DEI isn’t just the responsibility of one person or team. It’s shared by every employee, from the C-suite to entry-level talent. In our latest webinar, "How to ingrain DEI initiatives into your performance and engagement strategies," we sat down with industry experts to learn how they’ve been able to make diversity, inclusion, and belonging a top priority for everyone in their organizations.
We had the pleasure of tapping into the expertise of Aleah Warren, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager at Affirm; Anna Taylor, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager at BetMGM; and Dacia Mitchell, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at KQED in a conversation moderated by Culture Amp’s own Customer Success Coach and ERG Leader, Setira Grizzle.
Here’s just a taste of their panel discussion, including five tips on how you can ingrain DEI practices into your performance and engagement strategies.
Change takes time
While you might be itchy to see the results of your DEI efforts immediately, you need to remember that meaningful change takes time. “As you’re gearing up to do this work, forming relationships, and organizing your strategy, it’s important to remind folks that this takes time. If it was easy or if it took a short amount of time, we wouldn’t have jobs. Racism and sexism and all the other -isms would be solved,” urged Mitchell.
Be upfront about the fact that the impact of your DEI initiatives won’t be felt immediately throughout the organization. This helps set expectations early and encourages your team to be patient. “This is lifelong work. You’re not going to see change in a month, or maybe even in three months, but you will see it in a year,” said Mitchell. “Just focus on pushing yourself and moving the needle steadily over time.”
Identify organizational pain points
Before you jump into creating DEI goals for your organization, take the time to assess what areas of your business need the most attention. For example, your company may have above-average diversity on paper, but after digging into the details, you notice the organization lacks diversity at the senior leadership level. Every organization is different, so you need to get the full picture of the employee experience at your business before you dive headfirst into setting goals.
Where should you start? With the data, says Warren. “Pull together all the information from your HRIS, ATS, and Culture Amp DEI surveys to identify where you’re doing good and where you need to work on things,” suggested Warren. “There are a lot of best practices out there, but they might not be applicable to that stage of your organization or your unique pain points.”
Even if you aren’t in a place to run a DEI survey yet, pull DEI data from your HRIS and ATS to give you a pulse check on what your organization looks like right now. That can help you identify pain points and help you determine more relevant goals for your DEI efforts.
To keep DEI top of mind for your employees and encourage them to learn more about pressing societal and workplace issues, try giving them access to robust resources so they can self-serve their curiosity.
At Affirm, Warren and her team send out a weekly email newsletter populated with articles on trending DEI topics and guides to help employees educate themselves on these issues. The articles also get shared in a DEI-specific Slack channel where employees can share their thoughts, ask questions, and learn in a safe space. Every Affirm employee also attends bias training to encourage a more open dialogue around the topic and help make employees more aware of their own biases and privileges.
Regularly talking about DEI as a company has helped reduce some of the discomfort people have for the topic and has created more accountability at all levels of the organization, says Warren. “We talk about DEI everywhere and in every meeting. People are getting used to hearing about it, talking about it, and incorporating it into their day-to-day lives,” said Warren. “It’s also helpful to have lots of different people talk about it. Letting all those different perspectives get heard in a larger group setting is really helpful.”
Build leadership buy-in
Some leaders might already be more bought-in to DEI than others. For those who are on the fence, you need to make things personal. “Start the conversation by asking ‘why,’” suggested Taylor. “Ask your leaders ‘Why is DEI important to you personally? How does it align with the business for you? How do you plan to hold yourself and our employees accountable?’. Having them understand why DEI is important to them and the business will create a good foundation for you to always fall back on. If they ever start to sway off the path, you can always come back to ‘Remember, this is why we’re doing this, this is why this is important to you,’” she said. Creating that emotional connection with your leaders and making DEI personal can help you gain their long-term support.
Make DEI a top priority for leadership
Change moves through an organization from the top down. That’s why it’s so important to earn that executive buy-in from the get-go. But, while your exec team can be your biggest advocates, their buy-in can fade over time if you don’t keep DEI at the forefront for them.
There are a few ways to keep your executive team updated on your ongoing initiatives. You can encourage them to be executive sponsors of an employee resource group (ERG), participate in a DEI steering committee, attend regular DEI training sessions with employees, or just share updates and processes periodically at senior leadership or executive meetings. This helps everyone feel in the know and accountable for improving DEI at your organization.
“I’ve found that sometimes HR and DEI folks are doing all this stuff, and the leaders don’t even know about it. We want to make sure that they’re looped in so they can advocate and speak on our behalf,” said Warren. “Say we’re doing a mentorship program for people of color. Our leaders can talk about that program with their teams and encourage people to be a part of that program.”
Keeping communication open with the C-suite can improve transparency and accountability by ensuring every area of the business feels buy-in for the success of your DEI programs. Mitchell says she joins weekly exec meetings to give them updates and hold senior leaders accountable. “I tell them, ‘These are the things we agreed on last week, and this is what we’re doing now based on what you agreed to.’ That eliminates that opportunity for them to step back from what we agreed on, except in that moment. If objections have arisen since we last spoke, that gives us the opportunity to talk it through and to name those concerns so we can continue to address them. You need to keep that conversation going, so it isn’t just, ‘Go fix racism and we’ll see you in six months!’” she said.
Embedding DEI practices into your company culture
Looking for more ways to embed DEI into every aspect of your company culture’s architecture? Watch our on-demand webinar, "How to ingrain DEI initiatives into your performance and engagement strategies," for expert advice and DEI best practices. You’ll learn how to create a DEI strategy that doesn’t just “check the box” but has a tangible, positive impact on employee performance and engagement throughout your business.
Create an inclusive workforce
Identify actions you can take to ensure DEI initiatives are ingrained into all aspects of your employee experience strategy.