You made serious strides in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI). But do your employees think it’s good enough?
Probably not, unfortunately.
More than 95% of employers say they’ve introduced new DEI measures this past year, according to a Lever study. But just a quarter of employees believe their company has done anything!
“While the survey provides an optimistic outlook on organizations’ commitment to DEI, it also uncovers an important reality: employees aren’t aware of their company’s efforts,” said Annie Lin, VP of People at Lever. “Meaningful change will take time, communication, and measurable data.”
Fortunately, you don’t have to be that employer – the one that tries but isn’t recognized. You can implement DEI initiatives that make an impact, are appreciated and embraced.
Here are six ways to make your workplace more diverse and inclusive for employees on-site, remote or working in a hybrid situation.
Know where you stand
Many companies think they’re diverse, equitable and inclusive because they have DEI plans, employee resource groups (ERGs) and talk about plans to improve. (In fact, nearly 60% of employers are confident they will improve, the Lever study found.)
But most companies don’t ask employees how they feel about DEI. Or they don’t benchmark against similar organizations. So how can you know where you need to go on DEI if you don’t know where you are?
That’s why it’s essential to do a self-assessment or get an expert, third-party look at the state of your DEI. Survey employees to find out:
- how much they actually know about your DEI efforts
- what they think of the efforts
- their level of interest in those efforts, and
- what more they’d like to see done.
Cast a new net
Almost 45% of employers face a problem with DEI right out of the gate: They say it’s difficult to find diverse candidates for open positions. When it’s difficult to build a diverse workforce, it can be more difficult to improve equity and inclusion.
So a first, big step is to attract a more diverse talent pool. Here are two tips to help you cast not just a wider net, but a new net altogether:
- Tap community or vendor partnerships. Just 16% of employers try this tactic in their DEI efforts, the Lever study found. You might connect with local women’s leadership organizations, minority professional and social groups or neighborhood associations. Similarly, you might set up a recruitment stand at community events hosted and attended by underrepresented populations.
- Add an Equity Statement. It’s a simple, prominent message to help applicants see their potential to succeed in your organization. Here’s an example from Fiix Software: We recognize that people come with a wealth of experience and talent beyond just the technical requirements of a job. If your experience is close to what you see listed here, please still consider applying. Diversity of experience and skills combined with passion is a key to innovation and excellence. Therefore, we encourage people from all backgrounds to apply to our positions.
Keep your wheels turning
Fortunately, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to become a champion of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Look for opportunities to embed it into each part of the employee lifecycle and each element of how the organization operates,” Lin says.
“Compensation, policies, benefits, perks, hiring, and day-to-day tools and accommodations are all fantastic places to start. Then, instead of asking, ‘What separate DEI programs should I stand up?’, ask ‘How can I make my existing processes, programs, and policies more inclusive?'”
Even better, get a diverse group of employees involved in this initiative. They can help identify areas where they don’t feel comfortable or included.
Make two DEI plans
For every one of your equity and inclusion initiatives, make two. Think of the first plan as your initiative and the second as your plan to promote the actual initiative.
Remember, just a small percentage of employees recognize what you’ve already done. You need a campaign to share your DEI initiatives so employees know and care about them, become engaged and excited to share them with peers.
Some practical ways:
- Feature news about your DEI initiatives to your public homepage and internal HR page
- Offer consistent – not just initial or one-time – training on DEI
- Highlight DEI efforts in a regular cadence on your social channels
- Invite employees to create and promote ERGs to fit their lives, and
- Support those ERGs with promotional, capital and time resources.
“This is work that’s hard and often behind the scenes, but it’s also work that will have the most sustained and widespread impact,” says Lin.
Let words lead the way
You can turn to existing ERGs or a diverse group of employees to continue to build an equal and inclusive culture out of HR.
Work together to comb your workplace policies, manuals, job postings, handbooks and communication channels to update it with inclusive language. When you look to improve what’s said and how it’s said, you often find policies and practices that could be revamped to be more inclusive.
For instance, Zeno Peterson-Scott, Lead Trainer with G.E.T. Phluid and The Phluid Project, worked with a PRIDE group to add more inclusive language to communication and policies. In doing that, they adopted more gender neutral language and found they needed to update healthcare plans for the transgender population.
Words are powerful, and purposefully considering your language can lead to a more inclusive culture.
“They say, ‘Treat people the way you want to be treated.’ I say, ‘Treat people the way they want to be treated,'” Peterson-Scott said in the Spring Health webinar, “Beyond the Binary: Honoring Gender Expansive Communities at Work.”
Regardless of your DEI efforts, it’s likely some employees and job candidates still aren’t pleased or satisfied with your progress. Worse, only a small segment of employees feel comfortable sharing negative feedback on DEI with HR.
Yet, you need feedback to address concerns – especially any that could actually be discrimination – and improve the overall DEI outlook.
To help employees feel safe voicing their DEI concerns:
- Offer anonymous avenues. Work with your software vendor or IT to create ways for employees to submit issues, complaints or concerns anonymously
- Make feedback the norm. The more you ask for – and most importantly, act on – employee criticism and praise, the more likely you’ll get candid, constructive information, and
- Share the good news. When you use employee feedback to improve DEI, let everyone know how you got the useful information and what you did with it. Even better, reward employees for alerting you to important issues.