The best way to set diversity and inclusion goals

Using the S.M.A.R.T. goals framework, we unpack how to set good DEIB goals using specific examples — and, just as importantly, how to measure your progress.

Cartoon image of a group of diverse colleagues setting diversity and inclusion goals at work

Diversity and inclusion goals help organizations move forward in their Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging journey with motivation and purpose. Having a vision for a brighter future will help create a better workplace for everyone. But diversity and inclusion goals need to be clear. And they need to be measurable. According to the Harvard Business Review, about 60% of organizations have a DEI strategy, yet only 26% have specific gender representation goals and just 16% have race representation goals.

Diversity and inclusion S.M.A.R.T. goals are the most practical way to approach DEIB goal-setting. If you’re not familiar with the S.M.A.R.T. goal framework, we’ll explain everything you need to know about applying this concept to diversity and inclusion performance goals. There are also key actions an organization can take, such as getting the right stakeholders engaged in the diversity and inclusion goal setting process, that we’ll recommend. Below, here is how to set DEIB goals and achieve meaningful results.

Industry-leading diversity and inclusion goals

First, let’s take a look under the hood of what some firms are using for their diversity and inclusion goals.

Salesforce. The San Francisco-based software company is targeting a 50% increase in their representation of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and mutiracial employees in the U.S. by the end of 2023. They are also aspiring to a 40% increase in their global representation of women and non-binary employees by 2026.

McDonald’s. The global fast food giant set a goal of closing their global pay gap between men and women. In 2022, they began with a pay gap analysis and found that women at McDonald's made an average of $0.9991 for every $1 in base pay that men were paid for similar work. They have committed to closing this gap in 2023.

Starbucks. By 2025, Starbucks’ goal is to achieve racial and ethnic diversity of at least 30% at all corporate levels and at least 40% in retail and manufacturing roles. They have also taken a look at their supply chain and committed to spending $1.5 billion annually with underrepresented suppliers by 2030 — nearly double their current amount.

Amazon. The online retail giant set diversity and inclusion goals to double the number of U.S. Black employees at the Director and VP level. They also set goals to increase the number of U.S. Black employees at the middle management level by 30% over the previous year as well as increasing the number of women in senior positions in tech and science by 30%.

Sephora. The beauty company committed to the “15 Percent Pledge,” dedicating at least 15% of their assortment to Black-owned brands. They have achieved 15% in the hair category and continue to work on this goal across all products.

One takeaway from these examples is that diversity and inclusion goals are specific to each company. Good DEIB goals clearly reflect a company’s products, customers, and employees. This is an excellent model to follow. Setting your diversity and inclusion goals means first taking stock of your company’s unique situation and current needs.

A successful foundation

Before getting started with aspirational diversity and inclusion goals, you need a successful foundation. Here’s what you can do prior to setting goals.

Get buy-in.

You need executive buy-in for any changes to organizational goals and processes. DEIB goals that are siloed in HR will struggle. Somethings you can do to get buy-in are:

  • Tie your DEIB goals to specific business goals, like improving employee retention by a certain percentage or capturing new customer markets (something diversely staffed companies are 70% more likely to do)
  • Emphasize the importance of leading by example – and make the case that both employees and customers are paying attention to your organization’s DEIB commitment and stances
  • Create a convincing case through data and human-centered storytelling; running an internal diversity and inclusion survey or partnering with a platform that offers DEIB data and insights, like PowerUp, can help you get and leverage this data

As an inclusion-minded leader, you can lead the charge, but you can’t go it alone. Executive leaders are the only ones who can hold their fellow senior leaders accountable for diversity and inclusion goals.

Bring all stakeholders to the table.

Company-wide goals need to have the input and consensus of all the stakeholders involved. Who, exactly, is a stakeholder? A stakeholder is anyone with an interest or responsibility in the initiative. For diversity and inclusion work, it’s important that this initiative is cross-functional and spans all levels of the organization. You’ll need your ERGs (if you have them) or other representation from employees. You also need executives and department heads to sign off on diversity and inclusion goals for managers. But don’t stop there; think outside the box and invite customers or community representatives. If your organization is a presence in the wider community, your diversity and inclusion goals impact more than just employees.

Know how to facilitate a goal-setting meeting.

