How to Infuse More Life Into Your DEI Program

  • Author: Melanie Haniph

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs come in all shapes and sizes, with variations in goals and the initiatives designed to meet those goals. But if your diversity and inclusion efforts have stalled, it’s probably time to take action to revive them.

Signs Your Company DEI Program May Need a Refresh

In our recent Employee Connections Study, we asked over 400 employees of large companies what they thought of their company’s DEI program. The vast majority (82%) said their company had addressed diversity and inclusion, and most (62%) rated their company’s approach to DEI as satisfactory or better. 

While these findings are encouraging, they don’t tell every organization’s DEI story. Many have not yet reached their goals for diversity and inclusion. In some cases, existing DEI programs can become stale and out of touch with actual workforce needs. In other cases, leadership teams struggle to determine which policies and initiatives make the most sense for their organization and culture.

Every organization is different. But if you experience any of the following, then your DEI program may be in need of change:

  • Diversity has become a compliance exercise. Perhaps you dutifully submit EEO-1 reporting and talk about diversity in internal and external-facing communications, but you can’t point to examples of positive DEI outcomes in your workplace.
  • Actions don’t speak louder than words. If your DEI messaging is great, but it doesn’t translate to positive change in the employee experience, you’re not alone. One study found that while most employees (83%) said their organization emphasized diversity and inclusion, only 31% said company leaders demonstrated its importance through their actions.
  • Diversity training doesn’t seem to be working. Perhaps employees complete diversity training requirements, but there’s not a lot of evidence it has changed mindsets or behavior.

3 Things You Can Do to Reignite Your DEI Program

Despite all the studies proving the benefits of a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work culture, including better decision-making, higher innovation, and better-performing teams, few companies would say they’ve got it all figured out and are meeting all of their DEI goals. 

If your company is like many others and you know there is more work to do, consider taking the following actions:

1. Reassess your metrics

DEI isn’t just about the racial, ethnic, and gender makeup of a workforce. Not only are there more kinds of diversity to measure, but there are other ways to assess your DEI program’s effectiveness than by measuring the headcount mix of your workforce. You should also look at metrics such as:

  • Internal mobility: Are diverse employees progressing on pace with others, or are they lagging behind?
  • Employee Resource Group participation: Do employees actively engage in these groups? Are there opportunities to form new groups to address any unmet employee needs?
  • Survey results: Do employees feel included, respected, and recognized?
  • Exit interviews: Does your company’s approach to DEI factor into why people leave?

2. Recognize and address resistance

As social justice has become a more prominent topic in and out of the workplace, so has resistance to DEI efforts. A Gartner employee survey found that four in ten employees describe their peers as resentful of company DEI efforts. As a first step, it’s critical to accept that some employees may actually oppose the goals of your DEI program, even if they never admit it publicly. Next, you should rely on experienced subject-matter experts to help you address the resistance and prevent it from growing. They can also help you develop an effective strategy for helping employees understand how your DEI program benefits all employees. 

3. Share accountability with employees

Instead of HR and senior leaders taking sole responsibility for DEI, every employee should share in that responsibility. Employees should take personal action to support company DEI efforts, whether they hire new employees, lead a team, or work as an independent contributor. When employees recognize they are also accountable for promoting and supporting the company’s DEI goals, it will become less about policies and compliance and more about building a culture that values every voice.

Like many aspects of the employee experience, DEI efforts are constantly evolving to address employees’ changing needs and expectations. For more insights to improve the employee experience in your organization, follow us on LinkedIn

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