Over half (52 percent) of employers say the Chief Human Resources Officer is either partially or fully responsible for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at their companies. Thirty six percent said the CEO was partially or fully responsible, 15 percent said employee resource groups were responsible, and 11 percent said a Chief DEI Officer was responsible. And 17 percent of employers said nobody was officially responsible for DEI.

The truth is, DEI is everyone’s responsibility. It can’t be left to the CHRO or CEO alone because every team member’s behaviors and actions play a role in how diverse, equitable, and inclusive a workplace is—and can be.

A DEI committee takes the most passionate DEI champions and channels them to amplify the voice of your entire workforce and drive meaningful change. Here’s what you need to know to create a DEI committee your organization can be proud of.

What is a DEI committee?

A DEI committee is a small group of employees who champion diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. The committee may be directly responsible for change, or act as advisors and accountability partners to company leaders.

Best practices for getting started

A DEI committee may happen organically, as your team members take it upon themselves to create a more diverse and equitable workplace. Or it may come from a concerted effort to get your team members more involved in the day-to-day of your diversity, equity, and inclusion program. Either way, here are some best practices to help you set off on the right foot.

1. Get leadership buy-in

A DEI committee will be most successful when company leaders believe in the value your committee will bring to the organization. Make sure company leaders understand why you want to create a formal DEI committee and what the committee will accomplish. Leadership buy-in helps DEI initiatives get the attention and funding they deserve so real change can be accomplished. 

The good news? Ninety six percent of CEOs assert that DEI is a personal strategic priority for them and they’re ready to invest in its success.

Once your leadership team is onboard, keep them in loop around committee goals, recommendations, actions, and results. This can help your committee retain buy-in.

2. Find your team members who are most passionate about DEI

You want your DEI committee to be inclusive, but not so large that it becomes difficult to hear every committee members’ voice, enact change, and run effective meetings. Survey your team to gauge interest in joining the committee, DEI experience, and diversity characteristics. 

Choose 5-15 people who are passionate about DEI, ready to take action, and represent your diverse team. Try to mix things up to prioritize people who may have different perspectives and workplace experiences. For example, a veteran who’s an individual contributor on your Sales team, a new mom at the director level on your Finance team, and a Black gay manager on your Engineering team. Each can provide a unique viewpoint on the workplace.

Select one or two committee chairs to provide team leadership and act as a liaison between the committee and company leaders. You may also form sub-committees for things like DEI events or training.

3. Set goals

Your DEI committee should take time early on to set short- and long-term goals, revisiting and updating them regularly. Work with company leaders to understand organizational goals and survey your team to understand their perspectives, needs, and challenges in the workplace. 

Then use that information to brainstorm and prioritize DEI goals and initiatives that can contribute to the company’s success and make a positive impact in the employee experience. For example, if company leaders are focused on retention and your team members from marginalized groups are concerned about lack of career mobility, your committee might suggest launching a mentoring program.

4. Provide budget

A dedicated budget provides your DEI committee with operational funds and gives them power to implement their ideas. For instance, they may want to order snacks for a meeting, bring in a DEI consultant to provide expertise, or plan a company-wide DEI event.

Discuss what the budget can be used for and what level of spending requires additional approvals. For example, spending a few hundred dollars on pizza while streaming a TED Talk may not require approval, while hiring a consultant would.

Sharing your wins

Measure your committee’s progress, and share your wins with company leaders and team members. For example, if a mentorship program increased internal mobility for people from marginalized communities, quantify that. Or perhaps a suggestion to make employee benefits more inclusive boosted your employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) among your LGBTQ+ colleagues. Share that! 

And be sure to provide recognition to the members of your DEI committee for the work they put in and the impact they make. This could be anything from a thank you to a bonus.

You should be proud of your accomplishments and the members of your team who are responsible for them.

Final thoughts on creating a DEI committee

Like any program that focuses on your people, your DEI committee will require ongoing support to ensure its long-term success. Stay in sync to learn what your committee members need to make impactful change and feel valued for their contributions. This will help you make continuous improvements and create a DEI committee your organization can be proud of.

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Creating a DEI Committee That Your Organization is Proud Of