A 4-Step Process to Take Action on DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion)

January 18, 2022

Workplaces have become more diverse than at any time before. In fact, recent studies show that by 2044, groups formerly known as “minorities” will achieve majority status in North America.

With this in mind, leaders need to develop new skills to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. These actions must be ongoing, scalable, and sustainable to continue to foster workplaces where everyone can feel heard and valued and thrive.

At EI Advantage, we help leaders understand the principles of DEI and help them to shift their mindsets to create more equitable and inclusive workplaces for everyone. Below are four steps to help you get started:

A 4-Step Process to Take Action on DEI

1. Embed equity in practices and systems 

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion” are often referred to as “DEI,” but sometimes as equity, diversity, and inclusion or “EDI.”

Regardless of how it shows up, considering equity is often important both before and after achieving diversity.  To successfully implement principles, leadership must first acknowledge social inequities and accept that, whether unintentionally or not, most organizations aren’t “level” playing fields for everyone who works there or for people who don’t.  Consider to what extent everyone has an equitable opportunity to get employment, for example.

Considering equity recognizes that people have varying levels of opportunity, privilege, advantage, and power, meaning that a “fair opportunity” isn’t fair for everyone.

By reviewing company hiring systems you might find biases (conscious or not) that need correcting.  By setting clear goals towards increased equity before tackling other tough challenges, leaders can signal that fairness for all is the foundation for their diversity and inclusion efforts. 

2. Identify opportunities for change

The first step is to develop an awareness of the types of diversity found within and across various groups within your organization.

Using personal one-on-one interviews to discover how diversity, equity, and inclusion play out at various levels might include:

  • How individuals experience DEI
  • How teams incorporate DEI principles, and
  • What the organization as a whole can to do improve DEI

Use these findings to set a course for how you can create alignment and formalize a commitment to DEI initiatives in your place of work, starting at the top. 

With this in mind, leaders should:

  • Consider both individual and collective perspectives, identities, and cultures 
  • Explore how power and privilege may be impacting their leadership approach
  • Reflect on their efforts and how the two former points have influenced their ability to implement DEI principles to date

By considering how unique experiences at the team and management levels are impacting how DEI is implemented throughout the organization, leaders can identify the most pressing opportunities for change and begin taking action.

Register for our self-paced short course to examine DEI principles and learn relationship management strategies to build a more inclusive culture.  Discounts are available for groups! 

3. Identify and set goals for diversity

“Diversity” refers to the differences within a group of individuals and might include organizational values, beliefs, backgrounds, experiences, and behaviours. 

Diversity is a state of being, not something that can be solved just by hiring a few people from diverse backgrounds. Individuals are not diverse.  By recognizing this, leaders can explore the impact that diversity has on the approaches, perspectives, and assumptions within teams and at all levels of management.

Using this knowledge, we can then set goals and expectations for how to encourage and increase contributions from a wide range of experiences and points of view.

4. Lead with inclusivity

Inclusion involves creating practices and policies that redefine leadership within the organization and that set ongoing, intentional efforts to help every employee, partner, and customer feel a sense of belonging and recognition.

By identifying the changes that need to take place, leaders can identify the tools, resources, and support needed to help them improve on areas such as:

  • Identifying and reducing bias
  • Respecting cultural differences
  • Fostering mentoring and coaching
  • Building empathy
  • Managing conflict
  • Bringing out the best in everyone

How to Take Action on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 

Creating meaningful change in your workplace culture requires a sustained and intentional approach. Below are some tips to help you and your teams put a focus on EDI today, and well into the future:

Increase coaching and mentoring 

One of the challenges of a more diverse workforce is that team members who are not “like” their managers don’t have equitable access to people who can guide them towards experiences and support them as they grow and develop their skill sets. As a result, people can often stagnate and struggle with their careers.

One of the most effective ways to avoid unconscious bias and create more equitable support systems is to implement a coaching culture. 

Here are some ways to adopt a “coach approach” to creating equitable access for all:

  • Human resources can communicate expectations to help managers and mentors “coach” their team members and understand the role they play in organizational DEI initiatives, as well as providing DEI training and resources.

  • Managers can make sure that people who report directly to them feel heard, receive feedback regularly, and are provided support and opportunities.

  • Mentors can give feedback, guidance, and support for ongoing development.

Break down communication silos

One of the biggest challenges to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is the challenge of communicating effectively with people whose backgrounds and perspectives differ significantly from others within the organization.

Eighty-three percent of all millennials are more likely to be actively engaged if they believe their company stimulates a diverse and inclusive culture. By improving the quality of how everyday conversations are perceived, you can build a culture of understanding, empathy, and respect for differences of opinion. This in turn fuels productivity, innovation, and collaboration.

Engage in “network analysis”

Network analysis helps workplace teams understand where they might be unintentionally creating inequity, or keeping those with diverse experiences and perspectives from speaking up.

One of the best ways to identify the “networks” in your place of work is to use a customized survey. This can create a “map” of relationships that often reveal that certain people (or groups of people) tend to over-rely on a handful of people or groups, as well as showing who among the team tends to be more isolated.

This process can show leaders how unintentional bias may be creating limitations within their workplace teams, and set goals to diversify their network and help employees engage with one another more meaningfully.

Start Taking Action on DEI Today

Understanding DEI principles and developing relationship management strategies to promote an inclusive culture takes ongoing time and effort, but you can get started today by enrolling in our popular self-paced DEI program.

For more insightful articles like this one, sign up for our email newsletter to have tips, resources, and training opportunities sent right to your inbox once a month.