The events of 2020 painfully revealed how much work lies before our society to make the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion, often abbreviated as DEI, a reality in our workplaces and other community institutions. Your team can make tangible progress toward these goals in 2021 by prioritizing them in the strategic planning that takes place as the new year unfolds. Here are three ways to start improving DEI in your organization:
1. Assess your current efforts to achieve workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion, starting as early as the recruiting process.
- Are you reaching out to diverse communities and cultivating relationships with organizations that have the influence necessary to train and support the type of employees you are looking to hire?
- Does discrimination in pay and hiring practices exist, and if so, where?
- Once employees are onboarded, are paths to advancement within the organization clearly and equally communicated? Are the workplace policies inclusive?
- Are the decisionmakers in your organization diverse? If so, what was their path like to that position? What changes can be made to expand access to key roles?
Questions like these should be part of your assessment, which should be conducted at regular intervals (quarterly, annually, etc.). This assessment can be conducted by an outside firm that specializes in DEI audits, or by a panel of employees representing these diverse audiences who are properly compensated for their additional time and effort on the assessment.
2. Training and mentorship will be vital to instilling a common understanding of how important DEI is to your organization. Your employees are likely already well-versed in your company’s mission, vision, and values. The next step is ensuring that your company’s anti-racism work and DEI efforts are explicitly included in those values. Consider providing additional trainings on topics such as anti-racism and unconscious bias to further strengthen your shared understanding.
Mentorship is a key tool to increase the pipeline of diverse candidates for leadership. Examples of DEI-aligned initiatives include:
- Scholarships and internship programs for HBCU students
- Outreach to nontraditional students joining your industry
- Recruiting and empowering disabled employees
- Mentorship programs to ensure that employees who are underrepresented on your leadership team are equipped to succeed.
3. Feedback will help you refine your DEI program on an ongoing basis. Establish a dedicated email and/or phone number for employees, customers, and other stakeholders to share initiatives that would improve equity and support diversity. As you pursue community involvement opportunities, make it a priority to forge stronger relationships with the Black community and communities of color. You can do this by joining and donating to local civil rights organizations, and learning about the partnerships, initiatives, and investment opportunities they are seeking.
As the late civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis wrote, “Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part.” Increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion must be a sustained effort, but a new year presents us with new opportunities to learn from the past, do our part, and be better listeners, advocates, and leaders at work and in the community.