Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is everyone’s responsibility—even if you have a Chief Diversity Officer. Every single employee and company leader can play a role in the success or failure of a company’s DEI efforts. That’s because the work is never truly done, and companies benefit when everyone offers their input. If you find that your employees are hanging out on the sidelines, here are 5 ways to nudge them toward making a more meaningful contribution.

1. Encourage employee resource groups

Employee resource groups (ERGs), also known as affinity groups, are a common way employees get involved in a company’s DEI efforts. They are voluntary groups that build community between employees with shared characteristics, interests, and issues so they may support one another. For instance, women, Black employees, workers with disabilities, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer (LGBTQ+) employees. If your company is still small, a DEI task force can be a good alternative first step.

Encourage these groups to form and meet by providing executive sponsorship and budget—but leave the groups to be run by its members. This will ensure that the group can meet their goals and objectives, with the support they need to be successful. A sponsor is also key to sending the group’s feedback to company leadership. For instance, an ERG for parents might suggest a “Bring your Kids to Work Day,” or advocate for team building events that happen during business hours. This sort of feedback can help make the workplace more inclusive to parents.

2. Share employee stories

There can be many challenges with being an “only.” That is, the only woman on a team, the only Black person in the company, or the only parent in the office. Candidates want to see others like them, and employee stories can help them see your company’s commitment to DEI.

Be intentional about getting stories from a diverse group of employees. For instance, someone from your LGBTQ+ ERG can share a blog post or video about what the organization does to celebrate Pride. A recently promoted female employee can write a blog post about her career path and development opportunities at your company. Or a Black engineer can do a Twitter takeover to share a behind-the-scenes look of a “Day in the Life.”

3. Request diverse referrals

Referred candidates are faster to hire, cost less to recruit, onboard faster, perform better and stay longer. But a common issue with these coveted candidates is that they don’t tend to contribute to a very diverse talent pipeline.

Be international about requesting diverse referrals by asking for candidates with specific characteristics or from certain demographics. For instance, “Who is the best female engineer in your network?” or “Who is the best Black salesperson you know?”

This is also an excellent opportunity to tap your ERGs for recommendations. The parents at your company are likely to know other parents, and LGBTQ employees may be involved with a larger LGBTQ+ community outside of work. Members of your ERGs can be instrumental in providing diverse referrals—while also being able to speak to your company’s inclusivity.

4. Build a DEI education budget

Get more employees involved in your DEI efforts by enabling them to learn and network. Arrange for a speaker to do a lunch and learn at your office, or host an external event for a local association. Sponsor company leaders and ERG community managers to attend DEI conferences, and sponsor employees to attend local meetups and join associations. While the goal is to learn, company representatives could also be adding valuable connections to their networks.

Offer training and coaching to help interviewers, managers, and leaders recognize biases and make more fair decisions. Company leaders, in particular, should be held accountable for meeting specific diversity objectives on their teams. Leaders who fail to meet those objectives may benefit from a structured development program.


5. Talk about your DEI efforts

Talk about your commitment to DEI and the programs and initiatives that support it, early and often. For example:

  • Discuss and demonstrate your commitment to DEI on your career site. Publish a statement around the importance of diversity at your company, and demographic information that you’re proud to share. Feature your diverse workforce in photos, and ask them for quotes, testimonials, or stories about working at your company.
  • Discuss and demonstrate your commitment to DEI during your interview process. Let candidates know your goals around diversity, and what progress you’ve already made. Be intentional about setting a diverse interview panel.
  • Share your DEI initiatives during employee onboarding. Let new employees know about your ERGs, when they meet, and how to get involved (if they so choose). Let them know you encourage ongoing education, and share information for some local associations other employees are involved with. Ask if they know any great candidates from underrepresented groups.
  • Talk about DEI during company all-hands meetings. Discuss your new initiatives, and share the progress you’ve made toward goals. Share upcoming events you’re hosting, and ERG meetup information.

Final thoughts on getting employees more involved with DEI

Once you get employees involved with your DEI efforts, it’s crucial that you collect—and act on—their feedback. Then communicate the progress of your DEI program and how employees have contributed. This will ensure that employees feel their opinions are valued, so they keep up the effort to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.

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