A Strategic Approach to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)
It is very likely that, over the years, your organization has undertaken many initiatives to support your diverse workforce and help remove barriers for full participation and engagement. However, in most cases, these initiatives were probably ad hoc or uncoordinated.
Now more than ever, there is the need for organizations to have a strategic and coordinated plan for DEI. The development of a DEI Strategy addresses this need. A planned and comprehensive approach for serving a diverse population and engaging a diverse workforce supports integrated planning. It also challenges people to look at things through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion when making decisions around products, programs, services, systems and practices.
Purpose of a DEI Strategy
The purpose of developing a DEI Strategy is to create inclusive products and services, served by a diverse workforce, which meet the needs of our ever-changing and multi-faceted world. By creating a comprehensive DEI Strategy, organizations will be able to communicate their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and outline planned activities that increase access and remove barriers. The commitment to DEI will ensure differences are recognized as strengths and new ideas are embraced. It will influence and support an organizational culture where employees are engaged, customers are satisfied, and there is increased trust and confidence in the organization.
Approach to Developing a DEI Strategy
Kwela’s approach to developing a DEI Strategy includes the standard steps of strategy development:
- Conducting an environmental scan to surface trends in the external / internal business environment
- Assessing current state to understand issues and opportunities
- Creating a compelling DEI vision of what the organization wants to be
- Determining priorities and action plans to achieve the vision
But there are a few additional considerations:
- DEI is an ongoing journey – there may be bumps along the way, and there will be lots of opportunity for learning, adjusting, and re-adjusting. As leaders, it is your role to create alignment, buy-in and ongoing commitment to the journey.
- The process needs to be inclusive – it needs to be undertaken by a cross-functional team representing all dimensions of diversity, and needs to include input from key internal and external stakeholders, particularly those from under-represented groups.
- There is no “one-size fits all” solution – while it is important to not “reinvent the wheel,” and the approach should include external research, the plan must be highly tailored to meet the unique diversity needs of each organization.
- The plan must include meaningful metrics – without clear and robust measures to evaluate DEI efforts and outcomes, organizations can revert to habitual and ingrained thinking and behavioural patterns. Consideration must be given to the organizational strategy, the maturity of the DEI program, and the specific DEI initiatives being implemented.
Helen Schneiderman, Partner