A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

July 21, 2020

A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

Creating a diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy is not only a matter of compliance or the right thing to do, but it can also increase a business's bottom line to the tune of 19 percent. The simple mandate—creating more diversity and inclusion—has proved to be challenging for many industries. For instance, the sales industry has only experienced a 3 percent increase in female leadership roles over the last decade. Even more mind-blowing, only 37 of the companies on this year's Fortune 500 are led by female CEOs, and only 3 out of those 37 are women of color. To ensure that your business promotes diversity and inclusion for all walks of human life, use the following guidelines and tips to develop a robust D&I strategy.

Take Stock and Acknowledge the Problem

The world has a D&I problem, as evidenced by every headline in the news today. What happens in society is often mirrored by the business world. Does your company reflect disparities when it comes to diversity? Does your workforce reflect the world outside your office windows? Do you have a balance of younger and more senior employees? How many of your leadership positions are filled by women and minorities? Do any of your employees have disabilities? If you have hired a diverse workforce—are they included? Do they impact your workplace culture? Are they entirely “at home” in your setting? As a business leader or HR executive, it's essential to acknowledge that the diversity and inclusion problems exist. To investigate a diversity issue, it's helpful to examine your workforce's demographic data. This may include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Gender expression
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Disability
  • Language
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation

But it isn't enough to record the presence of a diverse team. For that team to enhance your workplace culture and productivity, it must feel included as a valued part of the organization.

After examining the data, speak to people. How essential do they feel? How valued? Do they feel heard and believe their voice is respected? In this way, HR executives can gauge how inclusive their culture is—and take steps to improve it.

What Are the Problem Areas?

During the assessment process, take a close examination of problem areas. For example, 70 percent of ABC Company's entry-level positions are staffed by women and minorities. 80 percent of mid-managers are white men, while 16 percent are white women, 3 percent are minority men, and 1 percent are minority women. Upper management consists entirely of white men. Any HR pro will note where the problems lie. Where are your company's problem areas? Once you understand your vulnerabilities, you can take steps to strengthen them in terms of your D&I strategy.

Stop the Bias—Unconscious and Conscious

Yes, we live in an immensely polarized political climate. Should the boss be driving around with a bumper sticker for his/her party of choice? How included will employees who do not subscribe to that party feel? Leaders need to be aware of how their personal views can negatively impact the people they supervise. We all know that we each have strong beliefs regarding marriage, religion, current affairs and so forth. If we allow our own opinions to color the setting, we are not creating an inclusive environment and are unlikely to achieve its benefits either.

Be Congruent

Do your company's policies, job descriptions and advertisements reflect that you are a diverse and inclusive company? Ensure that your company publications are gender-neutral and designed to attract all qualified candidates. If you're struggling to hire more women, for example, you should take a look at your policies to ensure that they support women's needs.

Hold Leaders at Every Level Accountable for Supporting Diversity, Inclusion and Equality

It's not enough if your D&I strategy is a piece of paper. It must be a living document. For your diversity and inclusivity measures to be successful, your team leaders must ride on the coattails of your champions. They must promote your initiatives and be held accountable when they do not promote them.

Don't Do It Alone: Form a Task Force

A business owner, a CEO or an HR executive can make a substantial impact on a company's level of diversity and inclusion, but consider creating a task force to ensure the expansion of your reach into the workforce. Draw on their talent and input to help you develop your initiatives. A task force can research and share their findings with the larger group as it builds a stronger foundation for diversity and inclusion. Moreover, as a leader, you can encourage members of this group to attend conferences and trainings so that they can come back and train other employees as you attempt to build a demonstrably diverse workforce where equality and inclusion are the rules of order.

Use this guide to create a focused D&I strategy that is grounded in your desire for equality. Remember that diversity and inclusion are not static. Employers will need to implement a process for revisiting their initiatives. In short, after a period of time, employers should resurvey their employees about their perceptions of the company's D&I strategy. When your workforce understands that everyone has the same opportunities for advancement and that all voices are respected and heard, you're on your way to enjoying the benefits of a strong and diverse workforce.

The Authors: 

Octavio Lepe-Camarena is an Executive Search Director for Barbachano International and heads the Sales, Marketing, Executive Management and Diversity & Inclusion search division in North America and South America with a particular focus on Agriculture, Food & Beverage, Energy, Industrial, and Financial Service Practice groups.