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4 Tips for Building a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

It’s no secret that diversity and inclusion are serious business.

A recent survey found that 69% of executives list diversity and inclusion as an important issue for their companies and that over 86% of candidates rate diversity as a key concern when choosing an employer.

So why are so many organizations struggling to build a diversity and inclusion strategy that works?

Plans and Strategies vs. Programs

When it comes to targeting new talent or collecting employee feedback, one-off events like listening sessions and panels are powerful tools for engagement. Translating information received and lessons learned into policies and procedures that support a company culture of equality, however, requires longer-term initiative.

Designing a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

While they’re often grouped together, ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ represent distinct concepts.

When we think about diversity, we’re thinking about ways to acknowledge, appreciate, and accommodate differences among employees in terms of age, gender, race, dis/ability, religion, or sexual identity (among many characteristics).

When we think about inclusion, we’re thinking about how to ensure that every employee feels comfortable, accepted, and valued for their unique contributions to the organization.

A successful diversity and inclusion strategy needs to address both. Here are four factors to consider when building a comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategy for your organization.

1. Everyone is a stakeholder in diversity and inclusion initiatives

According to industry analyst Josh Bersin, a successful diversity and inclusion strategy will go beyond human resources. It will incorporate leadership from all sectors of your organization. “When the problem is driven by HR, the needle moves too slowly,” he explains.

A true diversity and inclusion strategy is a top-to-bottom initiative. It addresses all of your core functions and organizational culture.

2. Identify key areas of employee concern

Discover the starting point for your program by collecting information that will help define the program’s goals.

It may be that employees have voiced a desire for dialogue around a particular policy. Perhaps they have expressed a need for more education on a specific subject. Internal surveys and analysis of historical hiring data can provide insight into areas where your organization can improve. Listening to your employees – and your data – ensures that outreach efforts or process changes have a meaningful impact on your workforce.

3. Set measurable goals

No matter how great or small your organization’s ambitions are, a good diversity and inclusion strategy will incorporate objective benchmarks.

Concrete goals help keep everyone running in the same direction while metrics measuring representation, workforce mobility, employee satisfaction, and compensation help assess team progress. Setting quarterly recruitment targets, for example, can help your hiring managers focus their efforts on diverse candidates throughout the year.

4. Communicate with management

“Though culture change is hard, and the path to it seems murky, we do know that managers are the front line,” explains Dr. Melissa Thomas-Hunt, AirBnB’s Head of Global Diversity and Belonging. In addition to implementing new initiatives associated with a diversity and inclusion strategy, managers are also in a position to initiate the hard conversations that are necessary to understand where your organization may not live up to its ideals. Giving your management team an active role in creating your diversity and inclusion strategy keeps the organization focused on improvement and sends a powerful message of commitment.

When it comes to creating an effective diversity and inclusion strategy, smart companies know success comes from thinking and planning. These organizations are putting time and effort into creating a clear, actionable plan that speaks to and with employees.

For more advice on how to create a diverse and inclusive organization, check out this article.