If you’ve done the hard work of bringing stakeholders together, you want to make sure you’re set up to facilitate the meeting well. Getting different people with sometimes conflicting interests to set a collective goal can be a challenge. Consider bringing in an expert facilitator or getting certified in facilitation techniques. It’s a valuable skill if your job includes setting goals like this. Here’s one way to facilitate a diversity and inclusion goal-setting meeting:

  • In groups, give participants sticky notes. Write on the white board “I hope to see…” and allow the groups to ideastorm different possibilities for what your organization could look like and what kinds of support it could offer.
  • Choose goals from these ideas – for example, if a sticky note says “more professional development opportunities for underrepresented early-career professionals,” a goal could be a starting a mentorship program.
  • Work backwards from these goals to create a plan that includes measurable, numerical metrics as much as possible and accounts for things like who will oversee a specific initiative (more on that below) and how the initiative’s success will be measured.

Setting responsibilities.

While diversity and inclusion should live everywhere in an organization, there need to be clear roles, responsibilities, and structure to DEIB goals.

  • Who coordinates and/or leads progress meetings?
  • Who monitors results?
  • What is the reporting cycle? How often are results analyzed?
  • How are managers held responsible for DEIB goals?
  • How can DEIB programs be tweaked if you’re not reaching goals?

Allocating resources.

Depending on your goals, you’ll likely need resources like people, systems, and funds. If all this work is to be done by one person, that’s a red flag already. Specific departments and managers need to be responsible for DEIB goals. As for systems, do you have the software necessary to analyze your results? Do all the appropriate systems connect? Do you have the software capacity to track what you want to track? All these things can be revisited after you set your goals, but you’ll need to have a conversation about what resources are available beforehand.

What are S.M.A.R.T. goals?

S.M.A.R.T. is a method for setting goals. The S.M.A.R.T. concept was developed by management consultant George Doran in 1981. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Let’s look at an example from daily life to better understand the method.

You just started jogging. You followed a couch-to-5K app and ran your first 5K last month. You want to improve at running.

Specific: What are you trying to do? What will you achieve?

  • State the goal: Your new goal is to complete a half marathon.

Measurable: What data, figures, or other numbers will you use to determine whether you’ve met the goal?

  • Set a time limit: Your goal is to complete a half marathon in less than two hours.

Attainable: Do you have the tools and resources you need to achieve this goal? If not, what do you need?

  • Ensure your success: Purchase the regulation running attire and shoes and choose a half marathon in your area.

Relevant: Is this goal worthwhile? Does it align with your needs and current environment? Is it the right timing?

  • Assess relevance: Answer WHY you are setting this goal and how it fits in alongside larger life goals. In this case, you are trying to incentivize yourself to exercise during the work week.

Time-bound: What’s the deadline for your goal? Start from your final objective and work backwards to create a timeline.

  • Check your timeline: Begin within the suggested amount of training time.

Your final S.M.A.R.T. goal: Complete a local half marathon in less than two hours by the end of the year.

S.M.A.R.T. goals for diversity and inclusion

Notice that the examples we presented from industry leaders all have clear metrics and timeframes. In keeping with that model, below are similar goals that you can adjust for your organization. Keep the S.M.A.R.T. framework in mind as you develop your own goals.

Good DEIB goals

DEIB goals that focus on diversity are the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to diversity and inclusion goals.

30% more Black, Indigenous, AAPI, and Latino employees by FY25.

To make this goal measurable, consider what representation for your specific employee population and locality means. Do you want your workforce to reflect overall U.S. demographics or the demographics of the community where you’re based? These can be tough decisions to make alone, which is why having stakeholders from ERGs or the wider community in your goal-setting meeting will help.

Double the number of women in management by FY25.

How many women does that mean? And management of what? Take stock of where women in management are absent now. Your organization may have women in management for customer relations, marketing, or HR, but what about more technical departments like IT or product engineering? Focus on where the change makes the most difference.

50% of all candidates recruited from diverse backgrounds by FY25.

There are a number of KPIs for diversity recruitment that you can build into your DEIB goals. Don’t be afraid to get more specific about which identities and backgrounds you’d like to see come through the door. Develop your recruitment strategies to reflect the community where you’re based and the customers you have, too.

Learn about PowerPro’s Candidate Search tool, featuring self-reported candidate identity data across dimensions like gender, race, and caregiver status.

15% of all employees identifying as neurodivergent by 2030.

Considering that 15-20% of the population is neurodivergent, it's a great idea to embed this in your diversity goals. You can gather this information by asking employees in anonymous surveys or in new employee intake forms. Remember that this cannot be a criteria of hiring and that you should always be supportive when an employee chooses to disclose.

Better DEIB goals

Goals that focus on awareness and equity are a next-level challenge for organizations that want to go beyond simply improving their diversity numbers.

Eliminate the gender pay gap by 2026.

Equal pay for equal work. We love to see it. Setting your sights on closing the gender pay gap is an admirable goal. It requires some groundwork: you’ll need to conduct a pay gap audit first. That alone could be a DEIB goal for the year by itself. Once you’ve identified where those gaps exist, you’ll have to make these corrections quickly and change policy where necessary. Budgeting for this is critical.

