5 Steps to Kickstart Your DEI Strategy in 2021

In 2020, many organizations recognized the need to make DEI a priority. However, we understand that developing a comprehensive DEI strategy can be a daunting task, as there are many components and dynamics to think about. So today, we wanted to share with you five steps that you can take to build an effective DEI strategy at your organization. But first, let’s define what DEI is.

DEI is an acronym that stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion. These terms are often used interchangeably; however, it’s important to understand the difference between each one so that you’re able to create an intentional and effective strategy. Let’s take a look at each one individually:

What is diversity?

Diversity in the workplace refers to having a varied workforce, in terms of personal, physical, and social characteristics, such as gender, ethnicity, age, and education. It’s important to note that while organizations can be diverse, people are not.

For example, if you say that someone who is a racial minority is “diverse,” you’re implying that a white or light-skin person is the “default” or “norm” in the workplace. Instead, think of diversity as the “differences” within your overall team or organization.

What is inclusion?

Inclusion refers to the policies, programs, and procedures aimed at integrating everyone into the workplace. The goal of your inclusion strategy should be to make everyone feel accepted, safe, and valued.

Remember that diversity does not guarantee inclusion. Verna Myers, an American activitist, put this idea into perspective by saying, “diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” This means that in order to build an inclusive workplace, you must take intentional actions to do so.

What is equity?

Equality and equity are often used interchangeably but actually mean different things. Equality means treating everybody the same way, while equity means acknowledging that everyone has different needs. The image below has been frequently used to demonstrate the difference between the two.

In the workplace, equity means actively taking steps to level the playing field for every member of your organization to uphold diversity and inclusion-related goals and objectives.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are complementary and depend on each other. If you want to build a robust diversity strategy, you actually need to include all three elements — so you’re actually building a robust DEI strategy. Now that you’re familiar with each concept, here are five steps that you can take to build a DEI strategy.

  1. Define what diversity means to your organization

    The first step to solving any problem is naming it. As we defined earlier, diversity refers to a group composed of people with different personal, social, and physical characteristics — and there are a lot of differences in the world, so it’s important to identify which ones are important to your workplace.

    Start by reviewing your data. Or if you don’t have data at present, this is a good opportunity to start collecting insights so that you have an idea of your benchmarks.

    For example, what percentage of your leadership team is made up of women? How many different schools and programs does your campus program recruit from? What groups are underrepresented in your organization? From here, you can determine concrete goals, outcomes, and timelines. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint, so be sure to set realistic short and long-term goals.

    In addition to your quantitative data, make sure to collect qualitative data from your employees. Ask what is important to them and what changes they would like to see in the workplace. Also, make sure to approach potential detractors of diversity and inclusion. If you’re able to understand the barriers to DEI at your organization, you can begin to identify approaches to mitigate the roadblocks your efforts may encounter.

  1. Audit your existing policies, programs, and procedures

    Now that you’ve identified your DEI goals and objectives, you need to ensure they are infused throughout your organization. You’ll want to consider how elements like the company culture, internal referral programs, and hiring practices in each department play a role in supporting your DEI initiatives.

    A great place to start is by reviewing your existing policies, programs, and procedures. Get together with your wider HR team to identify and list your policies, programs, and procedures. Then, comb through each one to identify how it either upholds or hinders your DEI goals.

  1. Adjust your existing policies, programs, and procedures

    Once you’ve completed your audit, the next step is to update the policies, programs, and procedures already in existence. The core elements of your DEI goals should be infused throughout all your employee documentation. This could be as simple as updating wording to be more inclusive, and it can be more complex, like making operational changes in the way a policy is implemented.

    For example, does your company holiday calendar only include Christian and secular holidays, like Christmas? Or does it include all the holidays that represent the various religious beliefs of your team members? Do you have policies in place that allow team members to swap statutory holidays for another day that’s more meaningful to them?

  1. Address any outstanding gaps

    Once you have made revisions to existing policies and programs, your next step is to tackle any gaps. You may need to create new policies, procedures, and programs that are aligned with your DEI goals and objectives.

    For example, if your campus recruitment program only hires from one or two schools or programs, then you’re likely creating a homogeneous talent pipeline. Consider ways you can expand the program to reach more potential talent that brings a new set of experience, knowledge, and capabilities.

  1. Stay accountable

    And finally, if you want your DEI strategy to thrive, then you need to ensure your efforts are transparent. Share your goals with the broader organization and regularly report on your progress with your team members and company leadership. And don’t forget to continuously solicit feedback from across the organization to ensure your DEI efforts are not created in a bubble.

    While these are just a few steps to get you started, we hope these insights give you a clearer understanding of what DEI is and the steps you can take to begin to build a strategy. And if you need extra support please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team.

About ML6

ML6 is a recruitment and talent advisory firm located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We provide customized solutions to support our clients throughout the employee lifecycle. We help our clients attract and retain talent by advising on people programs, processes, and best practice