Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are top of mind for many People Ops teams and company leaders. We know that diverse thoughts, perspectives, and experiences can make each team member a value-add to our company. But we also know that we have much work to do to attract, retain, and engage talent from diverse backgrounds.
Rather than trying to “boil the ocean,” break your DEI work into smaller pieces so you can make progress and build momentum. Here are 10 ways you can improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace:
1. Build an inclusive company culture
The most important thing you can do to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion within your workplace is to build an inclusive company culture. This provides psychological safety for your diverse group of team members to bring their authentic selves to work.
Begin with a basic understanding that differences are welcome and celebrated at your organization. Let each team member know that their feedback is valued—and encouraged—and implement changes that will build a more inclusive culture. DEI work is never truly finished, and this is an area you can always improve upon.
2. Set Key Performance Indicators
What gets measured, gets done. Set key performance indicators (KPIs) and hold people accountable for achieving them.
For example, you may choose to set goals for:
- Representation: Compare the representation of people from underrepresented groups to market demographics or industry benchmarks. Set KPIs to improve representation overall, by job level, or by role.
- Talent acquisition: Recruiting KPIs can roll-up to representation KPIs, and may be assigned to your talent acquisition team and hiring managers. For instance, you may implement sourcing goals or quotas to hire more people from underrepresented groups.
- Retention: Compare the average employee tenure by demographics, and dig into exit survey data to identify trends for each group. Set KPIs around retention goals and key focus areas that should lead to higher retention.
- Promotions: Look at your representation by job level, promotion rate by demographic, and time to promotion by demographic. Set KPIs to encourage promotions for team members from underrepresented groups.
3. Involve the entire team
Diversity, equity, and inclusion is everyone’s responsibility. Each team member has the ability to impact the company culture, provide feedback, and refer candidates.
Get employees more involved in your DEI efforts so that you may have an entire army on the ground, amplifying your message and carrying out your values. This might include:
- Referring candidates from underrepresented groups
- Participating in employee resource groups
- Attending unconscious bias training
4. Build a fair hiring process
Once you have the foundations of an inclusive culture, KPIs, and team involvement, you may begin to focus on recruiting candidates from underrepresented groups. Take the time to build a fair hiring process, which may include:
- Rewriting job descriptions: Delineate must-have and nice-to-have qualifications, and remove gender-coded language, so you don’t inadvertently screen out candidates from underrepresented groups.
- Blind resume reviews: Remove names, schools, addresses, and any other identifying or irrelevant information from resumes so they don’t factor into the decision-making process.
- Utilize structured interviews: Ask each candidate the same questions, so you can compare them apples-to-apples and make more objective hiring decisions.
5. Pay attention to pay equity
The wage gap is real—and it’s pervasive. Pay attention to pay equity when you make offers, and during each raise cycle or promotion. This is best achieved through building a compensation strategy, complete with salary bands, and keeping an eye on pay equity metrics like compa ratio, range penetration, and average salary. Never ask for salary history, as that can perpetuate wage gaps and enable them to grow over time.
6. Sponsor employee resource groups
Employee resource groups (ERGs) are voluntary groups that build community between employees with shared characteristics, interests, and issues so they may support one another. For instance, there may be ERGs for women, Black employees, or people with disabilities.
Provide resources to enable these groups to meet, and ensure executive sponsorship to help each group meet their objectives, and create a line of communication with company leaders.
7. Act on team member feedback
Collect feedback any way you can—surveys, employee resource groups, or a suggestion box—and act on it. Let your team know when you’ve implemented their feedback, so they know it’s appreciated and taken seriously. And, whenever possible, share results from team suggestions. This can keep team members engaged in improving your organization's DEI efforts.
8. Revisit employee benefits
Many traditional employee benefits are exclusive by nature. For example, a holiday schedule that includes only Christian holidays, or healthcare benefits geared toward traditional families. Revisit your employee benefits to make them more inclusive. For example:
- Provide floating holidays to team members can celebrate holidays of their choosing.
- Choose a healthcare plan that includes mental wellness benefits, as well as benefits that support the LGBTQ+ community.
- Offer flex schedules to improve work-life balance, especially for those with caretaking responsibilities or high medical needs.
9. Offer DEI education
Bias is a natural phenomenon, but can hurt DEI efforts when left unchecked. Offer educational resources to your team to help them recognize and respond to their biases in a fair way. This may include:
- Unconscious bias training, especially for interviewers
- Lunch and learn speaker series
- External event sponsorship
- DEI conference budget
- Leadership coaching
10. Talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion
Finally, you can improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace by keeping it top of mind for each team member. Share your DEI efforts and results in as many places as you can. For example:
- Meetings: Highlight important employee feedback, share KPIs, and report on progress toward KPIs in team meetings so everyone is kept informed.
- Website: Share your commitment to DEI on your website, potentially alongside public demographic information that you’re proud to have accomplished.
- Onboarding: Get new employees on-board with your DEI programs early by discussing them during the employee onboarding process.
Final thoughts on improving diversity, equity, and inclusion
Every company’s journey to diversity, equity, and inclusion will be different. Let your team members lead the way, and keep a close eye on your data to measure progress and areas for improvement.
Try to be transparent with your team around what you’re focusing on, why, and where you stand with regard to your goals. This can go a long way toward fostering goodwill. Even if you have a long way to go, earning some grace with your team members can help you continue to make progress in the right direction.