When most people think about DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) in the workplace, they think about things like hiring quotas or discrimination training.
DEI is about so much more than that. DEI is about creating a workplace environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and included. It’s about understanding and appreciating how we’re all different and using those differences to make our workplaces more innovative, productive, and successful.
As an HR manager or CEO, you play a crucial role in creating a welcoming workplace. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the things you can do to ensure your DEI initiatives are effective.
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Understanding Why DEI Matters
The first step in managing DEI effectively is understanding why it matters. Many people still see DEI as a compliance issue, something that companies have to do to avoid getting sued. But the reality is that DEI is good for business. Countless studies show that diversity leads to better decision-making, higher levels of creativity and innovation, and improved financial performance.
The reasoning is simple: when you have a team that reflects the diversity of your customers and the world around us, you’re more likely to come up with creative solutions to problems. And when everyone feels valued and included, they’re more likely to be engaged and productive.
Of course, there are also moral and legal reasons to focus on DEI. In addition to being good for business, DEI is also the right thing to do. Everyone deserves to be respected and included at work, regardless of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic. By creating a workplace where everyone feels welcome, you’re making your company more successful and making the world a better place.
Assessment of DEI
The first step to effective DEI management is assessing where your organization is currently at. It helps to go back and look at the definition of DEI. You can use these three pillars as a guide when conducting your assessment:
The variety of personal experiences, values, and worldviews that arise from differences in race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, age, education, gender, sexual orientation, and physical ability.
The fair treatment, access to opportunities, and distribution of resources to all individuals.
The active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity – in people, processes, practices, and perspectives – in a way that promotes a sense of belonging and creates value. 
An assessment allows you to take a step back, see where the problem areas might be and set some quantifiable goals. The goal is to make progress in each of these three areas. There are many ways to conduct an assessment, but some standard methods include surveys and interviews.
Let your employees know that their feedback is essential and potentially confidential. Depending on your industry and the size of your organization, you might want to consider hiring an outside consultant to help with this process.
Focus groups are also a great way to assess employee sentiment and get feedback on DEI initiatives. You can use focus groups to gauge reaction to new policies or programs or evaluate how employees feel about the workplace’s overall climate.
Finally, compiling data on hiring and promotions can also give you a good idea of where your organization stands in terms of DEI. Keep track of the percentage of employees from underrepresented groups and how many people from those groups are being promoted.
Once you’ve assessed where your organization is currently at, it’s time to set some goals. Many companies choose to follow the SMART goal-setting method, which stands for:
- Specific: The goal should be clear and well-defined. For example, a goal might be to increase the number of women in management positions by 10% in the next year.
- Measurable: The goal should be quantifiable, so you can track progress. You might aim to interview at least two candidates from underrepresented groups for every open position.
- Achievable: This is an important one – the goal should be possible to achieve. One initiative you could take is to provide unconscious bias training for all employees within the following year.
- Relevant: The goal should also be pertinent to your organization’s overall mission and values. An appropriate goal in an urban planning company might be to increase the number of people of color on staff by 5% in order to better reflect the communities they serve.
- Time-bound: Finally, the goal should have a timeline attached so you can track progress and ensure that it’s actually being achieved. For example, a plan to increase the number of underrepresented groups in management positions could have a timeline of two years.
When setting DEI goals, it’s crucial to involve employees from all levels of the organization. If possible, create a task force or working group dedicated to DEI. This will help ensure that employees feel like they have a stake in the process. Note that these goals should in no way be final – they should be revisited regularly and updated as necessary.
Simply implementing a diversity program is not enough. You need to make sure that it’s effective. Studies show that while a majority of organizations have some form of diversity program in place, less than 25% of employees feel like those programs do not benefit them.  That’s why these two first steps are so important: you need input from employees in order to assess where you’re starting from and what needs to be done. Only then can you set realistic goals that will actually make a difference.
The Role of Human Resources and HR Management
Human resources play a crucial role in managing DEI in the workplace. HR is responsible for developing and implementing policies and procedures related to DEI, as well as handling complaints and enforcing rules. In many organizations, HR management is also responsible for recruiting and hiring employees. This means that they play a key role in ensuring that the workforce is diverse and inclusive.
Regarding DEI, you can take several different approaches. Some companies choose to create separate positions or departments dedicated to DEI. Others choose to integrate DEI into the existing HR structure. Whichever path you take, there are some key things that your HR department should do to manage DEI effectively.
The DEI of your workforce starts with the hiring process. HR management is vital in ensuring that your organization recruits and hires a diverse pool of candidates. There are many things that you can do to make this happen. Of course, the job description and requirements should be reviewed to ensure they are not discriminatory. Another option is to work with recruitment agencies that specialize in finding diverse candidates.
In addition to recruiting a diverse pool of candidates, it’s also important to ensure that the hiring process is fair. This means that all candidates should be treated equally and given the same opportunity to showcase their skills and qualifications. Using standardized assessment tools can help ensure that the hiring process is fair.
Education and Awareness
One of the most important things that HR can do is to educate employees on DEI issues. You can do this in a number of ways, such as by offering training courses.  These courses can cover a wide range of topics, from the basics of DEI to more specific topics like unconscious bias. Additionally, you can provide educational materials, such as books, articles, and videos.
Some companies also choose to create employee resource groups (ERGs). These groups are open to all employees and focus on a particular topic, such as race, gender, or sexual orientation. ERGs provide a space for employees to learn about and discuss DEI issues. They can also be a great way to network and build relationships with others with similar interests.
For them to be practical, education and awareness initiatives must be ongoing. This means that they should not be one-time hosting workshops or offering training courses. Instead, they should be part of a continuous effort to educate employees on DEI issues.
Additionally, these initiatives should be tailored to the needs of your particular workplace. What works in one organization might not work in another.
Regular communications in memos, emails, or even in-person announcements allow everyone in the organization to stay up-to-date on DEI initiatives. These communications should come from senior leadership, as they can help set the tone for the organization.
Additionally, they should be clear and concise so employees can easily understand them.
Maintaining a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace
Once you have a diverse and inclusive workplace, you must maintain it. This means that HR must continue to develop and implement policies and procedures related to DEI. Additionally, DEI requires constant monitoring of the workplace for signs of discrimination or harassment. If any problems are found, you should take immediate action to address them.
HR is also responsible for promoting a positive work-life balance. This is meaningful for all employees but can be especially important for members of underrepresented groups. A good work-life balance can help to prevent burnout and promote a healthy lifestyle.
For example, suppose women are leaving the workforce because they feel that they cannot have a family and a career at your company. In that case, HR can offer flexible work arrangements or help to negotiate more family-friendly policies.
Discrimination, harassment, and other forms of bias can hurt company morale and business productivity. Additionally, they can lead to high turnover rates. As the workplace continues to become more diverse, we can no longer afford to ignore these issues. It’s time for HR to step up and take a leading role in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
What are some of the things that your organization is doing to promote DEI? Are there any areas that you think need improvement? Let us know in the comments below.
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