10 Ways to Foster Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Work

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Too often I hear about companies who really want to include diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives as part of their company strategies but they don’t know where to start. The process usually begins with reviewing where they’re currently at, setting goals, and then deciding on the changes to be made. While it’s great to have a fundamental understanding of what a diverse, equitable, inclusive environment looks like and why it’s important, there are many strategies that can be implemented right now.

Too many people get stuck in a spot where they don’t take any action because they don’t know what to do or where to start. How can they set goals if they don’t know where they’re at? How can they start measuring where they are at if they have never tracked any data? The secret is to just get started. While an in-depth strategy is ideal, getting started is the key to being successful. Take small steps to build from and you will get there sooner than you could have imagined.

There are many steps you can do to get started right now. Here are 10 ideas you can use to begin to foster diversity, equity and inclusion in your workplace today.

1. Use blind hiring practices.

Blind hiring is a practice where the candidate’s information is hidden during the initial hiring stages to eliminate biases based on names, ages, genders, race and ethnicity. This can significantly reduce biases and discrimination early on in the hiring process.

2. Create a diverse interview panel.

The more diverse your interview teams are the less discrimination there will likely be which will result in more diverse hires. It’s important to ensure that the interview panel includes people with different backgrounds and beliefs, especially those from underrepresented groups which are typically based on race, ethnicity and disability status.

3. Implement a diversity sourcing strategy.

A strong diversity sourcing strategy includes searching for candidates using specific keywords and phrases as well as using diverse sources to search for candidates. You could search for historically Black colleges or look for members of specific organizations. Reach out to colleges, organizations and groups and ask them if you can post your jobs with them or for diverse referrals.

4. Ensure DEI in decision making.

To foster inclusion and equity make sure there are opportunities for personal and professional growth and that everyone is included. When making key decisions, get input and feedback from employees. Create a system to track how often people from underrepresented groups are part of key meetings and decision making. This data can be used to make improvements.

5. Include DEI in your mission and values.

Make a diversity, equity and inclusion statement and integrate it with your mission and values. Reinforce and reiterate the statement. Create a careers page to attract candidates and include the statement on it to encourage diverse candidates and candidates who support and value diversity, inclusion and equity to apply to your openings.

6. Be flexible with work hours.

Whenever possible, offer flexible working hours. Today, more than ever, it is so important to be flexible as more people are working from home and many kids are in a virtual learning environment at home. Trust that your employees will do their work and do it well. Giving them the flexibility they need will allow them to feel included, valued and respected to do their best work rather than feeling stressed and unappreciated.

7. Create a fair compensation scale.

Be transparent about your compensation whenever possible. If you base pay off of experience, create a way to credit experience in a fair and consistent manner to ensure there are not pay disparities based on race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, age or other factors. If you do base pay off experience also keep equity in mind and remember that not everyone has had the same opportunities in life and that someone with fewer years of experience in an area doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t perform just as well, or even better.

8. Hold people accountable for DEI measures.

Be open about your DEI goals, set metrics whenever possible, and hold people accountable to them. Send out surveys to get feedback from your employees as one way to measure whether your efforts have been effective. Make sure to keep survey data anonymous so that they feel comfortable being honest. Set clear expectations, guidelines and policies for DEI initiatives and follow through on disciplinary actions to hold them accountable.

9. Promote DEI conversations.

Having open communication in itself is a great way to encourage DEI. Promoting conversations surrounding DEI specifically is even better. If you use a communication tool such as Slack, create a room for DEI conversations where people can share articles and news stories. Encourage conversations during meetings. Clearly address why DEI is important, what it means and what you’re doing to make impactful, positive changes. Make it easy for everyone, especially those from underrepresented groups, to provide input.

10. Ensure your leaders are on board.

The key to a successful DEI initiative is leadership support and role-modeling as leaders set the stage for the entire company. If a company promotes changes but the leaders don’t make them themselves it lowers morale. Employees see that these initiatives aren’t actually important and they only need to check a box rather than implement real, lasting changes. When the leaders are excited about DEI and make the desired changes the team will be much more likely to make and promote them too.

The key is to just start, right now. Start small and build up. Pick one thing you can do today to create a more diverse, equitable, inclusive culture and make that change. Then take the next step, and the next. Don’t forget to continue learning and striving for excellence, fairness and belonging.

Mom & Wife | Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Strategy Consultant | HR, Recruiting & People Ops Consultant | COO/Co-founder/Head of Diversity of VSourced.com