If you haven't yet built an effective diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy at your company, now is the time. There's no shortage of reasons to do so: It can help create a culture of support and appreciation, foster a friendly workspace free from microaggression, and increase overall employee satisfaction, among others. Simply put, it's just the right thing to do.

At the same time, it's also a key way to retain your employees. In a recent survey of 1,000 full-time U.S. workers by employee recognition company Workhuman, 46 percent said that DEI strategy affects how long they plan to stay at an organization. Here are three tips from experts on what you need to do to support your underrepresented employees.

1. Spend money on DEI professionals.

Hiring outside DEI consultants doesn't come cheap. Depending on the size of your company and the breadth of issues you're working on, it could take months and cost tens of thousands of dollars or more. But doing a deep dive into your company's culture to figure out how to repair it is worth the money, says Doyin Richards, a Los Angeles-based DEI consultant and corporate anti-racism facilitator. Get referrals from other companies to ensure you're getting the best consultants for your needs, Richards adds.

Another useful strategy is to start an inclusion department and hire a DEI leader. The nature of the education and training that's required will depend on your industry and workforce makeup, so you should customize it to suit your company, suggests Donnebra McClendon, the global head of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Minneapolis-based management consulting firm Ceridian. "You cannot improve at DEI until you take full stock of where you are," McClendon says. "Gather qualitative and quantitative data. Listen to employees in focus groups discussing the state of DEI at work -- do they feel a sense of belonging? If not, what do they need?"

2. Stop making DEI a check-the-box exercise.

While DEI training may not be a magic elixir in advancing underrepresented employees in the workplace, it can improve awareness among those who haven't had much exposure to the subject matter. Still, says Workhuman chief human resources officer Steve Pemberton, instead of addressing bias only in DEI training, companies should take more proactive measures to make the workplace more inclusive: "We need new approaches and new tools that recognize talent early on, encourage its growth and development, and move the DEI conversation from corrective action to competitive advantage."

3. Start employee resource groups and become an ally.

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are staff-led groups where colleagues can connect over similar interests and identities. They can serve as a safe space for employees of all backgrounds, and help to create a sense of belonging. Ask ERG leaders to set ground rules for communication in meetings and keep track of the group's progress at agreed-upon intervals.

When you're setting up ERGs, however, it is important to distribute the work fairly. A recent study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution found that in academic settings, underrepresented faculty members play a disproportionate role in advancing DEI. And Black professionals are often uncomfortable being asked to lead their employer's DEI programs, The New York Times reports. Kim Crowder, a Carmel, Indiana-based DEI consultant, suggests that "current employees should avoid and not be asked to become the 'expert' on diversity, equity, and inclusion within their organizations because they are often not protected and don't have the power to make changes."

Pemberton adds that you don't need to "fit" into one of the DEI categories to join a group and be an ally. "Education and proximity are how we can defeat discrimination; the more time we take to understand those different from us, to develop cultural flexibility, the more we can be an ally."