Just as it’s important for organizations to have a mission statement that guides their work and decisions, it’s useful to have your company’s stance on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) written out for both internal and external parties to view. In today’s talent market where nearly 90% of job seekers say that diversity is important when evaluating prospective employers, it’s crucial to be clear and upfront about how your company approaches DEI. Solidifying a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement is just the first step however, in an essential, ongoing process to drive real impact on DEI within your organization.
With statement in hand, it’s time to move towards action. Words only go so far, and if your employees and recruits find out that your statement has no teeth behind it, your company culture and employer brand will suffer the consequences. Developing an effective DEI strategy can be challenging though, and the steps required will vary depending on where your company is starting from and where you want to go. Despite that, there are some broad commonalities, so we’ve assembled a list of 3 best practices every organization can utilize regardless of circumstances to help move their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts from statement to action.
How to craft an authentic diversity, equity, and inclusion statement
As with so many things that tie into a company’s employer brand, developing a strong diversity, equity, and inclusion statement starts off with examining your organizational culture. For instance, while it might make sense for a direct to consumer tech startup to use slang or other more casual language in their statement because that’s how their brand interfaces with employees and consumers, a law firm might take a more formal approach. Consider what makes sense based on your company’s norms, and don’t try to force it. Presenting an inauthentic diversity, equity, and inclusion statement has the potential to be more damaging than not posting one at all.
Next, take a look at your values. Hopefully if you’re here you already understand the far-reaching benefits of diversity and inclusion work, so perhaps DEI is already explicitly included in your values. If so, leverage that in your diversity, equity, and inclusion statement. Let everyone know that DEI is baked directly into your guiding principles and explain how that drives your approach to making sure everyone feels that they belong. Similarly, if one of your values deals with respect, consider noting that as part of your goal to respect everyone, you strive to be inclusive and respectful of all people, regardless of background or circumstances. Grounding your statement in your company values will ensure it is well aligned with your culture and operations, and will prevent it from ringing hollow.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, be sure to include your ‘why’. It’s great to say that you are inclusive of everyone, but people want to know what’s driving your focus on inclusion. Explaining your motivation also helps boost the level of authenticity your statement conveys, and makes it easier for people to feel connected with it. It may be related to your product ‘e.g. we build our products to democratize access to XYZ, so we’re committed to that same level of access and inclusion in everything we do’; it could be related to your people ‘e.g. the diverse perspectives of our employees are what keeps our company at the forefront of innovation, so we actively seek out and support people with an array of identities and lived experiences’; or it could just be that you want to be a part of creating a better world. If you don’t know your ‘why’, figuring that out should be your first step.
Once you’ve checked in on your culture, values, and ‘why’, it’s time to get writing. Don’t do it alone, though! In order for employees to truly buy into your diversity, equity, and inclusion statement, you have to practice what you preach and include them in the process of crafting it. Bringing your employees into the conversation will help ensure your statement is something that the whole company is committed to executing on, and leads nicely into our next section: translating your DEI statement into action.
3 key strategies for moving from diversity, equity, and inclusion statement to action
Diversity, equity, and inclusion statements are important for letting current and prospective employees and customers know your stance on these crucial topics. While writing one is a valuable first step though, it’s not enough to convince most people unless it’s backed up by real action. In order to help you transition from talking about DEI to actually succeeding at DEI, we’ve collected the following suggestions:
- Set measurable goals. While your diversity, equity, and inclusion statement should summarize your blue-sky vision, in order to come anywhere near achieving it you’ll need to set concrete goals. Moving the needle on DEI is a marathon, not a sprint, so it can help to start off with a medium to long-term goal, then break it down into more bite-sized pieces. Consider what you want to achieve during this year, or even this half of the year, and identify metrics to help measure your success. It’s also crucial that you don’t get discouraged and give up if progress isn’t coming as quickly as you would like. The only way you’ll ever reach your goal and deliver on your diversity, equity, and inclusion statement is if you keep putting in the work on an ongoing basis.
- Identify your employee champions. Succeeding at DEI is an example of an effort where it truly does ‘take a village’. DEI isn’t something that can be decreed or enforced from the top down; it has to be cultivated from the bottom up as well. While realistically, driving DEI should be the responsibility of everyone in the organization, it’s also useful to identify those employees who are particularly passionate about it so that you can empower them to share their enthusiasm with their colleagues. These people may already be spearheading efforts including leading employee resource groups or other networks, or you may need to look a bit harder or simply ask for volunteers. Having a ‘street team’ to be the eyes, ears, and voices of your DEI efforts on the ground can truly make the difference between initiatives that energize employees, and ones that fall flat.
- Invest. You wouldn’t expect to scrimp on your sales budget and still bring in massive deals, so you shouldn’t assume that approach will work with DEI, either. You have to invest early and often in DEI in terms of both time and money in order to be successful. Given that companies with gender diverse executive teams are 25% more likely to see above average profitability, and those with ethnically diverse teams are 36% more likely, the business case is strong to make and maintain these investments, even during downturns. It’s a classic case of ‘you have to spend money to make money,’ and this is clearly an investment that’s well worth making. From recruiting and retaining the best talent, to fostering a strong company culture, to maximizing employee productivity, diversity, equity, and inclusion work can pay off in spades, but you have to put in the effort first.
Writing a compelling diversity, equity, and inclusion statement for your company can seem daunting, but it’s certainly achievable, especially with the tips included in this post. When you’re ready to start putting your statement into action, give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ve got tools and templates to help you make the most of your efforts, and lessons learned at other companies we can share to help you supercharge your progress. If you’d prefer to be connected with other companies directly in a community dedicated specifically to DEI and employee resource groups, we encourage you to drop by the Global ERG Network website and take a look around. We’ve got best practice resources, monthly live events, 24/7 networking and knowledge sharing, and much more, some of which is free to the public, so check it out today!