You’ve updated your EEO policy and mandated Diversity and Unconscious Bias trainings for your
employees, but is that enough? Just 31% of employers report that their diversity initiatives are
Creating an effective Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) program may seem daunting, but it can
be done in just five steps with a $0 budget.
First, let’s define what diversity, equity, and inclusion means for your business.
Diversity is having a workforce made up of people with all different kinds of characteristics –
different ages, genders, races, religions, physical and mental abilities, etc.
Equity is making sure the path to workplace success – like training opportunities, promotions,
mentorships, and raises – is free of obstacles for everyone, regardless of your employees’
Inclusion is when differences are not just recognized but celebrated within your organization,
and every team member is actively made to feel valuable because of their differences.
Do You Need a DEI program?
In one of the largest studies on the topic, McKinsey management consultants found that “gender
and ethnic diversity are clearly correlated with profitability.” Other studies show that diverse
work teams deliver higher-quality outputs, are more productive, and give a company’s end user
a better experience. Of course, there are state and federal equal employment laws to comply
Chances are you’re already putting in effort to hire a diverse workforce. Equity and Inclusion
require effort, too – they rarely happen organically in organizations. Our five-step process builds
an effective DEI program without cost for organizations who believe they can do better than just
Step One: Executive-led Commitment
Many DEI programs fail because there’s no buy-in or genuine support from the head of the
organization. And a DEI program that fails, fails BIG – because the employees who watch it
languish become sour.
If your company’s leadership is committed to DEI as a tool to improve the quality of your
workforce and products, then you’ve gotten over the toughest obstacle already.
Step Two: Assess Your Current Demographics and Identify Gaps
You’ll need a baseline of your workforce’s diverse characteristics. Your HR Information System
(HRIS) should be able to report the voluntary self-identification data that you collected when
your employees were hired. If you don’t have that, or if you’d like to amplify that data, you can
survey your employees yourself. If you prefer, HR Allies can help you with the survey, or do it for
Pull statistics like your turnover rates, performance ratings, and compensation increase
percentages. If you’ve done employee engagement surveys, consider these results too.
Review all this data with the other executives and consider some tough questions, like
• Do the demographics of our workforce match the Census data demographics within our
• Do we have appropriate representation of diverse employees at each level of authority,
from our line level employees to our Executives?
• Are we paying equitable wages for similar jobs, or is there a disparity that correlates to a
difference in any characteristic?
• Is there any particular team that has less diversity than others?
• Have we sought to affirmatively add diverse candidates to our succession plan?
Your executive team doesn’t need to beat itself up over the findings of the Demographic
Assessment or issue a disclosure to your team about where your diversity may be lacking.
Instead, create some tangible goals that address the gaps you found.
Examples of tangible goals are
• Include at least four people of color in our Sales department.
• Proactively choose diverse employees for a mentoring relationship, rather than waiting
for employees to request a mentor.
• Increase retention of female managers
Step Three: Work with your Managers to Make a Plan
Now that you’ve gotten a handle on your Diversity statistics, turn your focus to the Equity and
Inclusion parts of a successful DEI program.
This is the time to involve your managers. Why? Because no manager likes diversity initiatives
forced on them. Instead, this is the perfect opportunity to let your key staff plan how to reach
your diversity goals – especially because they’ll be the ones responsible for carrying it out.
Let them know what your diversity goals are and the value that an authentic DEI program brings
to your company’s strategy, then challenge them to figure out how to get there. They’ll be more
invested in getting success outcomes – and be more willing to be held accountable — than if they
were just directed by the C-Suite to carry out pre-established requirements.
Step Four: Communicate like Crazy
Your employees are talking to each other about your company’s DEI profile, whether you formally
address it or not. Show your employees that DEI is important to the success of your company by
communicating regularly and openly about your goals and the progress you’re making. More
importantly, invite your employees to offer their own opinions and ideas straight to the executive
team without repercussion. Their own diverse suggestions can often improve your DEI plan.
Don’t limit yourself to occasional emails – add DEI progress to newsletters, company-wide
meetings, video messages from the CEO, and any other medium that you can take advantage
Separately, regularly communicate with your managers to remind them they’re empowered to
take necessary actions to achieve the DEI goals. As long as they keep hearing from you that DEI
is important, they will make it a priority, too.
Step Five: Measure Results and Celebrate Improvements
Since you’ve set tangible goals in Step Two, you’re able to measure whether your DEI initiatives
were effective or not. Hold quarterly meetings with your managers to go over the results – not
just to hold them accountable, but to brainstorm what could be improved. Each time you’ve achieved progress toward your DEI goals, communicate it throughout your company.
Your DEI program is dynamic, just like your workforce. An effective DEI plan regularly revisits
each of these steps and is never “finished” – but you’ll be able to sincerely tell your employees
and stakeholders that you’re proud of your company’s commitment to DEI.
Are you struggling to find time to create a DEI program for your own organization? For more guidance, visit www.hrallies.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Danielle Verderosa, the Founder and Chief Human Resources Consultant of HR Allies, has 25 years of HR experience in the hospitality, senior living, warehouse/manufacturing, and defense security industries. Most recently a Vice President of Human Resources for a 105-year old contract management services company, Danielle has the HR industry’s top professional credentials and has been the recipient of several top awards honoring her integrity, leadership, and business excellence.
Danielle M. Verderosa, SPHR, SHRM-SCP