Diversity and inclusion are important in creating a workplace where employees feel a sense of trust and belonging. Embracing and celebrating differences has direct business effects with companies reporting higher levels of employee productivity, engagement, and commitment.
With the recent spotlight on companies’ representation and DEI initiatives, nearly 97% of employers report they have introduced new inclusion measures in the past year. However, 24% of employees believe their employer has not introduced any new measures, leaving minority groups still feeling overlooked and unheard. With 52% of workers considering a job change this year, tangible and measurable initiatives that result in sustainable change have become important than ever. Here’s how to manifest real results for a more diverse, equal, and inclusive team.
1. A DEI approach is a change management approach. Companies should start by setting some relevant business goals. What do they hope to achieve through having diverse employees more engaged in their work? How will it increase sales, drive customer retention, or reduce costs?
Look at DEI as a change management initiative and establish a baseline of business objectives, then set some goals—just as one would with any other change initiative. From there, determine how time and resources will be invested to make that change a reality.
2. Equip employees with the tools they need to speak up. Where many DEI trainings fail is not giving people the resources that equip them to act and to apply what they’ve learned in real situations. Do employees know how to identify biases or microaggressions? Do they feel empowered to interrupt situations in which they see them?
Taking action in an uncomfortable situation can be extremely difficult, so employees need tools to help them embody the practices they’ve been taught. One example is to create a toolkit for managers to help guide performance conversations through a cultural-competency lens. Role playing in trainings with supplied talking points like, “I’m detecting an air of bias” or “that feels culturally insensitive” can also help employees feel comfortable opening up healthy dialogue that doesn’t feel like personal attacks.
Sometimes there may be conflict. As long as it’s done respectfully and with a commitment toward inclusivity, equality, and learning, growth is bound to be a result.
3. Dive into the numbers. Part of creating tangible DEI initiatives is to look deeper into the metrics. Many companies certainly need to do better when it comes to diversity beyond the leadership team. Take, for example, Google. The company shows a relatively diverse executive team, but when looking deeper into the metrics, the company as a whole is 69% male and only 2% Black and 4% Latino.
Beyond tracking overall percentages, companies should look deeper into what their individual departments look like. If the marketing and HR teams are only women, and engineering is predominantly staffed by white males, there’s still work to do.
Companies also need to look beyond EEOC-tracked demographics and measure self-identification. Outside of race or gender, what other characteristics set employees apart? Are they mothers? Do many identify as LGBTQ? At companies like ActiveCampaign, there are an abundance of employee resource groups, including “ActivePride,” “MomsofAC,” and “DadsofAC,” in addition to groups for Black, Latino, and Asian employees. This way, every employee has the space to bring their authentic selves to work.
Finally, beyond just “who works here,” companies also need to dive deeper into the career paths of all employees. Is career progression being tracked among these diverse groups? Check in to see if their paths measure against the overall population. If not, one should consider if they are getting the same opportunities as others?
4. Examine employee sentiment. As DEI initiatives increase across companies and industries, one question still remains: How do organizations know if these programs are working? Tracking DEI effectiveness must be both qualitative and quantitative in order to see the bigger picture.
Measuring employee sentiment is a good place to start. By routinely soliciting feedback from employees about how they feel at work, HR will get a tangible read on how DEI initiatives are going. A survey of employees at ActiveCampaign found that nearly 90% feel they’re treated fairly and more than 80% said they feel comfortable being their authentic selves at work. While there is still always work to do, those numbers are a huge testament to the effectiveness of DEI initiatives.
DEI isn’t just about checking boxes and meeting mandates. It even goes beyond sensitivity trainings and setting diverse hiring goals. It’s about driving real, organizational change.
To do so, companies have to find ways to measure the outcomes, not just the incremental efforts to get there. Sometimes that means having hard, uncomfortable conversations with one another, but that’s where real change happens for the better.