You’re ready to help your company make good on its goals to diversify and build up its culture of inclusion, equity, and belonging in 2023. You know that intent without action won’t lead to impact, and you want to understand which DE&I initiatives make the most sense to start investing action and resources in.
Creating a strong foundation of DEIB at your organization takes time and commitment, and you won’t have completed this work simply by rolling out a couple DE&I initiatives and considering your boxes checked. It’s critical to ensure that your DE&I initiatives are free of performative allyship and are instead rooted in what will actually improve the day-to-day work experiences of folks from underrepresented and marginalized backgrounds.
Looking for a good place to start? Here are 10 DE&I initiatives all companies should consider implementing in 2023.
1. Incorporate DE&I initiatives into strategic planning.
Several leaders have publicly committed to making their workplaces more diverse, inclusive, and equitable. Pledges are a great first step, but not enough for lasting change at your organization. Persuade your leadership team to translate their public commitment into a DE&I strategy and tangible projects. Leadership should commit to updating employees on the progress of DE&I projects at least once every quarter. To take things a step further, automate updates through a combination of project management tools and dashboards to give employees a great self-serve option for tracking project progress at their leisure.
2. Survey the existing DE&I landscape.
Let’s say you’ve secured leadership buy-in and are in the process of putting together a DE&I strategy for your company – what projects will you include? A thoughtful (and effective) DE&I strategy should reflect the needs of your business and your employees.
Benchmark reports evaluate a company’s existing DE&I strategy relative to their industry peers and pinpoint where your organization excels, and where it fails. Once you’ve identified areas of improvement to your existing DE&I strategy, run an employee pulse survey to understand employee pain points, specifically those relating to DE&I themes. Prioritize ideas that overlap the gaps from benchmark reports as well as needs uncovered via employee pulse surveys. For more support, a DE&I consultant can give your company a fresh perspective on important DE&I projects that employees or industry reports may have missed.
3. Share DE&I data openly and frequently.
Data disclosure is a powerful lever for change. For example, restaurants that display calories for each menu item are more likely to include healthier menu options compared to restaurants that don’t share calorie content for their foods. Similarly, by simply being exposed to the right data, organizations can build metrics dashboards to summarize where they currently stand and where they want to be. Invest time into thinking through the key metrics your organization will track to measure the progress and impact of its DE&I strategy. Build and share the organization’s data methodology so employees understand how and when data is collected, as well as where and how often data is shared. Not only does data sharing make DE&I projects more tangible in the eyes of your employees, but they also keep leadership and project owners accountable.
4. Make hiring a group effort.
Recognize and tackle implicit bias by making hiring a team responsibility. Utilize multiple interviewers instead of a single interviewer to introduce different perspectives on a candidate’s performance and reduce bias. Use technical assignments rather than traditional interviews to assess a candidate’s skill set. And finally, make the final hiring decision be a vote rather than the choice of a single individual. Since these practices may lengthen the hiring process, don’t forget to also compensate your candidate for their time and effort.
5. Bring structure to employee referral programs.
People hired through referrals are almost twice as likely to stay at a company for four or more years compared to peers hired from job boards. Moreover, referral hires cost $1,000 less on average compared to hires from non-referral sources. However, referral programs could actually be hurting your company rather than helping it. Gauge whether your referrals are spread out across the company and across demographics, or if candidates are referred by a select group of employees time and again. If the latter is true, encourage more of your workforce to refer candidates.
To ensure referrals are a good culture fit, ask employees to share a few examples of how their referrals embody your company values, or how the candidate brings something new to the team. Referral programs are not going away anytime soon – so work with your HR and DE&I functions to standardize and constantly monitor your referral program in order to minimize bias as much as possible.
6. Write and regularly revise your employee code of conduct.
There is no one way to define diversity, equity, or inclusion, leaving room for interpretation and subjective opinion. While diverse perspectives are often a strength, setting boundaries for interpersonal conduct is vital to ensuring a safe space at work.
An employee code of conduct instills clarity on what behavior is and isn’t acceptable in the workplace and gives employees clear guidelines on how to identify and report unacceptable behavior, including things like microaggressions. If you already have a code of conduct in place, employee pulse surveys are a great place to gain feedback on what’s missing from your existing documentation. And if you’re creating a code of conduct from scratch, consider consulting an expert to help you draft a robust and actionable code of conduct.
7. Recognize employee resource groups (ERGs) and their leaders.
ERG sponsors and leaders are often at odds with each other over the impact that ERGs have on an organization. A recent study reported that 78% of ERG sponsors believe ERGs help with career advancement, but only 40% of ERG leaders agree with this sentiment. Sponsors and ERG leaders also disagree on the extent to which ERGs encourage employee participation or create a sense of belonging. To run a successful ERG at your company, ensure that you promote ERG participation as well as support ERG leaders with budget and recognition. The larger the ERG is, the more influence it yields. ERGs with 100+ participants are two times as likely to serve as a strategic resource for their organization.
To truly reap the benefits of an ERG, support leaders with the proper resources, time allocation, and go-ahead for a certain amount of required member participation. And while you’re at, pay your ERG leaders if you can.
8. Engage in DE&I training across all management levels.
A Bersin report on Fortune 500 companies found that while almost all 500 companies offer some form of DE&I training, 80% are just going through the motions. DE&I training that goes beyond passive participation is one of many initiatives required to properly execute your DE&I strategy. The world of DE&I is constantly changing, which means that expert-led and interactive trainings, when paired with other DE&I initiatives, can be a great way to raise awareness and learn new perspectives. To ensure you make the most of your training session, make them mandatory for everyone in your organization, including leadership.
9. Rethink your data analytics (and AI) practices.
Amazon’s recruitment AI made headlines a few years ago for showing bias against female candidates for technical roles. While the tool has since been scrapped, artificial intelligence isn’t going away anytime soon. Nearly 55% of companies are investing in recruitment automation and believe AI can save time and help teams work smarter. Artificial intelligence is only as biased as the individuals developing it. In the case of Amazon’s hiring tool, the AI preferred male candidates to female candidates because they were a dominant share of the candidate pool, and teams failed to account for such risks in their code.
Persuade your technical organization to identify, recode, and refine data analysis practices, including hiring for technical teams to introduce different perspectives and minimize bias when building, collecting, and analyzing data models.
10. Test your products with a variety of users.
When thinking about DE&I initiatives, don’t stop at internal projects. Greater DE&I also benefits your end customers. Gain user feedback on customer touchpoints such as ads, packaging design, and product usage and experience. You may uncover opportunities to make your products more accessible, or refine messaging to target new customer segments and ultimately drive business growth.