Since 2020, many organizations have invested in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) strategies to strengthen internal culture, cater to shifting global culture, and respond to political, social, and racial unrest. While there have been notable strides in recent years, DE&I is still a somewhat new and ever-evolving topic.
Companies can make powerful strides in DE&I initiatives. Even those with limited resources can succeed in creating an environment where all people are welcome and able to thrive. At Sentinel Group, our DE&I strategies are still in their early stages. We by no means position ourselves as experts in DE&I; however, we’ve learned a lot along the way and compiled some strategies that may help inform your organization’s initiatives.
While there are general foundations to DE&I, your initiatives should be unique to your business and complement your existing culture. Recycling another organization’s strategy is not enough — what hits home for one company may fail to land at another.
Implementing effective DE&I initiatives is not solely the responsibility of leadership or human resources.
A robust DE&I strategy should focus on both the internal culture and the external factors that affect your business. If your organization already has a strong culture, consider building upon this when implementing your DE&I strategy. When looking a bit broader, consider the role DE&I can play in your specific industry. For example, if your organization focuses on health care, learning about the inequities in service different communities experience is an excellent place to start.
Implementing effective DE&I initiatives is not solely the responsibility of leadership or human resources. While these parties are essential for establishing programming, managers and employees are the gatekeepers for creating an environment that promotes a culture desirable for all. Establishing training, discussion forums, and other learning avenues for all employees is important.
Welcoming diverse voices to your DE&I working group(s) can further promote inclusion and provide previously undiscovered insights. When thinking about diversity within your organization, consider job role, tenure, job level, geographical location, or education level — to name just a few parameters.
Having a complete understanding of the organization’s cultural strengths and weaknesses is crucial. The best way to gather this information is by listening to your people. Employers can find added value when they create as many arenas as possible for their employees to participate. That might include using outside firms to conduct anonymous polls of employees, creating suggestion boxes, or encouraging employees to share details about their lives and identities outside of work.
Pulse surveys and employee satisfaction surveys are also great ways to hear directly from your employees. To get accurate responses, your organization must offer these avenues for honest remarks without the threat of retaliation.
While implementing and fine-tuning your strategy, you may discover your organization falls short in certain areas. Being immersed in your organization’s culture will give you a subjective perspective. Consider utilizing outside expertise and guidance for added objectivity where needed. Speaking with consultants about your strategy and conducting third-party research are two ways to tap outside resources.
If you are not careful, there is a risk of stagnation after the initial implementation of a DE&I initiative.
DE&I is always evolving. Be sure to stay engaged in the overall DE&I conversation. You can find avenues for learning anywhere, whether in your day-to-day interactions or in society at large.
Attend industry- and non-industry-specific events and conferences related to DE&I, encourage individuals to share what they’ve learned with others, and utilize training programs, webinars, and other resources to stay engaged.
If you are not careful, there is a risk of stagnation after the initial implementation of a DE&I initiative. It is important to continually reassess and improve your strategy as the world evolves.
William P. Cooper is senior financial wellness educator and DE&I advisor at Sentinel Group, an employee benefits administration service provider.