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How to Create An Effective DEI Plan

When working to support DEI, a small business owner has to keep in mind whom they choose to work with, as much as whom they work for.

Patsy Parrish


DEIB stands for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, but if you want to get technical, it should read DEI = B. That’s because DEI is the formula (and steps taken) to create the desired result of belonging. However, you can’t just work on DEI and expect the B to follow and stay. Achieving your diversity, equity, and inclusion goals takes time. Having the proper best practices employed will keep you on the right track. Here are five best practices to keep in mind with every DEIB initiative.

Before Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, There Was Ahmaud Arbery

Given the dramatic events of the past two years, you’ve probably recognized the imperative need to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within your organization. You’ve secured initial buy-in and committed resources. These events and similar occurrences across the United States point to challenges we continue to face in the relationship between individuals that may be attributed to their perspectives on race, gender, and other factors that highlight our differences. In part, these differences and our tolerance of differences are based on our backgrounds, how we are acculturated, and how we learn to accept and respect those who may not be like us.

You’re ready to launch (or enhance) your DEI initiative. Yet, creating a DEI plan can be overwhelming. So, where do you begin? As with many endeavors, it’s essential to prepare before taking action. The following steps will help you prepare to develop an effective plan.

Find your motivation. Start by asking yourself: Why are we making DEI a priority for our business?…

  • Gather DEI data.
  • Generate DEI Buy-in.
  • Look to external resources.
  • Start small.
  • Ensure accountability.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Explained

In an organization, DEI refers to policies and programs that encourage or improve the participation and representation of different or diverse groups of individuals.

  • Diversity efforts ensure that an organization comprises a diverse workforce regarding gender, culture, ethnicity, and sexuality.
  • Equity policies ensure that all company processes are fair and impartial to every employee. In other words, equity ensures that everyone gets the same opportunities, treatment, and advancement.
  • Inclusion is about making every employee feel a part of a team or an organization irrespective of their position, identity, rank, or class. Inclusion aims at giving every employee a sense of belonging.
  • Belonging centers around the employee experience of feeling accepted in the workplace. Every team member should feel that their perspective is valued and adds something useful. Belonging to a team implies a sense of value—that an employee is needed and wanted. A simplistic example is if a leadership team is composed of nine seasoned managers and a young, new manager. This could make the new manager feel like an outlier with little value to offer. But, if the others actively encourage the new manager to voice ideas and input, provide equal opportunity for this manager to lead projects and grow, etc., this helps the new manager to feel valued and respected. It delivers a sense of belonging.

You’ve probably heard the terms ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ a lot. The terms ‘equity’ and ‘belonging’ might be less familiar, but they’re just as critical in setting your company up for success. A Deloitte study found that diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) offers a company a 46% increase in competitive advantage in the industry, 40% better and more accurate decision making and a 34% increase in financial performance and other benefits. Furthermore, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging improve retention rates and breed cutting-edge innovation.

What You Should Know Before You Start Making Plans on How to Measure DEI

Before you begin, you must first answer the following question: where is your company currently? To answer this question, you must first gain access to your firm and familiarize yourself with its policies and procedures. This could include a review of employee handbooks and harassment policies that align with DEI goals.

Without precise and effective measurements to assess diversity and inclusion initiatives and outcomes, an organization’s commitment is limited by a tendency to revert to habitual and ingrained thinking and behavioral patterns.

Importantly, you will need to acquire the relevant data about your organization to choose the best technique to measure your business DEI. Examine the information you gathered, such as whether there are any significant discrepancies between the older and freshly hired personnel.

The main thing to remember is that the information you acquired should tell you much about what’s happening at your firm. With them, you’ll be able to produce the most significant, original way to measure your company’s DEI. One of the pitfalls that every small firm should avoid is not employing exact data to manage this issue.

Collecting DEI data is a no-brainer from a business and organizational culture standpoint. It allows you to avoid prejudice and broaden your company’s diversity. Without credible DEI statistics, it would be nearly complicated to show actual progress in DEI.

