As social justice protests erupt around the world, many companies are taking a public stand in solidarity. They’ve issued statements, recognized Juneteenth, made donations, and pledged change.
But diversity isn’t something you can check off a list with a blurb on your career site. It takes passion, expertise, resources, and leadership to create an evolving workplace where everyone feels not only accepted but celebrated.
It may seem daunting. But DE&I is crucial—not only to the morality of a company but for its bottom line. So where do you begin? Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you’re creating a diversity, equity, and inclusion program from scratch.
Put the right person in charge
Make sure that you—or whoever’s leading your DE&I efforts—really understand the landscape. Your strategy shouldn’t be orchestrated by someone without experience in the field. Not only will it be a Herculean task for a novice, but their efforts could end up backfiring and harming the company.
Begin with an audit
Take a look at where you are so you know where you need to go. Examine your workforce’s demographic data, including categories like age, gender expression, race, ethnicity, disability, and sexual orientation to see where you can improve. Survey your employees (anonymously of course) to see how truly welcome they feel in the workplace. By auditing your current diversity and inclusion status, you can see how your organization compares to others, increase your accountability, and set concrete objectives and timelines.
Be transparent internally and externally
Equity is long overdue—but that doesn’t mean we know how to deliver it yet. It’s okay to admit that your program is a work in process. It’s okay to ask for help (in fact, input from employees and leaders is vital). What’s not okay is being disingenuous. If you’re going to promote authenticity with a DE&I program, that truth must start with you.
Secure dedicated resources
Without budget and support, your program won’t be set up for success. To build your case for more resources, remind your company that:
- Diverse companies make more money. In fact, a McKinsey study showed that ethnically and culturally diverse businesses outperformed their competition by 36%.
- Diversity of all kinds boosts innovation. Different perspectives mean better problem solving and more creative solutions.
- If your company isn’t making strides with their DE&I, you’ll be left behind. More than three-quarters of participants in a Forbes study said they’re planning “to focus more on leveraging diversity for innovation and other business goals over the next three years.”
- For 70% of job seekers, an inclusive workplace is a factor when considering employment.
- Workplace culture is vital when it comes to turnover. An inclusive environment—in which “bringing your whole self to work” isn’t just lip service—can significantly cut hiring and training costs by encouraging loyalty among a company’s best employees.
Get leadership on board
Another reason to define your starting point and make your business case for diversity is to get leadership on board. DE&I will only be successful if there’s oversight and accountability from the top. Buy-in from leadership assures the vocal and financial support you’ll need to get your program off the ground.
Gather a team
Consider forming a committee to help your efforts. A company email is a good way to garner volunteers who are passionate about driving change. Members can share the important work of research, developing initiatives, training, and other important aspects of a solid program.
Bring in external help
If no one on your team is well versed in DE&I and if resources allow, bring in external help. Diversity experts offer consulting, training, tools, and even full-service models if you can afford them. When you consider the business imperative, expert help is well worth the expense.
Beginning with an audit also helps once your program has launched and you’re ready to measure results against your starting stats. Consider tracking employee retention, representation of underrepresented minorities in your workforce, participation in employee resource groups, and even your PR. Understanding your outcomes can determine if you’ve succeeded in what you set out to do: help your company stand against injustice with action—not just words.