves” in your job descriptions versus “must haves.”
There are long lists of other words and phrases to avoid and include when you’re revamping your job descriptions. To flag the majority of them, consider running your copy through an augmented writing tool like Textio to identify language bias.
How to Create Inclusive Job Postings.
All you ever wanted to know about Job Postings.
Craft a branded Equal Opportunity Employer (EOE) statement
Along with your job descriptions, consider overhauling your EOE statement (or adding it if you don’t have one at all). A strong EOE statement voices your company’s commitment to equality and diversity, strengthens your brand, expresses your culture, and attracts candidates with different perspectives. Your EOE statement should be on job descriptions, your careers site, event posters, flyers, and any other relevant spot.
Bonus: According to Textio, job reqs with strong EOE statements fill an average of 10% more quickly than job reqs without them.
Express your commitment
Stephen Stewart, Director of Talent Brand at RingCentral, warns against messaging about your diversity and inclusion until it truly reflects your organization. “Do the necessary groundwork to create an inclusive culture—then go to market with your external campaigns because they’ll be based on genuine experience.” (Read more about Stephen Steward’s DE&I initiatives at RingCentral: How a Top Tech Company Approaches Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion)<
There can be a jarring disconnect (and high turnover) if someone joins your company on the basis of false marketing. But if you have made progress, share it externally. Write a blog post, create posters to hang in your lobby, include it in your marketing materials. The more diverse you are, the more diversity you attract, so don’t be shy to share your strides in creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
Tell your story on your careers site and social channels
What’s the first place every serious job seeker will visit to find more information? Your careers site. Make sure this well-trafficked touchpoint features your DE&I story prominently. You can tell that story through imagery (see section on video and photography below), employee testimonials, lists of featured benefits, diversity awards, etc.
Social media is another important way to spread the word. You can post about company-sponsored cultural events and community involvement, use video and written testimonials, share blog posts and podcasts, etc.
Use video and authentic photography
Another important and impactful way to contribute to DE&I is to use images of real, diverse employees in your recruitment marketing materials. User-generated content is an inexpensive and easy way to go for video, especially during the pandemic, although it’s worth investing in a professional production company when you can. They can capture employee interviews, b-roll, and static photographs. Stock photography is a necessary evil sometimes, but if you can avoid it, please do. No one’s fooled by stock—who’s that happy to eat a salad IRL?
Make sure your site is accessible
Web accessibility is the concept that everyone should be able to use any website. Your site should be designed so that Internet users (regardless of special needs; motor skills, physical, and cognitive disabilities; and visual or hearing impairments) can navigate it easily. People with these challenges often use assistive technologies online (screen readers, speech recognition software, etc.). It’s up to you to make sure your website translates through those technologies so that it’s accessible to everyone, your audience is expanded, and your marketing reflects your commitment to inclusion. You can do this through:
- alt tagging and alt text
- color contrast
- extended time to complete assessments
- keyboard accessibility
- screen reader compatibility
- video captions
Build a pipeline
Certain industries (looking at you, tech) struggle more with diversity than others. According to their own 2020 diversity reports, only 5.5% of Google’s employees and less than 4% of Facebook’s employees are Black. So where do you find talented people of color, women, different gender identities, different ages, different perspectives? Where do you find the people you want with the skills you need?
LinkedIn has some great ideas, including helping recruiters develop skills for equitable recruiting, training hiring managers on unconscious bias, and focusing on potential over credentials.
You can also head back to school: historically Black colleges and universities and women’s colleges are fertile ground for finding talented next-gen employees. If you offer robust internships and training, you can start cultivating relationships with diverse potential candidates—they’re already learning the technical skills you need and have the potential to become the employees you want. Start building relationships now so that when those students hit the job market, you’ll be ready.
Some companies act like DE&I is a competitive sport. IBM infamously said its diversity and inclusion strategy was “closely guarded and competitively sensitive.” But here’s the thing: good recruitment marketing is built on a good brand, and a good brand is built on authenticity. You have to be honest about who you are in order to build trust with candidates and employees, trust that will result in long careers and better work. Whitewashing your diversity, equity, and inclusion stats will only create mistrust. Honesty about your goals—and where you’re falling short of meeting them—will go much further than empty promises.
Who’s Showcasing Their DE&I Efforts Right?
As companies expand their diversity and inclusion focus, more and more companies are doing it well. For inspiration, check out:
When Will Your DE&I Efforts Be Done?
Never. Sorry, but this isn’t an item you can check off your to-do list. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is an ever-evolving focus that changes as the world does. And since the world is changing fast, DE&I advocates have our work cut out for us. Let’s get started.