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Your Action Plan for the Evolution of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

cups of coffee with different amounts of creamAt Workhuman Live® Online, we offered five content tracks tackling HR’s most pressing issues. The result is more than 30 sessions of on-demand content featuring workplace experts from around the world.  

Over the summer, we’ll be posting action plans for each of the five content tracks:   

Use these action plans to assess and tweak your HR strategy and better position your organization for the future of work.  

Below are four areas of focus when building an agile action plan designed for the Evolution of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion featuring: 

1. Listen to and act on the data. All of it.

When companies face a problem, the first place they turn is the data. Performance trends and indicators help shape a course of action and instill a sense of confidence in its viability.  

DE&I is no different. Companies around the world are waking up to the fact that they need to make improvements in order to be more equitable and inclusive and data will play an important role in devising and executing a strategy for the workplace. When looking to the data, Monica Jackson says companies need to be laser-focused with what they’re tracking.     

“We have tons of data working and partnering with our analytics team – from our hiring data, the talent funnel, and everything from timing, roles, promotions, how long it’s taking to advance to the next level. Now let's talk about development. When you start to look at opportunities that are being afforded, how equitable are they? And should we be accelerating that for some?” 

Finding the right data is the start. Step two is interpreting it. “You to have a full story, you need the internal labor market map, you need the whole picture,” said Ernest Marshall. “What we found is, we were making great progress in hiring women, for example, but then we find we'd lose a third of those women out the back door. You can just show the input in terms of hiring increases. But if you don't expose the data and show the leakage on the backend, you're not really getting the full picture.” 

Once you see and interpret the data, then you can begin to form a specific action plan and set meaningful goals for your company.  

“It's very important to ensure that the analytics and the insights that you're gaining from the data are really going to help you put processes in place that change the outcomes,” said Marshall.  

“It's one thing to say, ‘I want a 1-2, 3% increase in diversity.’ How do you do that? Do you have to recruit more? Do you have to retain more? Do you have to make sure slates [of candidates] are diverse? The reality is you have to do them all.” 

While having and using data to inform your company actions and goals is important, Torin Ellis notes those efforts will be futile without a cultural shift in openness. 

2. Develop purpose-driven leaders. 

A DE&I strategy, like any company-wide initiative, requires buy-in from the top. Management and leaders in a company will play an instrumental role in its efficacy and the process starts by shifting how those leaders view DE&I.  

“You are going to have to shift your pursuit of D&I from a cost to a value at all of the key points internally,” said Torin Ellis. “It will require that your leaders model a different conversation – that they suggest and show you that diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is promising rather than punitive. That the behavior that they exhibit becomes a compliment to the organization. Shift from cost to value.” 

“Workplaces have applauded for far too long, complacency and mediocrity,” Ellis said. “We've done the press releases in lieu of actually doing the work, the work that challenges you to chase that promise of being better.” 

Melissa Dawn Simkins in her work to build future-ready leaders, echoed that doing the work that challenges you and cultivating a workforce committed to DE&I again begins with management.   

“As you're thinking about your programs, you're putting the accountability back on the managers and bringing them into the experience so they can learn and grow and become more inclusive in their leadership and people development skills.” 

As current leaders become more inclusive in their management skills, the principles of DE&I can quickly become hardwired in the minds of future leaders within your company. Melissa Dawn Simkins spoke to super-serving the emerging leader by creating a plan to move them forward and giving them the tools to keep learning, growing, and building competencies.  

With such a plan, Simkins explains, you create purpose-driven leaders who lead with intention and greater clarity – a combination well-suited to maintaining a strong DE&I strategy as they progress in the company. 

3. Cultivate a network for employees.

A supportive community will help create the psychological safety needed for a DE&I strategy to flourish in a workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic has only underlined that need.  

“Connections are critical to everything,” Melissa Dawn Simkins said. “It’s about owning and building the right network. People are feeling more isolated than ever. Building common connections and community is not only important, it's a retention strategy.” 

Companies can fall into the trap of looking at their DE&I programs in silos, which can create the unintended consequence of not creating the strategic relationships employees need to connect and move their career and life forward.  

Through research and conversations with the hundreds of women they have worked with, Simkins and her team found that a lack of community was contributing to the challenges organizations faced around retention, readiness, representation, and advancement.  

Her team found a commonality around addressing hidden barriers of leadership. With a safe space established, women can peer share, support, connect, and advise. “It creates strength and unity,” she said. “And then it enables an organization to build momentum through community and culture.” 

4. Build an allied workforce committed to action.

Once you have leadership aligned and a DE&I strategy on paper, you need an allied workforce ready to act.   

As Monica Jackson points out, vital to the effectiveness of a DE&I strategy or being a strong ally in the first place is the willingness and ability to be proactive rather than reactive.  

“People are asking that question, ‘What can I do?’ I think we all have heard that. There’s interest and desire. This is where we help people build and strengthen their muscle in this space.” 

One of the ways Eaton is building that strength is with advocacy circles – intimate discussions with six to eight employees that help inform, educate, and build the capability of teams to see one another. And Jackson is sure to distinguish that this is not a multi-hour training block, but consistent micro-learning opportunities. It’s proven to be a profoundly more effective way of building trust. 

Jackson has found Eaton’s advocacy circles help employees better empathize and understand the experiences of their peers. “They can hear about that experience. That makes a greater impact than reading about it in an article or seeing what the exit survey tells us as employees leave.” 

There are more than four steps to a successful DE&I action plan. But these areas form a strong foundation and will help you shape a strategy. Above all, Torin Ellis leaves us with a guiding principle: The key to creating a more inclusive and equitable workplace is to challenge yourself to shift your relationship with power, process, and the pursuit of being better.  

About the Author

Mike is a senior content marketing specialist at Workhuman where he writes about the next era of the workplace. Outside the workplace, he’s an avid gardener, a frequent biker, a steadily improving chef, and a fantasy sports fanatic.

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