It promotes a culture where people use those voices authentically and feel psychologically safe to contribute to the fullness of their ideas.

Here are some reasons why Small Businesses should measure DEI:

  • This encourages higher levels of engagement, productivity, and innovation, all of which help boost income. Revenues are 19 percent greater in companies with more diverse management teams.
  • Reinforcing strong DEI policies will encourage the staff to come to work daily without fear of being marginalized.
  • According to McKinsey, gender and ethnic diversity boost profitability by 20-36 percent.
  • What matters to us is measured. It’s like not monitoring earnings and hoping for better results if you don’t measure diversity and inclusion.

Things You Should Consider When Collecting Data on DEI

Increasing diversity and inclusion is an important goal for several companies. And its data tells leaders what’s working and where they should focus their efforts. Data on variety will aid firms in determining whether or not action is required. For example, analyzed diversity data could reveal whether some groups are promoted at a slower pace than others or whether groups fail to break through at different stages of the recruitment process.

It might be tough to find out how to collect diversity data. So first, figure out what you want and which data you need to get it. You will obtain superior analysis if you collect varied data in a planned and focused manner.

You can get information about your staff based on age, handicap, gender reassignment, marriage/civil partnership, pregnancy/maternity, race, religion or protected belief, sex, and orientation. The information acquired as a result of these is usually the most useful.

If you think it would be helpful for your business or if you suspect an issue, you might monitor it by educational level, origin, or other criteria.

If your diversity data reveals that particular groups aren’t using your services or breaking through in recruitment, you’ll need to explain why this is occurring, why it matters, and what you’ll do about it.

Listening and paying attention to the data you’re collecting is the most crucial thing you can do with it. If employees provide information about their protected characteristics and there is an issue with diversity or inclusion that should be evident in the measurements, trust will be eroded.

With this data, you can assess corporate changes and develop suggestions for new projects to improve your small business performance.

How to Create and Measure Up for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

What are some of the most basic ways businesses demonstrate their commitment to driving change in the direction of DEI initiatives? It’s vital to measure what matters if you want to make real progress toward a healthy, inclusive workplace culture for a diverse workforce. Understanding how to assess diversity, equity, and inclusion is the first step toward a more varied force.

Recognize that DEI is a long-term project and that we won’t achieve all of our objectives in a single program. Your DEI campaign should include relevant goals, desired workplace behaviors, and learning objectives to position your efforts to achieve predictable, verifiable results.

Some of the steps you can take to measure up DEI are:
“Start where you are …” —Arthur Ashe

1. Access the Present Business State

To begin, you must conduct a general assessment of your company’s previous market performance. By focusing your workplace culture on inclusiveness, you can assess whether the devoted resources, both budgetary and human capital, are strategic enough for the programs implemented, policies affected, and practices changed. Benchmarking against the industry, examining representation gaps, progress, attrition rates, and salary indicate the most significant changes to focus on.

2. Establish Recruitment, Representation, and Retention Benchmarks

You’ve hired diverse workers, but how long will they stay? A revolving or your employee’s high turnover could have several adverse effects. Measuring your staff retention rate goes beyond recruitment. Map out how you could do better when it comes to recruiting, retaining, and advancing diverse talent.

In 2019, the average employee retention rate in the United States was 90%. Meanwhile, if minority employees leave at a higher rate than other groups, it may indicate that your DEI efforts aren’t succeeding beyond the hiring stage.

What are the gender and racial makeup of the candidates you’ve hired in the last six to twelve months? Is a group of employees more likely to depart your organization than others? Job descriptions should be evaluated for equity and inclusion, among other factors. In addition, you should assess how effective your internship program is at attracting students of color and make any required adjustments.

Creating a data architecture and reporting might reveal trends and other business insights. These can help you guarantee that your recruitment, hiring, and on-the-job processes are fair—and fit with larger DEI goals.

