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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Barrera

3 critical steps to take before launching a DEI Strategy

Make sure you understand what DEI really is—and why it matters.

DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion—and it’s more than an HR program.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion programs are quickly becoming critical functions within organizations. Many businesses have opted to form employee councils or committees with devoted resources. Some companies have formed entire departments—separate from HR—that focus on promoting diversity and mitigating systemic racism in the workplace.

But while your company might be excited to ramp up DEI efforts, it’s important to understand why diversity, equity, and inclusion matter.

According to the online community for startups, Built In, “Diversity is the presence of differences within a given setting. Equity is the process of ensuring that processes and programs are impartial, fair, and provide equal possible outcomes for every individual. Inclusion is the practice of ensuring that people feel a sense of belonging in the workplace.”

After reading this, you might be thinking: “Great! My company already does this!” Most well-intended companies believe that their organization cherishes individual differences and provides fair outcomes, but it’s important to remember that DEI goes beyond good intentions.

While your company values might promote fair practices, current or potential employees may see your business differently. Implicit bias and privilege often work in subtle ways. For example, according to Harvard Business Review, “white job applicants tend to receive more callbacks than equally qualified applicants of other races,” and people of color remain underrepresented in higher leadership positions.

Understanding how racism, privilege, and oppression operate at an organizational level is critical. From there, you and your team can unpack areas for growth within your organization.

Collect employee feedback on company culture.

If your company is ready to take the next step to foster DEI in the workplace, you’ll want to better understand how your current employees feel working at your company. It’s beneficial to have as many diverse voices present as possible during this process. This can be as simple as collecting data on employee experiences through an anonymous survey.

Here are some example questions you can include in a survey:

  • Diversity: Do I feel that my team and the greater company culture adequately represent various cultural, racial, and diverse backgrounds?

  • Equity: Do I feel that programs and processes, such as hiring or internal promotion, are fair and impartial?

  • Inclusion: Do I feel safe speaking my opinions, both on my team and within the larger organization?

Then, try holding a company all-hands session and encourage employees to share their perspectives more deeply. During this process, make sure you aren’t relying on only one department or those in leadership positions. Gaining feedback from your marketing, operations, finance, and other departments will also allow you to gain insight into employee-level issues you might not be aware of.

Using this data, your team can map out the growth areas, which you’ll include in your action plan going forward.

As a leadership team, sit down and outline objectives.

Sitting down and discussing how the entire leadership team will play a role in the overall DEI strategy will build the foundation you need to make sure that your efforts don’t fizzle out after a few months. Everything starts at the top, after all.

Leadership teams should discuss:

  • Are there any existing company policies, practices, or processes for internal auditing?

  • Who will create these processes and regularly ensure their continuous improvement?

  • What resources will we need to achieve our goals?

  • How does the organization plan to measure its impact?

If you’re a CEO or Director, consider company-wide strategic meetings that center DEI conversations at least once a quarter. Demonstrate how the organization plans to prioritize DEI in the coming year and who will play a crucial role in this process so that the work doesn’t fall on one group.

This conversation has been in the spotlight lately, and it's important to note that it's ok to be wherever you are. What matters is to start. Begin with those internal assessments and be honest internally and externally with your goals. Everyone has to start somewhere.

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