Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a lot more than the newest buzzword in HR. It’s a critical element to success these days – and you’ll want some cool DEI initiatives to use.
But how can HR leaders make their DEI efforts and initiatives more than generic promotions that seem more obligatory than sincere? Take up the cause and create unique DEI initiatives that prove you care.
The good news: Most organizations are already upping their DEI game. More than half have formalized a DEI strategy, and nearly as many have made serious changes to their hiring strategies to improve DEI, according to research from Lever.
“The future that was imagined just a few years ago is fast becoming a reality, but it requires more attention,” says Angeles Valenciano, CEO, National Diversity Council. “DEI is one arrow in the quiver that brings both complexity and some amazing opportunities for companies to compete and succeed in the global marketplace.”
Initiatives are important. But actual implementation is the best way forward. Here are five cool DEI initiatives from best-in-class companies.
Bring uniqueness to the table
One of Phenom’s mantras is “Not Normal.” It’s an extension of their Core Values: Curiosity. Responsibility. Intensity. Self-confidence. Positive Thinking.
“We’re unique,” says Brad Goldoor, Chief Employee Experience Officer at Phenom. “And we want to think of employees as their full selves.”
And that’s why they invite employees – and especially new employees – to share something that’s seemingly “not normal” about themselves during regular all-hands-on meetings. This way everyone can learn about their fascinating colleagues and the unique things they’ve experienced.
For instance, one employee talked about falling 20-feet from a tree limb and living to tell the tale. Another employee filled colleagues in on his famous grandparents. A new employee revealed she’d climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.
These stories are great icebreakers as well, helping build a greater sense of belonging – which is often considered the fourth part to a DEI(B) plan – for employees as they start talking even more about their unique experiences.
They’re akin to Moth Mainstage events – where everyday people share tales of courage, humor, survival and so much more. You might even help employees finesse their stories of diversity for your own spin on a cool DEI initiative. They can take storytelling lessons from The Moth so they have a bigger impact when they share.
Learn from your adverse story
Most people aren’t a member of what we consider minority or underrepresented populations. But we can consider everyone diverse for a variety of reasons. And they can use their personal story of diversity to make your organizational DEI initiatives even better.
“I want to hear your diversity story, whatever it may be. It might not be as moving or dramatic as someone else’s story. But it’s still your story,” says Nicholas Pearce, Clinical Professor of Management and Organizations at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in the Kellogg Insights podcast, “Whether you were the only Jewish kid on your block. Or you’re the shortest person in your class. Or you’re the only woman here. Whatever your experience is with human difference is, own that.”
Then think about what it would’ve meant to you if someone had tried to help you push back against adversity when you needed it most. When people recognize the impact help in an adverse situation would’ve made to them, they become more empathetic.
Encourage a diverse reentry
Nearly two million fewer women are in the workforce today than were before the pandemic, according to a National Women’s Law Center study. The main reason: caregiving. Middle-aged women make up 70% of primary caregivers for children and adults who need assistance.
PepsiCo leaders created a returnship program to help female professionals return to the workforce after taking time off for caregiving during the pandemic. It furthers PepsiCo’s commitment to have women in 50% of its managerial roles globally by 2025.
More specifically, PepsiCo offers 16-week internships to professionals who took off at least two years for caregiving. In the program, they attend professional development workshops, get feedback sessions, join in networking opportunities and gain mentorship support.
“The program was a natural next step to explore an untapped, yet highly experienced, talent pool given the impact of the pandemic on women who were forced to make a choice between career and caregiving. Our goal is to provide rewarding job opportunities for caregivers looking to return to work, setting them on the path to success with the right tools, competitive pay and more,” says Heather Hoytink, President of PepsiCo’s South Division.
Broaden everyone’s perspective
Remote work has opened opportunities for every organization to improve their DEI efforts. With people working from home – or any appropriate site they choose – you can hire candidates from different cultures, abilities and experiences.
And you can even use those differences as DEI education tools.
For instance, at Facebook, the Director of Internal Communications, Jonny Oser, and HR teams create content and host meetings that include events such as “Where in the World Are You?”
For that, employees created videos depicting where they live and what they like to do. In other videos, some employees shared cooking and holiday traditions from their area.
These looks inside people’s diverse lives helped others learn about and appreciate each other and the unique perspectives they brought to the workplace.
Invest outwardly, too
Discover took great strides a few years back to improve DEI within the organization, creating, increasing and measuring efforts.
Their plan – which is still evolving – included some cool DEI initiatives geared outside the organization. For instance, Discover:
- Increased spending with diverse suppliers by more than 30% from 2020. That includes:
- a 92% increase with veteran-owned businesses
- an 80% increase with minority-owned businesses, and
- a 27% increase in women-owned businesses.
- Asked leaders from their BOLD (Black Organizational Leadership at Discover) team to develop card designs celebrating Black Culture. That was after they’d already released a Pride card designed to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. Any cardmember can get one of those designs.
“I’m proud of the way we’ve continued to challenge ourselves and push toward creating some truly transformative opportunities,” says Jonita Wilson, Chief Diversity Officer of Discover. “As we continue to tackle challenges both within and beyond our walls, we hope to inspire others to join us, learn from our shared experiences and explore what we can all do to be better.”