3. Measuring Results and Baseline

The first stage is to assemble a diversified team of people. Determine how successful these persons are in your organization and whether or not they have a clear route to advancement. This can be performed by using the following methods:

  • Keeping track of your company’s representation at all levels.
  • Determining the number of leadership positions held by individuals of underrepresented groups.
  • Check to see if that percentage has increased in the last year.
  • Find out how far your staff has progressed in your firm.

If minority groups are underrepresented in leadership positions, your organization may need to address career development challenges. It isn’t easy to track progress without a baseline. If you’ve already started your program without a baseline measure, you can compare your metrics to results from other parts of the firm or industry benchmarks. This says that if you had blind recruitment in one of your departments, you should have baseline recruitment to track its impact.

Assume you’ve implemented arbitrary recruitment in one of your organization’s departments. Ideally, you should be able to track the initiative’s impact using baseline measures.

4. Set Marks

Setting goals will assist you in focusing your efforts in a specific direction. It claims that setting clear and measurable goals increases motivation and task performance. You must know what is expected of them to induce a behavioral change.

In diversity and inclusion, well-defined and quantifiable goals are especially crucial since, as stated at the outset of this essay, without goals, our instinctive and hidden tendencies to favor some over others would easily outweigh our conscious intents to be fair.

However, setting diverse aims and goals is challenging and should be approached with prudence. Goals should be aspirational enough to motivate effort and dedication while remaining realistic to avoid negative emotions like resistance or dread.

Consider the hurdles that can be solved quickly (objective interviews to eliminate affinity bias) and those that will take longer to overcome when formulating goals (pipeline weakness for women in some professions).

5. Inaugurate Obligation and Accountability

Employees should be held accountable for achieving objectives or other goals using scorecards and other performance management tools once they have been set. The ultimate duty for diversity and inclusion should rest with the CEO and the Board of Directors.

One of the quickest ways to measure a DEI program is by creating awareness of responsibility and Accountability. It all starts with top-level management buy-in. That might mean assigning a top executive to lead and sponsor DEI programs or establishing an entirely new executive DEI role.

This CEO could create behavioral norms to hold organizational stakeholders accountable for their actions. Also, start training for employees at all levels of the company. Create a mechanism for tracking DEI performance, regularly reporting specific goals and initiatives.

Hold those in charge of DEI to account through performance evaluations, bonuses, promotions, and other means. Create recruitment, performance management, leadership assessment, and training action plans.

6. Track, Analyze, Report Results, and Outline New Initiatives

Having a formal plan for tracking your progress is crucial—what metrics will be calculated, who will calculate them, and how often? On the other hand, keeping track of diversity and inclusion indicators and reporting them is insufficient.

The resulting data must also be analyzed to initiate business adjustments to the initial business plan. It’s crucial to delegate responsibilities for reporting discoveries and laying out a plan for dealing with them.

Internally, the achievements of diversity efforts should be transparent, which builds trust and Accountability. Employees can tell when a company is concealing something. Not disclosing a negative measure could cause more harm than benefit.

You must understand the fact that not all metrics must be disclosed. Again, the costs and benefits of revealing a particular metric must be carefully assessed. Sharing data with employees can be advantageous for benchmarking in the industry and strengthening an employer’s brand and reputation in the marketplace.

Firms that have experienced a diversity failure should answer honestly and articulate a plan for change because the CEO is the best person to transmit negative messages. Employers should also regularly examine diversity and inclusion KPIs and make changes when the program and company goals change.


Programs that promote diversity and inclusion take time and resources, but they can help small businesses flourish and grow. Companies that realize the value of having a diverse workplace and an inclusive work culture benefit from increased employee equity.

As part of your DEI efforts, all employees must feel like they belong, and all voices must be heard and valued. Inclusion refers to ensuring that employees’ work experiences aren’t impacted by their identities. By examining your survey responses, you’ll see where your DEI efforts might be enhanced. You can start a leadership inclusion training endeavor if numerous employees are worried about approaching higher-ups, for example. These responses may provide new information if your retention rate is low.

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