Our Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion, Angela Peacock, recently hosted a panel with three DEI leaders from different industries: Juan Fernando Lopera, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at Beth Israel Lahey Health; Deepa Arjan, Global Learning and Leadership Development Director at Avanade; and Eleanor Goichman Brett, Global Inclusion Consultant at GP Strategies.
Four key themes emerged from the panel’s lively discussion about what constitutes a successful DEI strategy.
4 Tips to Develop an Impactful and Durable DEI Strategy
1. Define Your Business Case
We’ve all heard that you need to engage your leadership team and get their buy-in for any organization-wide initiative. DEI is no different. The best way to get those stakeholders on board is to build your DEI strategy around the business needs. You should be able to answer questions about why it’s important to the business and how it will help the business succeed.
Yes, the DEI strategy should focus on improving the experience for all employees, potential hires, and customers, but it should ultimately fit into the business’s overall needs and strategy. For example, Juan Fernando Lopera discussed on the panel how he made the business case at a health insurance organization by leveraging the need to fill a gap in revenue. Lopera successfully made the case that if the business addressed health disparities in racial and ethnic minorities, they could drive down medical costs and, therefore, make up for their gap in revenue.
This is just one way to engage your leaders. You can also tie DEI initiatives to those leaders’ compensation or yearly bonuses if that fits your organization’s overall goal.
2. You Must Hold Everyone Accountable
Putting together an impactful DEI strategy is one thing; executing it is another. All levels of an organization need to be engaged and aware of the strategy for it to work. Organizations often launch DEI plans but only engage the top levels of an organization. A successful DEI strategy must cascade down to all employees. Awareness is key. Craft internal communications to regularly connect with your people and ensure that everyone understands what you are trying to achieve and why.
To ensure that your stakeholders stay on mission, consider giving them specific tasks that they are responsible for. For example, you could assign your COO the responsibility of managing one of your ERG groups, giving them some skin in the game.
Understanding the different needs of your organization, especially regionally and culturally, is critical to creating an effective DEI strategy across the board. This is when it is important to focus on awareness and listening to your employees’ feedback. Know the data and your benchmarks, engage your people, and change your strategy with their feedback as needed.
3. Consider the External Viewpoint
An effective DEI strategy can do wonders for an organization’s public image, especially regarding hiring and customer acquisition. People want to support and work for organizations that align with their own values. For example, an organization that is taking meaningful steps to improve diversity and inclusion for minority employees will align with potential hires and customers who value that same thing.
Focus on the values that are important to your organization, and you will engage and attract those people who believe in the same things. On the flip side, if you aren’t true to your organization’s beliefs and values, it can backfire, which leads to the final point.
4. Be Authentic
In a world with lightning-fast media, interconnected social communications, and a generation of workers that can sniff out fake intentions in a second, authenticity is critical to the success of your organization. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a huge jump in DEI initiatives following several cultural movements, but not all of them were rooted in genuine intentions or backed by data.
When you are creating a DEI strategy, have a reason. Again, align with your business plan. Why is this important for your organization? Don’t just jump on the bandwagon and pledge to increase diversity hires because that’s what you think you’re supposed to do. Look at your data. What does your organization really need, and how can you design and implement a plan to make a difference?
Create a DEI Strategy that Works
Great DEI strategies have many moving parts, but if you focus on these four things, you will set yourself up for a much more successful future.
Listen to the full panel recording here.