Three Key DE&I Practices Leaders Can Integrate Into Their Organizations

This Insights article is an abbreviated version of a DE&I practices research report prepared for a Kindred member by Kindred Concierge, our on-demand research and insights team that helps our members get the data and information they need to make important decisions within their organizations. To learn more about the Kindred experience and member benefits, apply here.

At a recent Kindred Assembly, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion expert Lily Zheng described a DE&I strategy as an “intentional approach to achieving clear DE&I goals in light of an organization’s DE&I-related challenges and opportunities.” This approach involves three core elements: understanding the unique challenges and opportunities an organization faces, setting clear and accountable goals, and developing a custom and multi-pronged plan to achieve these goals. 

Research shows that DE&I practices are necessary for a company to thrive. In a 2020 Glassdoor survey of U.S. employees and job seekers, 76% said a diverse workforce is important when considering companies and job offers. Thirty-two percent said they would not apply to a job at a company lacking diversity among its workforce.

As companies look to improve their efforts, they must take intentional, strategic steps to successfully integrate DE&I practices into their business actions. Getting there means considering important factors when outlining each level of the company’s approach.

Always Start With Leadership

Building an inclusive culture and a safe environment for employees starts with leadership’s efforts to intentionally remove bias from their actions, which will then extend into the workplace. Taking the initiative to understand the lived experiences of employees and lean into uncomfortable conversations will ultimately benefit companies as a whole.

Speaking at Kindred’s “2021: How Executives Will Seize the Year” panel earlier this year, Brian McComak, Founder and CEO of Hummingbird Humanity, noted that “…leaders leaning into [uncomfortable] dialogue and that understanding is going to help them create spaces that feel safer, that are engaging, that amplify the voices of the unheard, that allow them to be part of the great work that companies do.”

To demonstrate their commitment, leaders need to understand the different ways gender, inequality, racial discrimination, ableism, homophobia, and ageism are perpetuated in society and in the workforce. Action steps for leaders could include: 

  1. Challenging existing assumptions and questioning why discomfort exists 
  2. Recognizing the impact of privilege on work environments and building an environment of respect and dignity 
  3. Implementing an anti-racist framework across the organization 
  4. Practicing allyship and avoiding performative gestures
  5. Amplifying voices of marginalized communities and proactively engaging with a variety of perspectives for better problem solving 
  6. Bringing in a DE&I facilitator or organization to help the organization identify its problem areas and develop a plan to address these issues 
  7. Spelling out what accountability looks like for individuals and the wider organization to ensure that leaders at all levels stay on track toward meeting these DE&I goals 

Tie Goals to Company Needs

When outlining DE&I goals, Zheng cautions against simply picking goals that feel top of mind. Instead, Zheng wants company leaders to understand that the goals should be tied to specific company needs, and point out that the process of reaching them will look different from one organization to the next.

Collecting workforce data helps lay the foundation for a DE&I strategy by providing clarity around the areas within a company that needs work. As Aubrey Blanche, Global Head of Equitable Design and Impact at Culture Amp, outlined while speaking at Kindred’s “2021: How Executives Will Seize the Year” Assembly, the complexity lies in ensuring companies are collecting the right data and optimizing to identify trends to be amplified or solved.

When you’re thinking about building and designing and evolving equitable organizations, it’s more important for you to group people thematically, so you can identify bigger organizational threads.

Aubrey Blanche

To create an inclusive workplace that attracts and retains top talent, executives should ask themselves these important questions: 

  • Is my company actually diverse? 
  • How do seemingly small actions such as the choice of website images enable potential candidates to see themselves as part of the team? 
  • Is our office space set up to make all candidates feel welcome? 
  • How are we diversifying our networks and methods of outreach to ensure a diverse talent pool? 
  • How are unconscious biases affecting the pipelines of talent into the organization?

Understand Employee Expectations

Today’s workforce is multicultural and multigenerational. A 2019 Economic Consequences of Millennial Health report found that Millennials comprise more than 35% of all workers in the U.S. and are now the largest contributors to the country’s labor market. Gen Z already makes up 24% of the global workforce, according to ManpowerGroup, and is expected to grow in the coming years. 

The diversity within the workforce means that companies must consider how they are meeting the needs of all groups, regardless of race, age, and abilities. This may necessitate flexible work arrangements and understanding a multitude of employee expectations.

Employees increasingly expect their employers to show up for them in the area of mental health. A 2019 study from Mind Share Partners, SAP, and Qualtrics found that 86% of respondents felt that company cultures should support mental health, but less than half felt it was a priority at their companies.

These concerns exist among young and diverse populations — almost half of Black and Latinx respondents had left a job partly for mental health reasons, as had half of Millennials and 75% of Gen Zers surveyed. With the COVID-19 pandemic increasing the focus on mental health, particularly among marginalized communities, companies should create inclusive, stigma-free cultures and offer benefits that support employees during these unprecedented times and beyond. Other extended benefits may include quality maternity and paternity leave, and visual training or learning.

When considering where to start (or improve) on DE&I, there may be many points worth addressing within the company. But it is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to building a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace. Developing a company- or team-specific plan requires understanding the organizational culture, assessing employee needs, and securing leadership follow-through on commitments. 

Dig Deeper

Kindred Members have full access to the exclusive video content linked out below. Not a member? No worries, submit your application form here and someone from the team will reach back out to you. 

Optimizing Your Organization’s DE&I Strategy: Part One (members-only)

Optimizing Your Organization’s DE&I Strategy: Part Two (members-only)

2021: How DEI Executives Will Seize the Year (members-only)

Author: Urey Onuoha, Content Marketing Manager at Kindred

Editor: Racquel Joseph, Chief Experience Officer at Kindred

Urey Onuoha

Published on April 15, 2021