How to develop a diversity and inclusion programme for your business
Creating a truly effective Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Programme can benefit a company’s culture and foster a happier and more productive workforce.
Get it right and you can build an inclusive workplace that works for all your staff and acts as a beacon for new hires and prospective clients too. Get it wrong, and you run the risk of looking insensitive or like it’s a publicity stunt.
Since kicking off a D&I initiative should be handled sensitively, we’ve put together an initial five-step guide on the key things to think about when starting your own programme.
1. Set benchmarks for what you want the programme to achieve
Before starting any sort of initiative, it’s important to understand where your business is right now – so that any objectives you set can refer back to this as a baseline.
There are several ways to drill down into the data about what your staff currently think about your D&I policies. You can gather this sort of data through polls and surveys. If you’re already using Microsoft Teams as an internal comms tool, this offers free polling functionality – which is useful if you want to get a topline impression of how your team think about a certain topic. To get a richer understanding of what your staff think, it might be worth using a third party to survey your staff anonymously to encourage them to share more honest and insightful answers.
2. Understand how D&I links to your business objectives
Any truly effective D&I programme has to link to your business’s overall objectives. If the aspirations of your D&I initiative clash against your targets or don’t align with your team’s vision for the company, then it is going to struggle to take root and get buy-in from people across the business. Ultimately, any initiative must complement and help you achieve your goals.
3. Aim for simplicity
Keep it simple when setting up a D&I project for the first time. Your new initiative doesn’t have to be elaborate or complex – work out what you want to accomplish, and then look into low-lift activities that can help you to achieve them.
You might just want to start with a monthly meeting that allows staff to share their own experiences. You could also look to invite experts or speakers to lunch and learns to share advice on topics such as allyship or race fluency. Ensuring your company website reflects these internal efforts is also a good way to show that you are a representative and inclusive employer.
4. Start with the right mindset
Running a considered D&I programme starts with how you approach it. If your aim is to create a truly inclusive workplace where employees can bring their best, authentic selves to work then the outcome is likely to be far more successful than if you are just doing it for publicity purposes.
In the age of social media, people are hyper-aware of inauthentic claims and virtue signaling. If you are very vocal about a D&I programme but are actually doing little internally to foster a feeling of inclusivity, expect to be called out.
5. Learn, measure and evolve
Just as you setup your objectives at the start of the programme, keeping track of how you are getting on against these goals is essential for understanding how effective your initiative is.
Speaking to your employees about your D&I initiative shouldn’t just be a one-time effort – it should be an ongoing process that shows you are measuring and learning.
Without a continual feedback loop from your team, you’re unlikely to be able to improve on your D&I programme and run the risk of it feeling like a performative act rather than a valued investment. Longevity and evolution are key elements of developing a powerful initiative, so make sure you have the tools and ethos to constantly be testing its success.