How to succeed at DE&I in your workplace

C-suite buy-in, employee feedback, and assessing the status quo are core to any DE&I strategy, one expert says.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

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While a majority of US workers believe that DE&I efforts are good for the bottom line, some companies may still not know the basics of crafting a DE&I strategy. While every business has different needs, some experts say that there are a few components every DE&I program should have.

A long-term plan. “Many efforts come out of the gates with a significant amount of momentum,” said Franklin Reed, executive director of global inclusion, diversity, and equity at TEKsystems, a technology management company. Reed told HR Brew that leaders need to be educated and know their long-term goals before developing or executing a strategy.

Ella Washington, a DE&I expert and organizational psychologist, said in a Harvard Business Review article that businesses need to know how their employees are impacted by diversity or discrimination in all facets of their lives. This basic foundational knowledge will help them determine their next steps, Washington wrote.

Company-wide participation. Reed said that successful DE&I programs need a variety of participants. He added that without an employee dedicated to DE&I strategy and execution, it’s hard to see progress being made.

Diversity programs should also have buy-in from leadership to show all employees that the program is valuable, Reed noted. “You need to have C-suite involvement and then a huge focus has to be placed on the systems that are reinforcing either lack of diversity, the lack of acute inclusion or inequities,” he said.

Some HR or diversity leaders may think that employee resource groups (ERGs) are a natural first step, but Reed said that while ERGs can be useful, leaders should conduct an assessment before creating them. At TEKsystems, they established where their DE&I gaps were before deciding how ERGs would be part of the solution. The result was establishing a woman-focused affinity group as their first ERG, and then they expanded from there.

Impact. DE&I programs have been under scrutiny recently, and Reed said that diversity leaders should measure their programs through a long-term lens. “The most successful DE&I initiatives happen when the impact is becoming so great, and you’re not only seeing it for that particular community, but you’re able to get to a point where that program becomes part of how the organization operates,” he said.

Tina Bigalke, chief diversity officer at PepsiCo, believes that measurement is a key part of diversity initiatives. PepsiCo takes a bird’s-eye view and tracks various metrics including gender parity in management progress, overall diversity representation numbers, and retention of diverse populations.

“Regardless of the economic environment, the war for talent is stronger than it’s ever been,” Bigalke said. “When you look at macroeconomic trends occurring, how the world is diversifying, being an inclusive leader, is the leadership imperative of this decade.”

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