When it comes to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, many companies often plan short-term initiatives without building a strong, multi-year strategy.
Celebrating cultural holidays and creating more inclusive hiring procedures are certainly steps in the right direction, but without a goal-based strategy fueled by engagement data and backed by leadership, DEI initiatives often fizzle out before their potential is even realized.
Companies that view DEI as an ongoing measure of well-being rather than a quota to meet not only enjoy year-over-year growth and success—their people are also happier, more productive, and more inclined to advance their careers.
But how can organizations ensure they’re starting from the right place? It all starts with having a thorough understanding of what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean from a wellness perspective before nailing down a long-term strategy.
What’s Your “Why”: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Before lifting DEI initiatives off the ground, employers must first understand why they matter in the first place. Doing so will enable companies to unlock their larger social purpose, which will underlie all succeeding strategies, initiatives, and programming.
What is Workplace Diversity?
We live in a diverse world, and our workplaces should reflect that.
Promoting diversity in the workplace means embracing, respecting, and defending the rights of employees as they relate to race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and more.
In addition to creating workplace environments that are free from discrimination and harassment, organizations are also responsible for bringing out the best in all employees and allowing them to reach their full potential.
What is Workplace Equity?
While equity and equality are often used interchangeably, both terms have distinct meanings that must be understood.
Equitable workplaces give employees access to opportunities and support structures in proportion to their individual and unique needs, rather than simply providing the same opportunities to everyone regardless of their needs. Examples of equitable workplace accommodations could be providing adjustable desks or cubicles for employees in wheelchairs or using inclusive language in handbooks or job postings.
On a foundational level, equity takes individual needs into consideration and caters to them so everyone starts on a fair playing field and has an attainable path to success.
What is Workplace Inclusion?
Inclusion is the basis on which diversity and equity are built. It’s what makes everybody feel comfortable and welcome to bring their authentic selves to work without fear of judgment or discrimination.
At their root, inclusive work environments actively support, encourage, and facilitate diversity by providing equitable opportunities based on each employee’s unique needs.
How a Wellness Program Can Reinforce DEI Initiatives
Every organization is different, just as its employees are. Therefore, individual needs will vary from one workplace to the next, so how can you accurately gauge what those needs look like for your unique organization?
You might be surprised to learn you already have an impactful tool at your disposal.
Wellness platforms are not only designed to streamline educational resources, benefits information, and unique incentives pertaining to DEI initiatives—but also track which features are most engaging. By centralizing DEI program initiatives, communications, and feedback in an easily accessible wellness program, organizations can gather raw data to inform broader DEI implementation best practices, program modifications, and future benchmarks.
Here are four common phases for developing effective and data-fueled DEI initiatives, as outlined by SHRM:
Data collection and analysis to determine needs
Strategy design to match business values and objectives
Strategic implementation and monitoring of initiatives
Time is of the essence when implementing DEI initiatives. Once an organization has outlined the strategic direction, goals, and action items for its initiatives, the next step is setting realistic timeframes for completion. Throughout implementation and launch, teams must maintain accountability for furthering initiatives and regularly measure goal progress through engagement data.
Evaluation and continued audit of the plan
Examples of DEI Initiatives That Leave an Impact
Here are a few examples of initiatives that you can implement today to get your DEI strategy off the ground and move your organization in a direction that’s more diverse, equitable, and inclusive:
Why It Matters
How to Make It Happen
Recognizing and celebrating cultural holidays
No holiday holds more or less value than another, which is why it’s important to recognize diverse holidays in the workplace.
This is an especially important initiative when hiring talent, as young workers between the ages of 18 and 29 are considered the most religiously diverse group in the country.
Create a dialogue with your employees to find out which holidays they value. This can be done through company surveys or by working directly with your ERG.
Then, follow these steps to execute:
Hire diverse talent
In order to build a more inclusive workplace, organizations must take an unbiased approach to recruiting with a goal of reaching far beyond that bias.
Research shows that diverse teams make better decisions as well as better investments—making them conducive to a financially successful business.
Hiring diverse candidates starts with your job postings. By auditing your company’s open positions, using inclusive language, and stating your company’s larger DEI purpose, you can build a brand that not only showcases its DEI values but demonstrates them, too.
Create and seek counsel from a DEI committee
DEI committees and councils differ from ERGs in that they’re organizationally instituted as opposed to employee-led.
A DEI committee leads with accountability, helping bring about important policy changes to ensure that an organization is delivering on its DEI promises. In other words, it’s a cross-functional council that manages and coordinates DEI efforts within the company, and the benefits of having one are myriad.
According to Rutgers University, a DEI committee is at its best when: