Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI or DE&I) programs have evolved from being a bonus of working at a company to becoming an absolute staple of a well-rounded organization. Today's job applicants are tuned in to prospective employers' commitment to these three pillars of success and are expecting employers to continue this commitment well into the post-hire period.
Despite Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statements and DEI awareness at the application stage, not all organizations have equitable and inclusive structures in place once workers are in the door. DEI initiatives need to be a continuous wheel of tools, resources, and support to help workers of all backgrounds respect differences, foster connections, and identify and mitigate bias.
According to DEI expert and strategist Joelle Allen, CEO of Interaction Traction, Inc., "DEI has to become baked into the very culture of an organization. It often means re-imagining the ways in which we collaborate and problem-solve as well as the tools needed to ensure everyone can bring their whole selves to work."
Developing and maintaining a successful DEI program requires input from all levels of an organization, which may take time, but there are a few quick and easy steps you can initiate today to help you build a fruitful DEI program for tomorrow.
Step 1: Take the pulse of existing employees
Your existing employees are a solid resource who can help you learn what you don't know. Frequent and anonymous org-wide surveys give you the chance to ask your teams how they feel about diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. Responses will help identify gaps in current DEI efforts, and knowing what's working and what's not will help inform your strategic goals going forward.
Periodic pulse surveys also allow you to track trends over time and eventually gauge the progress of your DEI initiatives. What's more, employees will feel like their voices matter in the company's greater diversity conversation.
Step 2: Encourage recruiters to look beyond the resume
It's difficult to glean from one piece of paper whether an applicant is a suitable fit for a particular work environment. As you build your teams, encourage recruiters to keep an eye out for soft skills and transferable skills. These traits can't be taught--they come from work experience and life experience. Such skills can include problem solving, critical thinking, adaptability, and teamwork.
New hires who enter a role already possessing these skills will likely be able to learn the technical aspects of the job quickly. Allen's advice is to focus less on fit, and start looking for culture add.
"If we overemphasize the skill sets and personalities we're most comfortable with or that have 'the best fit,' we can reinforce our blind spots and miss out on perspectives (and accompanying innovation necessary) to push the organization to the next level," Allen says. "Culture-add sets into motion what Einstein meant when he said that we can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. Culture-add includes being able to approach leadership and problem-solving through a lens of equity and inclusion."
Step 3: Institute ERGs
Employee resource groups (ERGs) are employee-led groups where colleagues can connect over similar interests and identities. ERGs also can serve as the setting for spirited conversations among employees of all backgrounds.
Your employees may benefit from inclusive communities outside work, but having these kinds of connections inside the workplace only amplifies a sense of belonging.
Step 4: Facilitate cross-team projects
Team members can get pretty comfortable working with the same people each day, especially in the increasingly disconnected world of remote work. Encouraging cross-team projects requires workers to think beyond their bubble and engage in different working styles.
A collaborative project that involves members of different teams can bring fruitful results, not only for camaraderie but also for the business. In fact, it's been shown that diversity and profitability are inextricably linked.
Extra credit: Rearrange the letters to put 'equity' and 'inclusion' first
When DEI becomes EID, you'll put greater emphasis on the equitable aspects of your brand, business, and people.
Equity means all employees have access to the resources they need in order to succeed in their specific career path. Companies that focus more on diversity may neglect to continue efforts to support these employees after they're hired.
By identifying current gaps in DEI efforts, encouraging cross-team collaboration, and putting your employees' endeavors for professional achievement first, you'll build a successful workplace that puts all employees on the same path to success.