DE&I is a hot topic. Do a Google online search and you’ll find 273 million search results for “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”
What is Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I)?
If you ask the average business leader or executive today if they value diversity, chances are they would say yes. Same goes for equity and inclusion. The research is definitive: a diverse and inclusive workplace culture leads to more innovation, higher revenues and greater profitability.
The positive effects of building a diverse and inclusive workplace culture permeate every level of business. According to research from the Boston Consulting Group, businesses with above-average total diversity had 19% points higher innovation revenues and 9% points higher EBIT margins. There is also a large amount of research to suggest that companies with more women in the C-Suite are more profitable. Further research from McKinsey found that greater ethnic and cultural diversity correlated with higher performance and profitability, and companies with the most ethnically/ culturally diverse boards were 43% more likely to experience higher profits.
The term DE&I refers to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Diverse perspectives foster diverse thinking and help businesses address challenges in creative ways. Equitable treatment of others makes the entire workforce feel valued, while having inclusive policies in place ensures that resources are distributed to those that need them. Each element makes up a specific element of workplace culture and, brought together, they ensure a workplace is best suited to meet the challenges of a diverse and ever-changing business environment.
But what does DE&I actually mean in the current business context? And how should businesses be thinking about their own DE&I initiatives and programs?
The key concepts can be defined as:
- Diversity refers to the real or perceived differences in attributes related to one’s identity that influence their behaviors and relationships.
- Equity is the extent to which individuals in an organization feel safe, valued, and able to express themselves authentically in the workplace.
- Inclusion refers to the implementation of fair policies, practices and procedures in a company such that resources are distributed based on individual’s contribution.
Although diversity, equity and inclusion may seem similar to each other, each element is unique and should be supported independently to make up a wholistic DEI program. An organization with diversity but very little equity will suffer from higher turnover of staff and a lack of innovation. If a company scores high in terms of equity but lacks an inclusive culture, cliques may develop, reducing openness and collaboration. If an organization doesn’t address all three elements, it can struggle to benefit from the financial and functional benefits of a coherent DEI strategy.
Working with many startups and big businesses across industries and verticals from healthcare to accounting, insurance and manufacturing, we see that there is still a lot of confusion around the meaning of DEI and how best to implement actively diverse, equitable and inclusive work environments. There is a significant opportunity for teams and organizations to leverage tools and technologies, from templates for DEI strategy and implementation to online collaboration tools, in the spirit of transformation.
Building Inclusive Workplace Cultures Isn’t Easy
Bringing about a successful DEI campaign isn’t easy. At its core, a DEI campaign is about managing change and expectations within a business environment that may not be particularly open to change. Even in the tech center of the Silicon Valley, where business leaders are thought to be driven by innovation and an openness to new experiences, many of the world’s most technologically advanced companies struggle to successfully implement DEI initiatives.
Take Google, which spent an estimated $256 million over the course of 2 years between 2014 and 2015 on DEI programs. Despite this massive investment, Google’s 2018 Diversity Report showed attrition rates were highest for Black employees. What’s more, Black employees accounted for only 2% of Google’s workforce, compared to 57% White and 25% who were female.
Clearly, teams and organizations need all the help they can get when it comes to enabling and empowering better decision making around DEI initiatives and programs. Businesses and individual employees will continue to experience challenges associated with successful implementation of these initiatives until they get everyone on the same page.
A DEI Framework and Tools from the World Economic Forum
As the data indicates, organizations that embrace diversity, equity and inclusion are more profitable. That should be a good enough reason for most businesses to roll out DEI processes. But it’s not the only benefit. Adopting DEI best practices helps reduce risk through better decision-making, drive higher rates of innovation, and have better retention rates with more engaged employees.
Creating and leading a diversity, equity and engagement strategy that drives real change can feel overwhelming. A framework created by the World Economic Forum outlines three areas to focus on in order to make the biggest difference: Talent, Organization and Employee Experience.
- Talent involves assessing job descriptions, people and recruiting strategies, and how employers identify, interview and hire employees.
- Organization involves using benchmark best practices like goal setting and anonymous feedback, participating in internal and external events and sponsorships, and focusing on employee engagement goals and measures.
- Employee Experience focuses on the onboarding process, talent management, training and development.
As with most change management initiatives, what gets measured gets managed. The best way to move forward with any DEI strategy is to capture data and measure progress, assess the organization’s capabilities around Talent, Organization and Employee Experience, and create projects to address gaps and opportunities.
At upBOARD, we were inspired by the work from the World Economic Forum and developed an approach based on our decades of organizational development and change management experience. Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion App leads teams and organizations through the process of setting context around definitions of DEI, defining the business case, assessing capabilities, gaining insight into gaps and opportunities, and creating and managing projects that will transform an organization’s culture to its core.
