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4 DEIB Best Practices From a Leadership Perspective

Mar 17, 2022| Reading time: 13min

BY Ivori Johnson

Director of DEIB

It’s one of the most talked-about topics in America– until things get uncomfortable.

A growing number of organizations are committing to prioritizing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace, and many have taken applaudable strides. Gartner reveals that the demand for diversity recruiters jumped a whopping 800% between 2017-18 and 2019-20. Further research from the consulting company shows that DEIB ranks among the top five priorities for HR leaders.

Awareness surrounding the importance of DEIB certainly isn’t lacking. Big names in the corporate world are taking the lead in dismantling systems of oppression and discrimination. Leadership teams know that companies that prioritize DEIB see clear improvements in profitability. 

But implementing long-lasting, meaningful change requires more than awareness. It requires embedding the very concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion into an organization’s DNA. And that may mean challenging the current system and moving into uncomfortable but necessary territory, including internal work of shifting behavior and biases.

Building a truly diverse and inclusive workplace is a journey, not a sprint. It takes time, and superficial actions alone won’t yield the positive results shown by research. To achieve meaningful change and, by extension, higher performance, you must look into implementing a series of DEIB best practices that foster company-wide, long-term transformation.

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1. Put Leadership at the Forefront of DEIB

Substantial change within organizations begins at the top. It’s up to the C-suite to take a definitive stance and show everyone in the company that diversity, equity, and inclusion are top priorities. Those in leadership roles must infuse DEIB into workplace culture and ensure that diversity goals are being met.

The Harvard Business Review recommends CEOs act as the “top champion” for DEIB initiatives. As a champion, the CEO should be vocal about DEIB goals, both internally and externally. However, it’s essential to remember that actions speak louder than words. While “talking the talk” is important, living these values and demonstrating how to weave them into company culture is just as crucial.

So how do true leaders take action and oppose discrimination in the workplace? They go out into the world and fight back against oppressive legislation. They head initiatives to increase company diversity. They engage with historically underrepresented groups to educate themselves and the teams they lead. They embrace being comfortable with being uncomfortable. They actively show that they’re committed to the concept of DEIB rather than just tell.

Furthermore, the C-suite should represent the diversity to which they are committed. Many companies lean into the DEIB space by hiring at entry level positions for representation, but fail to do the same at C-suite and leadership levels.

One company to do so, as well as successfully and continuously advance their DEIB initiatives, is Ford. They began their supplier diversity program in 1968 to create inner-cities jobs as a response to civil unrest, and have since expanded to partnering with women-, black-, veteran-, Indigenous-, Hispanic-, LGBTQIA-, and disability-owned suppliers. Their Supplier Diversity and Inclusion team explains, “Through advocacy and relationship building internally and externally, our efforts assist us in making a positive impact to our bottom line and within the communities where our suppliers operate.” Because of these actions, Ford has not only made DiversityInc’s Top 50 eleven times, but has granted billions of dollars of new business to these diverse set of suppliers.

2. Implement DEIB Workshops, Action Planning, and Policies

The development of a fully diverse, equal, and inclusive workplace requires systematic change across the organization. Intentional workshops, action planning, and policies emphasize the importance of DEIB, call attention to biases, and promote an environment of self-reflection.

Workshops

While DEIB training provides information to employees, workshops are used for creating plans, analyzing opportunities, and designing support systems. Instead of just learning new content in training, workshops allow for DEIB initiatives to become actionable and provide a safe space for conversations to occur about past, current, and future experiences.

Action Planning

Action planning happens after workshopping to ensure the conversation and work continues. The first step is to develop priorities for your company. Then, for each strategic priority, you’ll need to set a specific goal, objective, expected outcome, and timeline. To gain trust from employees and hold leadership accountable, it is crucial to be as transparent as possible about these initiatives.

Policies

Lastly, it’s important to have policies in place to hold all employees accountable for creating a safe, inclusive space. To determine if your policies are impactful, collect and review data from employees at all levels.

Edward H. Chang, who studies diversity in organizations at Harvard Business School, believes accurately measuring the outcomes of diversity workshops and eventually policies allow for necessary adjustments to make sure you’re on track. He explains, “Doing so will yield insights into the impact of any particular interventions (for example, seeing improvement among those whose attitudes were least inclusive to start).”

