One of the key lessons of the past few years has been how important—from a social, cultural, and business perspective—it is for companies to address diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) practices across their workforce.
Regardless of company size, industry, or location, some common inclusion initiatives apply to every company to help ensure an inclusive environment.
What does DEI Mean in the Workplace?
Some people say that diversity, equality, and inclusion within the workplace means allowing everyone to have a seat at the decision-making table. But true DEI should happen much earlier by ensuring everyone is in the room to begin with.
Workplace diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives:
- Recognize the value of difference and the benefits that those differences can bring to the company.
- Create a workspace that is welcoming, safe, open, and supportive. They build a place where employees can put their sole focus on doing their best work and not worry about how they are being perceived or treated.
- Build a level playing field so that all employees are in an equal space and the ones who advance do so solely on the merit of their work.
- Actually put people at the front of the business and give them the tools and room to succeed. How many companies say, “Our most important asset is our people?” Do their actions back up their words or is it just lip-service?
- Give employees a stronger foothold in the business and a greater connection to the company. Employees who feel seen and accepted are more likely to work harder and be more enthusiastic about their employer.
- Build employee loyalty and retention. People want to work at places where they feel they are not just cogs in the machine but that they actually contribute to the company’s success and are prized for doing so.
- Lead to a better bottom line. Bersin by Deloitte discovered that companies with “highly diverse teams” saw their yearly cash-flow increase 2.3 times…per employee!
Diversity and Inclusion Strategy Examples
Let’s look at five companies that are building strong, diverse, and inclusive cultures.
- Banfield Pet Hospitals works to include employees and patient families into their DEI initiatives. They offer “Culturally Competent Care” to ensure that everyone who enters their practices can feel safe and welcome by providing interpreter services and other cultural accommodations. They also provide employee resource groups (ERGs) for members of the LGBTQ+, Black, Hispanic, and Asian and Pacific Islander communities, among others.
- Instacart spent the past two years listening to, and working with, their Black employees to find ways that they could be better served at work and ways that Instacart could better serve their communities. Listening is a hallmark of inclusive leadership.
- The efforts of CarMax to create an inclusive environment landed the company on the Forbes list of Best Companies to Work For. As part of their efforts, they hired a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer which puts C-Suite strength behind their DEI initiatives.
- Liberty Mutual knows that change doesn’t happen overnight, but they also didn’t want to wait so they created a fast-track action plan to enact several inclusion initiatives. Among the initiatives are a pledge to increase the representation of women and people of color at all levels of the company by 2025. Broad changes are important, but they also understand that sometimes you have to use a finer brush to paint a fuller picture, which is why they also established several ERGs to “make our community and business stronger.”
- To support their desire to create a culture of inclusiveness, Target has established several training programs to help employees better understand each other and their differences. The training serves a dual purpose as it also helps equip employees for more understanding customer interactions.
What Is a DEI Framework?
It’s not enough to say you are an inclusive workplace and shoot out a few emails about tolerance. That’s why a DEI framework is such a valuable tool. It presents a way to structure a practical strategy of DEI growth. Think of this framework as a diversity and inclusion plan template.
Frameworks are important because they create a structure where all three tenets are included. Many companies tend to focus only on the diversity tenet because it’s somewhat easier to manage and because the word “diversity” has been used as a blanket statement for DEI so it’s better understood. A framework won’t let equality and inclusion be sidelined though.
A DEI framework isn’t just a numbers guide or a strict “10-point plan.” At its core it provides guidance around building diversity, equality, and inclusion in the workplace across four key areas:
- Understanding – Do you, as a company, recognize that your company might have a DEI issue? Do you appreciate why correcting it should be a vital concern? Do you understand how this issue came about? Do you understand the corrective measures required to resolve the problems? You have to completely understand an issue before you can adjust for it.
- Healing – Before you can “solve” a DEI issue, those involved need to have time to heal from the effects of any real or perceived negative actions. If your employees of color have traditionally been passed over for promotions, sure, you could immediately start promoting people. But that would only put a bandage on the present issue and wouldn’t deal with the causes behind the lack of promotions.
A framework will help address the issue at its core, help people process your “why” findings, and then offer an action plan for how the company can provide equal growth opportunities for everyone. Knowledge and action can help with healing.
- Learning – Listen to the concerns around DEI issues. How are they affecting people? What do employees need? Any diversity, equality, and inclusion directives that are made with no background and “in a vacuum” have little chance of true success. An important warning when you’re learning: Do not put the burden of teaching others about DEI on already-marginalized employees. Learn on your own and only then move on to Step 4.
- Discussion – To create an inclusive workplace, everyone needs to have a place, and needs to be able to speak out from there. These are not always comfortable conversations, but they are vital for the growth of the company.
This is where we should step back and say that a DEI framework is not intended to be a mechanism that will force change. Rather, it’s a platform that can be used to open opportunities.
How Do You Implement DEI in the Workplace?
When you create a new business process, you build out a standard operating procedure (SOP) with documented instructions and roll it out across the company. While that’s a solid strategy for letting people know about a new accounting procedure, it’s not the way you want to begin your work on inclusion initiatives.
Creating a DEI framework is important, but equally important is how the framework is rolled out. Here are some tips that can help that rollout start strong:
- Get buy-in from the top. Your company’s leadership needs to be actively involved in championing your plan.
- Start with quick, easy-to-implement actions such as creating vision and mission statements and developing categories for ERGs based on your company demographics. This allows you to show immediate progress and build momentum.
- Be transparent about what you are doing, what’s working, and where you’re still experiencing struggles.
- Set markers and milestones so that you can gauge progress (and success). Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are good markers to track progress.
- Be willing to adjust. As your framework is rolled out, be prepared to flex so the program aligns with the practical reality of your workplace.
- Be patient but be vigilant. Change will happen, but it may take time. Give your program the time it needs but also keep pushing for progress.
A Year-Round, Full-Time Effort
A diverse workspace doesn’t just happen overnight (or in weeks or even months), it needs to be built, maintained, and inevitably re-visited to ensure that it still is addressing the company’s and employees’ needs. We can never stop listening, learning, and working toward building a diverse, equal, and inclusive environment. Visit Perspectives+ to find more free resources and tools that promote DE&I best practices in the workplace.” It’s Paycor’s online knowledge library designed to help you drive change, empower colleagues, and foster new leaders.
One Minute Takeaway
- Companies can get up to $9,600 in Work Opportunity Tax Credits (WOTC) per employee
- WOTC was designed to help employees from certain groups move from economic dependency to self-support
- Credit amounts will be based on the number of hours an employee works