The DEI Process: Set, Assess, Review, Lead & Measure
We built our templates and integrated process based up on the World Economic Forum model to help organizations manage their own DEI process in the cloud. The approach includes five key phases: Assess the Current State, Review Opportunities, Implement Projects, Share Goals & Responsibilities, and Track Progress.
- Assess the Current State
- Review Opportunities
- Implement Projects
- Share Goals & Policies
- Track Progress
Each phase builds upon the one before it, taking the learnings from the previous phase and allowing organizations to track progress and outline DEI projects. The phases are described below and a complete PowerPoint template can be accessed for free HERE.
1. Assess the Current State
The first step in developing a robust DEI strategy is to set the context by reviewing definitions, understanding the business case, and then defining objectives and policies. App users can move through the “Set Context” menu to complete these activities, then continue moving across the menu to assess their own organization, review and prioritize top opportunities, and then define and lead the most important projects.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are different yet complementary concepts. Teams and organizations benefit most when they incorporate all three into their policies, practices and cultures. With this in mind, we provide clear definitions of each within the app (see below).
On top of these key definitions, it’s important for business leaders to keep in mind the different dimensions that drive and relate to diversity. Here are just a few which must be taken into consideration when outlining a DEI strategy:
- Age and generation
- Gender and gender expression
- Sexual orientation
- Mental and physical capabilities
- Level of health
- Personality traits and behaviors
- Race, ethnicity and religion
- Language and nationality
- Location (such as rural or urban)
- Social origin and parental background
- Income, education and socio-economic status
Building a Business Case
Teams and organizations that embrace policies and practices that support diverse cultures where everyone feels psychological safety and is included as an equal in shaping the future of the company are more profitable and effective.
While homogenous teams may be more productive in the very short term, diverse teams apply different perspectives, experiences and skill sets to become even more productive in the long-term. With this in mind, it’s important to take into consideration some of the key facts and figures about DEI research and how a strong DEI program can improve the bottom line.
Often times, the successful implementation of a DEI program rests on developing a strong business case. Business leaders who want to roll out a top-notch DEI program in their own organization can create the case for change by getting the buy-in of key stakeholders through talking about hard and fast business metrics that will help drive the business forward while simultaneously promoting diversity.
Assess the Data
Gathering and assessing available data on the current status of the business is integral to understanding how effective a specific business program or initiative will be as part of an overarching DEI strategy.
In order to ensure that business leaders capture enough data on the types of things that drive DEI engagements forward, we’ve outlined several areas where it is important to capture this kind of data:
- Talent Assessment
- Organization Assessment
- Employee Experience Assessment
Business leaders can drill down into the app and populate each of these areas with data which relates to their employees’ demographics, talent DEI strategy, organizational DEI strategy, and overall DEI employee experience. This provides a single source of insight for business leaders to refer to when making strategic decisions about their DEI plan.
When it comes to determining the quality and diversity of talent within a business, organizations need to think in terms of priority and impact.
Business leaders can review each of the areas in the specific Talent Sourcing and Selection card shown below and complete the self-assessment by indicating whether the area of focus is a Gap, Acceptable or Best Practice when it comes to supporting diversity, equity and inclusion.
For each area, they can assign a “priority” score (1 = lower priority; 10 = higher priority) and an “Impact” score (1 = will have lower impact on DEI strategy; 10 = will have highest impact on DEI strategy). While all of these areas are important, this chart will help create a relative prioritization to help identify which areas should receive focus first.
The organizational structure of a business plays an important role in the diversity, equity and inclusion felt within a business. Leaders should look at everything from business goals and anonymous feedback gathering to public sponsorships and policy understanding.
Our DEI Template lets users review each of the areas below and complete the self-assessment by indicating whether the area of focus is a Gap, Acceptable or Best Practice when it comes to supporting diversity, equity and inclusion.
For each area, users can assign a “priority” score (1 = lower priority; 10 = higher priority) and an “Impact” score (1 = will have lower impact on DEI strategy; 10 = will have highest impact on DEI strategy).). While all of these areas are important, this chart will help create a relative prioritization to help identify which areas should receive focus first.
Employee Experience Assessment
Measurement of employee experience is an integral part of effective implementation of any DEI initiative. By measuring how engaged employees are and tracking the impact of the strategies used to drive engagement among these groups, app users can start to see how the employee experience is directly affecting any DEI initiative.
Business leaders can review each of the areas below and complete the self-assessment by indicating whether the area of focus is a Gap, Acceptable or Best Practice when it comes to supporting diversity, equity and inclusion. For each area, users can assign a “priority” score (1 = lower priority; 10 = higher priority) and an “Impact” score (1 = will have lower impact on DEI strategy; 10 = will have highest impact on DEI strategy). While all of these areas are important, this chart will help create a relative prioritization to help identify which areas should receive focus first.
