Diversity and inclusion symbol. Books with words 'diversity and inclusion' on beautiful white background. Diversity and inclusion concept. Copy space.

By Ilit Raz, co-founder and CEO of Joonko

More and more businesses are realizing the importance of diversity and inclusion, and transforming to include diversity as a part of their business strategy. A diverse workforce provides a clear competitive advantage and can translate into financial results, but creating a diversity and inclusion strategy isn’t a small project. You’ll need someone to lead the initiative, set key performance indicators, and, ideally, a diverse think tank to guide your D&I strategy. For many large organizations, it can seem like a massive undertaking. But like with any task, diversity and inclusion can be accomplished with a comprehensive action plan.

If your organization is ready to invest in diversity and inclusion, here’s a suggestion for a roadmap and some tips to get your D&I action plan started.

Step 1: Set a D&I baseline

You can’t set objectives and get where you want to go if you don’t know where you’re starting. Conduct an assessment of your current workforce and look at the demographics of your team members. Do your employees feel that the senior leaders are investing in creating an inclusive culture? Or are they concerned about a lack of diversity? Compiling data on your organization’s employees will reveal trends and areas that need improvement. Some data points to look at when you’re looking at your employee body should include race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability status, veteran status, gender identity and expression, and more. This information will be invaluable while mapping out your diversity and inclusion strategy.

Employers may have some of this information already available in their HRIS system. Others will need to engage directly with employees or a specific group of people and solicit feedback. Voluntary self-identification is one way to see where your workforce currently stands, but many employees understandably may feel uncomfortable disclosing such information directly.

Step 2: Identify areas of concern in your business

After mapping out your data, it’s time to dig into your challenges: Is your management overwhelmingly white and male? Is there age diversity amongst your employees? Do employees with the same job have different salaries? Comb your data and identify where your organization has a lack of diversity.

It is also important to find out what your team members think about your workplace culture and current practices. Do they feel like they are part of an inclusive organization? When it comes to creating a diversity and inclusion action plan, your workforce is your best resource. Listen to what your team members say about your organization’s culture, representation, and what issues they see in the workplace. By combining this feedback with workforce demographics, you should be able to see a clear picture of where your organization needs to improve. If you miss something in your data analysis, anonymous survey responses can identify problems with culture that numbers don’t show. Consider utilizing a third-party surveyor that will help you structure your needs.

But be cautious about your process and lay out a structured plan. Choose which areas your organization wants to focus on first as you strive to create a more diverse workforce. If your business is like most, there is always room for improvement, but we all have to choose a starting point. Perhaps your company wants to hire and promote more Black management or you want more women to join your workforce. Since these scenarios require a completely different approach, using one blanket recruitment plan isn’t going to cut it. Once you have identified your areas of concern, it is time to buckle down and get to the nitty-gritty of your diversity and inclusion planning and execution.

Step 3: Define metrics for D&I success

Every D&I action plan must have clear goals and KPIs. Many diversity and inclusion programs fail because organizations fail to set concrete goals and metrics of success from the beginning. How does your organization define “increased racial diversity?” Your organization should seek to increase the percentage of non-white employees or choose to measure the change in racial representation. Are you looking to increase the number of underrepresented applicants or are you expanding your view to the entire employee body? Will you also set goals for retention or recruitment, or perhaps both? What about promotions? Are you looking to build a more diverse customer base as well? Decide what your goals are and how you will know when you’ve met them.

This is where a D&I consultant comes in handy. Diversity, equity, and inclusion professionals specialize in creating and implementing actionable DE&I plans for organizations. To have an effective diversity program, you need to decide where you want to go before you figure out how you’re going to get there.

Step 4: The journey towards diversity and inclusion begins

Once you’ve decided what your organization wants to focus on and you’ve collected the necessary data to determine your starting point, it’s time to create some actionable steps towards building a diverse and inclusive workplace. Depending on your company’s goals, this could mean a variety of things.

If you want to increase racial diversity, for example, your business may partner with historically Black colleges and universities to recruit fresh talent out of their graduating classes. You may choose to network with and recruit from industry-specific professional associations like the National Association of Asian American Professionals.

You can choose to bring in D&I professionals for company-wide training, education, and team-building. Many companies have opted to hire chief diversity officers or VPs of diversity, equity, and inclusion to oversee and manage these efforts.

Whatever your goals, be sure to establish a timeline and clear expectations. Everyone should know what they are responsible for, what the target is, and when/how your organization will assess progress. The most important thing is to do something. A pledge to increase diversity and inclusion might seem like easy PR, but candidates, employees, and clients will all notice if your words end up being hollow.

Step 5: Measure, review, and retry

As we’ve already mentioned, creating a diverse and inclusive workplace isn’t a quick process. It is entirely possible your first initiatives will miss the mark. The only way to know for certain is to measure and keep track of your chosen metrics. If your organization isn’t hitting the benchmarks you set, it’s time to review and find out what went wrong: Is your retention low? Are candidates uninterested in your company? Has management’s composition remained largely unchanged? Is there a specific group of people that you haven’t been able to reach?

Review your D&I action plan periodically to identify pain points. Solicit feedback from employees to find out what’s changed for the better and what hasn’t. The results of these initiatives should be disseminated throughout the company. Everyone at every level should be able to view the latest information on how your business’s diversity strategy is performing. Transparency is vital when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Potential candidates look to D&I stats as a barometer to determine whether or not it has an inclusive culture. Clients also enjoy patronizing businesses that are committed to creating social change and represent them in their marketing.

Once you’ve reviewed your diversity and inclusion initiatives, determine how your organization will move forward. If you’re falling short of recruitment goals, for example, try new steps to increase your talent pool and professional networks. If your company still has problems with creating an inclusive organization, try continuous education that employees can choose to opt-in to. There are a variety of things your business can do to readjust your strategy and find what works best for your workplace.

Conclusion: Don’t give up

Don’t give up. Diversity and inclusion require persistence and patience at all levels. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is an equitable workplace. It requires careful planning, measuring, reassessing, and retrying. Our society has been built in a way that disproportionately benefits some groups over others, and that won’t change overnight.

But with a bit of creativity and dedication, any company can create a diversity and inclusion action plan that will help your organization reach its full potential.

Ilit Raz is the co-founder and CEO of Joonko, a tech company that helps companies meet their DE&I targets.