In October 2021, big-name companies including Google, Apple and Twitter pledged to improve collective efforts and accountability for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. And they’re not alone: Nearly 80% of organizations plan to increase their DEI budgets and resources for 2022, according to a report by the workplace training firm Traliant.
The need for action is clear. A 2021 survey of more than 800 human resources professionals revealed that only 4% of respondents felt fully prepared to lead a DEI program.
But DEI experts caution that action alone is not enough. It must be backed up by measurable steps and regular monitoring.
To maximize your DEI efforts, you should:
- Identify your needs and areas for improvement
- Set clear, measurable and achievable goals
- Monitor and share your progress
Examine your needs
First, identify areas in which you want to improve DEI, such as:
- LGBTQ representation
Examine your workplace data and culture, including formal and informal employment policies and practices, to look for systemic issues of bias.
Common forms of bias include:
- A lack of diversity in leadership positions
- Disparities in pay and advancement
- Hiring disproportionate numbers of certain groups (e.g., young, male workers)
- Limited accommodations for physical and learning disabilities
Combing through this information will help you form your starting points. For example, many organizations find that women and people of color lack networking and mentorship opportunities that can lead to career advancement.
As you find gaps and disparities in your organization, assess potential causes and solutions for each issue.
Put meaningful metrics in place
Through targeted measurements, you can stop training resources that aren’t moving the needle and invest in more impactful efforts.
Targeted metrics include:
- Accessibility — This can mean physical accessibility in terms of access to bathrooms, entrances and exits, and multilevel buildings, but it also refers to emotional accessibility. Employees should feel connected to colleagues, supported in their roles and careers, and aligned with organizational values.
- Hiring — To improve DEI efforts, you will need to increase diversity among job applicants and hiring managers. Gathering hiring data can show you potential biases in specific positions or teams within your organization.
- Promotions and leadership roles — If hiring numbers are being met but your organization isn’t meeting DEI goals in higher levels of the organization, it could point to unconscious bias or lack of advancement opportunities. Look into mentoring and professional development opportunities for employees of all backgrounds.
- Retention — A clear sign that your culture is welcoming to diverse groups of employees is low turnover. If certain employees are leaving at higher rates, you likely have a specific problem to tackle. Asking about DEI efforts during exit interviews is one way to unearth previously overlooked details.
- Racial, ethnic and gender harassment claims — This type of data is a more obvious sign of trouble that can help you pinpoint major problems requiring immediate action.
- Employee resource group (ERG) participation — ERGs are a great way for employees to connect with others who share their background or identity. ERGs also help build leadership skills and offer a means to share ideas with organizational leadership. If participation levels aren’t what you expected, examine why people may be hesitant to join.
- Diversity of vendors, suppliers and other third-party business partnerships — As you reach DEI goals within your organization, you can begin to impact DEI within your wider community. For example, explore opportunities to partner with women- or minority-owned businesses.
Avoiding common pitfalls in program design
Attaching the right performance metrics to your goals will help you avoid some common mistakes.
Organizations often set goals that are too broad, like hosting a quarterly DEI webinar, in-person seminar or lunch and learn. But this only measures the occurrence of efforts, not their effectiveness.
To avoid overly broad goals, make sure your training includes:
- Industry- or organization-specific scenarios that your employees may encounter
- Opportunities to practice lessons with colleagues
- Actionable takeaways
- Follow-up surveys to gather employee feedback on the effectiveness of the training
Another frequent issue is when DEI efforts only address blatant acts of discrimination (like racial slurs or offensive symbols), rather than common yet subtle forms of bias (like underrepresenting people of color in leadership roles).
Your DEI efforts will be more effective when they also include less obvious examples like:
- Systemic bias and stereotypes
- Internalized racism, sexism and ageism
- Microaggressions, which are often indirect or even unintentional acts or statements against marginalized employees
Monitor and share your progress
Once your goals are set and metrics are in place, continue to monitor progress toward those goals. Then share that progress with your employees.
- Find benchmarking data for your industry, organizations of similar size and demographics, and companies considered leaders in DEI efforts. Learn how others outside your organization are setting, measuring and achieving goals.
- Regularly survey your employees to collect data on job satisfaction. This will help you gauge inclusion, not just representation. For example, you may set and reach a goal to have 20% of your executive leadership identify as LGBTQ. But if those employees aren’t feeling heard or included, you still have important work to do.
- Form a diversity and inclusion council consisting of company leaders who can create and measure performance goals.
- Form a task force to monitor progress. This group should have the power to assign accountability and report findings to senior leadership.
- Ask your CEO or another highly visible leader to provide regular updates to your employees. Being transparent about DEI progress, challenges and opportunities will energize your employees and make them feel more included in your achievements.
For more ideas on DEI efforts and metrics, talk to your insurance broker or benefits adviser. They can help you assess your organization and suggest benefit offerings to support inclusion and belonging.