2. Review Opportunities
Once data has been gathered, the DEI business leader should ideally work with key stakeholders and sponsors to prioritize the areas of the business that will be most helped by the implementation of specific DEI programs. So, how do you most effectively do this?
Creating a DEI Opportunity Dashboard
Creating a DEI Dashboard provides an integrated view of all opportunities across Talent, Organization and Employee Experience assessments.
(IMAGE ABOVE) Tracking opportunities associated with talent, organization and employee experience allows leaders to measure the size, impact and priority of certain initiatives like recruitment plans and employee communications.
3. Implement Projects
Once leaders understand the organization’s current state from a DEI perspective, they can make more informed decisions about the best way to empower and engage the team to take DEI projects forward.
Projects can take many forms and can address any of the areas where specific gaps or opportunities have been identified. It’s important to track and monitor the status of each project as it unfolds to ensure it includes the right sponsors and receives adequate funding and support.
Empower Project Managers
Driving change within an organization and successfully implementing a DEI strategy is not the work of a single individual. Diversity and inclusion projects can be challenging because they typically involve culture change. They generally require dedicated project managers as well as sponsors to make sure that project managers receive the support they need along the way.
The ability to track and monitor progress on specific projects is often hampered by a lack of visibility and clarity on the senior stakeholder’s side, as well as a lack of ownership on the side of the individual project managers. The solution to this is to empower project managers to create and track their own projects in an online dashboard which allows senior leaders to monitor progress of each project.
In the DEI Template and app that we created at upBOARD, project managers can quickly and easily add new projects to the DEI initiative board and describe in detail the project they are working on. Information, updates and documents related to the project as well as its current status can be stored on the individual “project card” which is then kept up to date for all relevant stakeholders to see. These project cards can be edited and updated at any time, providing 24/7 visibility and flexibility to project managers and senior leaders within the organization.
Track the Master List of Projects
As part of any DEI program there will be multiple projects running simultaneously. The DEI template and app automatically rolls up all projects created by individual project managers and puts them into one location so that users can quickly and easily check on the status of any of the projects in question.
From this central dashboard, app users can check the status of the project (Green, Yellow, Red), review the objective of the project, who the key sponsor is and the relevant project manager, as well as which stage of completion the project is currently in. They can also link directly to the relevant project card for more information on the current status of the project.
4. Share Goals & Policies
Business leaders should also define their overall strategic objectives for diversity, equity and inclusion. This means considering the type of work environment they will create, tangible business results, and overall impact for employees, customers, stakeholders, industry and community. In the app we developed, users can modify policy templates and upload related documents that support their objectives and programs.
Define your overall strategic goals for diversity, equity and inclusion. Consider the type of work environment you will create, tangible business results, and overall impact for your employees, customers, stakeholders, industry, and community. Upload any background documents or resources that support your overall goals and strategy.
A screenshot from our downloadable FREE template to track DEI initiatives within your business.
5. Track Progress
Race & Gender
Tracking race and gender data is an important element to ensure a business is making progress towards its DEI goals. upBOARD app users can enter data into the platform based on employee population, including describing any conclusions the business leaders can make based on any trends or gaps they see. They can then move through the remainder of the assessments to further identify additional gaps and opportunities for specific programs.
Users can enter available data for race and gender into a table like the one below. They can then change the years in the column headings as needed to accommodate historical data if desired. From their they can enter an executive summary below the table. Both the data entered, and the summary will be displayed in the DEI Dashboard.
Race & Gender Equality Assessment Summary
The results of the race and gender equality assessment should ideally be indicated through a breakdown of gaps, acceptable approaches, and best practice processes.
(IMAGE ABOVE) By tracking year-over-year racial diversity in a chart, leaders can easily visualize where gaps need to be filled to make progress on their DEI goals.
(IMAGE ABOVE) Tracking gender diversity allows leaders to monitor how diverse the business or organization is over time based on gender identity (male, female, trans, queer, other, etc.).
DEI Best Practices
Whether you’ve decided to download our free PowerPoint template for your DEI strategy or get a free trial on upBOARD, remember these tips to help you get started an ensure success:
- Involve key stakeholders early in the process
- Engage a team in collecting data, conducting your assessment and prioritizing projects
- Track progress in a dashboard. Track your data but also projects to ensure you’re moving the needle as you work to change culture.
Diversity, equity and inclusion have never been more important, both in business and in society as a whole. The world continues to grow closer together every day, and we are more interconnected than ever before. Still, many teams and organizations lack the skills and resources to successfully implement successful DEI programs.
Fortunately, tools and templates are becoming available to help executives, founders, HR Directors, and change agents to bridge the gap and advance diversity and inclusion efforts within their organizations.
If you’re interested in learning more about how upBOARD’s DEI templates and app can help you, sign up for our free trial.