The tragic murder of George Floyd sparked a number of conversations that many would agree have been long overdue.
Because of this, a lot of businesses opened their eyes to just how important it is to create a diverse and inclusive work environment.
In fact, approximately 6 in 10 businesses have policies in place to ensure fairness in pay, hiring, or promotions. Furthermore, 52% have meetings or training on DEI at work.
But, our hard work is NOT done - far from it!
Those figures may seem high, but there’s still work to be done.
Especially when there’s sadly also been some recent news about companies rolling back DEI initiatives.
People are starting to ask the uncomfortable question:
Do companies really care about DEI or are they just protecting their reputation?
So, we need to understand how we can implement DEI sustainably for the long term. Below, we’ll reveal some of the strategies for doing this.
The current state of DEI initiatives
After the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement that followed, many companies made pledges to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Some DEI initiatives that were implemented include:
- Mentorship programs
- DEI training
- Diverse hiring and recruitment practices
- Financial wellness programs and other related employee benefits
- ERGs (employee resource groups)
However, for several of these companies, it has been a case of “easier said than done.” Some have struggled to implement DEI effectively while others are finding it hard to sustain their efforts.
Because of this, some businesses have actually hit the rewind button, and they’re facing backlash for doing so.
A study published in February revealed that employers have cut DEI roles at a higher rate than others.
The research from Revelio Labs, which was carried out in collaboration with Reuters and The Washington Post, revealed that over 300 DEI professionals have left companies in the last six months, including businesses like Amazon.com, Twitter, and Nike.
The falling number of DEI roles has left people wondering whether the urgency to create a more diverse workforce was genuine or simply a reactionary measure done with brand image in mind.
The importance of employee engagement in DEI
Employee engagement is a critical ingredient when implementing DEI effectively.
Why does it matter?
Well, when employees are engaged, they have that all-important feeling of belonging. Isn’t this what we all want when working in a team?
Think about it: If you feel your opinion is valued and you’re part of the decision-making process, you’ll be more likely to support and actively participate in the DEI initiatives, right?
You know you’re not simply wasting your breath!
Ultimately, this results in better DEI initiatives because everyone is included, heard, and feels able to contribute.
Strategies for sustaining DEI initiatives
There are a number of different strategies you can follow to implement DEI initiatives successfully. So, let’s get right to it.
- Create a DEI task force
The first step is creating a DEI task force to develop, implement, and monitor DEI initiatives.
Here are some key steps and considerations for creating a DEI task force:
- Select diverse members - You can’t promote DEI if your own team isn’t diverse and inclusive. So, of course, it’s vital to make sure DEI team members are from diverse backgrounds and levels within your company. This should include a mixture of job functions, genders, races, ages, and seniority levels.
- Define the purpose and goals - Clearly define the purpose and goals of the DEI task force.
- Provide training - Provide training to the task force members on DEI concepts, unconscious bias, and other relevant topics. This will help in creating a common understanding and language.
- Set a regular meeting schedule - A regular meeting schedule helps to keep momentum going.
- Assign roles and responsibilities - You’ll need different roles, from secretary to chairperson, so make sure to assign these effectively.
- Communicate regularly - Your task force should provide regular updates on the progress of DEI initiatives, the challenges they face, and the successes they’ve achieved.
- Get feedback - Actively gather feedback from employees on the DEI initiatives. This feedback can be used to make necessary adjustments and improvements.
- Monitor and adjust - Regularly monitor the progress of your DEI initiatives. Make necessary adjustments based on the feedback received and the progress made.
By following these steps, you can create a DEI task force that is effective, inclusive, and sustainable.
- Collect feedback from your employees
Regular employee feedback is a must for the success and sustainability of DEI initiatives.
It helps you to understand your employees’ perspectives, concerns, and suggestions.
To collect feedback effectively, we recommend the following:
Use structured templates 📝
Use structured templates, like this employee one on one template, so you can have meaningful conversations with employees. This template can be a guiding hand, ensuring your conversations are productive and important DEI topics are discussed.
Conduct surveys 📊
Regular, anonymous surveys are great for gathering feedback. This can help in getting honest feedback from employees who may not feel comfortable sharing their opinions openly.
Hold focus groups 👥
You should also consider organizing focus groups with employees from diverse backgrounds to discuss DEI initiatives and gather feedback. This can provide valuable insights into the different perspectives of employees.
Don’t just get feedback, act on it!
Analyze the feedback received, identify trends and areas for improvement, and make necessary adjustments to your DEI initiatives.
- Provide DEI training
It is essential to provide comprehensive training to the members of your DEI task force.
Some of the topics your training should cover include:
- Understanding DEI
- Unconscious bias
- Cultural competency
- Identifying microaggressions
- Active listening
- Inclusive language
- Building allyship
- Conflict resolution
- Legal considerations
Providing this training is crucial for creating a common understanding and language among the task force members.
- Implement employee engagement initiatives
If you want to make DEI initiatives truly effective, you need to actively involve employees in every step of the process.
- Planning - Encourage employees to share their ideas and suggestions for DEI initiatives. This will not only bring in diverse perspectives but also create a sense of ownership among employees.
- Implementation - Use tools like an employee shift scheduling app to plan DEI activities at times suitable for all, regardless of their work schedule. This ensures everyone has the opportunity to participate, and no one is left out.
- Monitoring - Provide regular updates on the progress of DEI initiatives. Recognize and appreciate the efforts of employees who actively participate and contribute to the initiatives.
Actively engaging employees in the DEI initiatives will make them more effective and contribute to creating a more inclusive and supportive work environment.
- Celebrate diversity
To celebrate diversity, acknowledge and value the unique qualities, experiences, and perspectives every employee brings to the table.
Here are some of the ways you can do so:
- Host cultural events - Organize events that celebrate different cultures, traditions, and holidays. Encourage employees to share their traditions and learn about others.
- Showcase employee stories - Regularly share employee stories that highlight their unique backgrounds, experiences, and contributions to the company.
- Promote diverse voices - Whether it’s your company meetings or newsletters, make an effort to ensure diverse voices are heard.
- Hold leadership accountable
Holding leadership accountable is key to the success and sustainability of DEI initiatives.
To do this, you need to first set clear expectations. Every leader needs to understand the goals, strategies, and their role in supporting the initiatives.
Next, you need to get regular updates from your leadership team about how DEI initiatives are progressing. From presentations to written reports, there are a lot of ways they can do this.
One of the best ways to ensure that DEI is a priority and not simply a box to check is by including DEI-related performance metrics in the leadership team’s performance evaluation.
Some DEI metrics you could include are as follows:
- Diversity of teams
- Employee sense of belonging
- Retention rates of diverse employees
- Promote rates of diverse employees
- Participation in DEI training and initiatives
- Employee feedback on DEI initiatives
- Number of reported DEI incidents
- Response time to DEI incidents
Sustainably implement DEI at your company
Maintaining DEI in your business goes beyond just putting initiatives in place; it's about fostering an environment of inclusion, respect, and support.
This involves actively engaging employees, gathering regular feedback, ensuring accountability at all tiers, and celebrating the array of voices and experiences within your team.
It’s important to remember that DEI should never be a one-time thing! Instead, it demands continual time, dedication, effort, and ongoing refinement.
However, it will be more than worth it. A diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment is not only morally correct, but it’s beneficial for your employees and your business too.