Increase employee knowledge of DEIB in the workplace by the end of 2024.

It’s important to offer voluntary, regular training on different DEIB topics for all departments and across all levels of the organization. How do you make this goal measurable? Marketing teams are experienced at analyzing brand awareness, but awareness of social issues can be hard to calculate. You can always ask employees if they feel more aware and/or knowledgeable about a certain topic. For a more definitive measure, you can always test employee knowledge before and after taking a training course to see if they’ve retained DEIB knowledge.

PowerUp is your team’s one-stop shop for on-demand diversity trainings and expert-designed DEIB courses — get started today.

Increase employee retention rate to 90% this year.

Your employee retention rate is an indicator of whether people want to work for your company or if they’re running for the door. A good employee retention rate is 90% and above. That’s calculated for a year by taking the average number of employees, subtracting the people that have left, and dividing that number by the average number of employees.

Ambitious DEIB goals

Goals that focus on inclusion and belonging may be the most challenging, but they truly put the B in DEIB. Make sure you have the leadership support to make the changes that are necessary to improve. You’ll need to be on your data collection and analysis A-game.

Reduce the percentage of employees feeling stressed by the end of the year.

Setting a goal about reducing stress is totally possible. You’ll need to add questions to your employee survey regarding stress and ensure that this is an (at least) biannual survey. Initiatives to address stress include more paid time off or flexible PTO, wellness programs, flexible work hours and location, etc.

Increase employee perceptions of inclusion by the end of 2024.

Measuring inclusion is a lot more challenging than diversity metrics. At the moment, employee perception is the best way to measure inclusion since, at its core, inclusion is a subjective measure (a feeling or opinion). Gartner developed seven statements that can be placed on a Likert scale to measure employee perceptions of inclusion in a survey. Just like employee stress, you’ll need to know your baseline to determine if anything is improving.

50% reduction in instances of bias in the workplace by 2025.

Reducing or eliminating bias is a goal we should all have. There are a couple of ways to make this one more specific and measurable:

  • Counting complaints of discrimination or bias via your grievance process
  • Asking employees if and how often they have experienced bias in the last six months

Addressing bias is a multi-pronged task which includes everything from writing more inclusive job descriptions, adopting inclusive hiring best practices, taking a look at your performance review process, and implementing or expanding on diversity training.

3 keys to achieving the best DEIB goal results

You’ve now set some ambitious diversity and inclusion goals. To ensure the best results, you’ll need to keep these three elements in mind.

1. Monitor and evaluate your progress.

Like most business decisions these days, data is queen. Having a solid data strategy is critical to monitoring your progress towards these goals. You’ll need to know how to collect the data, analyze it, and turn it into actionable recommendations. Having a dashboard where you can see all of your DEIB progress in one place is a helpful tool.

2. Mitigate unintended consequences.

In our goal-setting work, it’s easy to focus on demonstrating positive results. But, working towards your diversity and inclusion goals may have unintended negative consequences that you’ll need to address quickly. These could look like:

  • Employees feeling disengaged by mandatory DEIB training.
  • Skills tests intended to reduce bias being unequally applied to underrepresented talent and newcomers, but not friends of the hiring manager.
  • Grievance reporting systems creating resentment and retaliation in those receiving complaints, meaning that employees stop reporting discrimination.

Sometimes, even the best laid plans can go astray. People are dynamic and we can’t always predict how initiatives will affect everyone. It’s important to both identify and address negative consequences like these when they happen. Don’t sweep them under the rug.

3. Listen to employees.

Charts, graphs, and other data visualizations pulled from HR systems are great, but at the end of the day, remember that these diversity and inclusion goals are for your employees, current and future. They are the ones for whom DEIB initiatives exist. All your efforts to monitor, evaluate, and track progress towards diversity and inclusion goals must include an active listening process. Employees need clear opportunities to give honest and open feedback about DEIB in the company. That feedback is precious and the key to creating the kind of results you want. Positive feedback is nice, but constructive criticism is how DEIB programs can improve. Listen to employees and act on their feedback.

Dream big for your diversity and inclusion goals

A lot of diversity and inclusion goals are ambitious. That’s the idea. When you’re coming up with potential DEIB goals, don’t be afraid to dream big. Think about what your ideal workplace looks and feels like. We can all see the systemic and structural inequalities that exist in society. If we’re going to address them, it requires big changes. Organizations need to apply their business data analytics approach to supporting diversity and inclusion goals in your workplace.

Want personalized help from an expert in building out your diversity and inclusion goals? Check out our DEIB consulting services.

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