3. Review DEIB Data with Leadership for Accountability, Buy-in, and Awareness

The best way to understand how you can further prioritize DEIB is by looking at your current people analytics. Once you collect and analyze your metrics, you’ll need to make data-driven decisions. It’s great to have the data, but it needs to be transparent, a part of every conversation, and in front of leadership. Note that it’s not wishes or intentions that drive meaningful change; it’s actually using your data around the employee lifecycle, representation and attrition, compensation, and engagement that will make a true DEIB impact.

Examples of DEIB Goals

Data-driven goals, with appropriately developed KPIs, are an important part of enhancing your DEIB initiatives. Natasha Kehimkar, CEO & founder of Malida Advisors, also notes that when teams collect, analyze, and consistently refer to DEIB data, those metrics “keep companies accountable” and compel them to make intentional changes.

When you look at demographic data, especially in the era of hybrid and remote work, making DEIB shifts can create more inclusive workplaces. These DEIB decisions of course support all employees– current and future. In effect, employees are more likely to stay, refer others, and bring their best selves to work in an inclusive, supportive environment.

Need next steps to harness your DEIB data? Your goals can look like:

  • Building a transparent salary strategy to reduce compensation bias.
  • Developing retention strategies to keep underrepresented talent at the organization.
  • Improving the percentage of diverse pipelines by the next quarter.
  • Creating objective career frameworks to reduce barriers to growth and professional development.
  • Rewriting job descriptions with inclusive language before the next hiring cycle.
  • Expanding women in leadership positions by 50% within three years.
  • Increasing representation of Black, Latinx, and Women of Color by 25% within five years.
  • Establishing a system to address microaggressions toward underrepresented groups.
  • Encouraging your workforce to establish and pay employee resource groups (ERGs). Consider rewarding leadership responsibilities through compensation or tying DEIB action items to performance reviews.

It’s important to not only select goals, but also create accountability by setting clear numbers and timelines. For example, is there a certain percentage of underrepresented talent you’d like to hire in Quarter 2? Determining these specifics will help your team stay on track.

4. Establish a Dedicated DEIB Team

For meaningful change to take place, DEIB must be a company-wide effort. That being said, every department and employee has responsibilities tied to work performance that can cause DEIB efforts to take a back seat. 

A dedicated team—or, in smaller companies, a designated employee for whom DEIB is outlined as part of their core responsibilities—ensures there’s someone in your organization whose purpose is to lead and monitor DEIB initiatives. That team should also have a seat at the table. Companies that have a DEIB leader reporting to the CEO ensures that inclusivity is a part of every company decision.

While the demand for chief diversity officers is high, it’s important to acknowledge that turnover is as well. It’s a stressful and sometimes frustrating role. Because there’s never a shortage of support to give and planning to do, the lines of work/life balance are often blurred.

So how do you ensure that your dedicated DEIB officer and team is equipped to act?

Granting Your DEIB Team Autonomy

It’s clear that the success of your DEIB team requires resources, support, and decision-making authority. It’s also crucial to have leadership invested. Without buy-in from the top, DEIB teams won’t have the same opportunities to strategize or create company-wide adoption.

That leadership and organizational support is what Kevin Doherty of Vyond says helped his company’s DEIB team thrive. Beyond establishing the structure and functions of the team, his leadership ensured their DEIB committee’s work was promoted among employees by “giving resources for getting involved, learning about topics connected to DEIB, and understanding why Vyond needed a DEIB function.”

In order to set your DEIB team up for success, you can:

  • Provide them with full access to your people analytics so they can identify issues and areas for improvement.
  • Pull DEI teams into any big company decision to ensure inclusivity is a part of the conversation.
  • Give them the freedom to freely discuss findings with leadership to understand what is lacking and develop solutions together.
  • Empower them to hold managers accountable for not meeting diversity and inclusion goals.
  • Supply them with enough financial resources and team members to carry out their work.

Build a Sustainable DEIB Strategy

The adoption of DEIB best practices is a big step toward ensuring it becomes a business priority. But to achieve the long-lasting, consequential transformation that leads to a diverse and inclusive workplace, you need a sustainable DEIB strategy.

You also need a place to measure and store your DEIB data. By using a centralized people analytics platform, you can easily analyze collected metrics to identify opportunities, set specific goals, and track real progress toward achieving them.

Ready to get started? Download the complete DEIB reporting guide to learn how to build a comprehensive process that drives transparency, accountability, and action across the organization.

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