5 Tips to Prioritize DEI in the Workplace

When executed well, DEI encourages increased engagement and feelings of belonging and leads to better retention of diverse talent.

Training Magazine

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is one of the most common and important goals for organizations today. It’s essential for remaining competitive in both business and hiring. Diverse teams tend to have improved analytical skills and innovation over less diverse teams. Research has even shown that companies in the top quartile for gender and racial diversity are more likely to see higher financial returns in their industry. When it comes to recruiting, 76 percent of employees and job seekers in a recent Glassdoor survey said that workforce diversity is an important factor in evaluating companies and job offers. DEI is especially important for Gen Z; in fact, 83 percent of Gen Z candidates said they consider an organization’s commitment to DEI when selecting an employer.

So how can you, as an HR leader, help prioritize DEI in your workplace to attract candidates and build a better business? Here are five tips:

1. Start from the top down.

For your DEI initiatives to be successful, they need to start from the top down. Make sure your leadership team, including the C-suite and departmental managers, has bought in and is involved. This will help set an example for the rest of your organization and create legitimacy around your initiatives. Buy-in is also essential for obtaining a budget for any programs you might want to run—whether training, surveying your employees, or engaging with diversity recruiting firms and platforms.

It’s also crucial that your organization has diverse and inclusive managers, C-suite officers, and Board of Directors. Employees should be able to see themselves represented in leadership positions. In a recent survey by our partners at RippleMatch, 60 percent of Gen Z talent (a.ka., the future of the workforce) said diverse leadership is vital in illustrating a company’s steadfast commitment to DEI.

2. Create measurable goals to track DEI success in your organization.

It’s easy to say DEI is important to your organization. Still, without setting concrete, measurable goals, it’s hard to track your initiatives’ success or prove your commitment. Data is key to DEI—you should be monitoring the demographics of your employees (both current and prospective), net promoter scores, employee engagement (by demographics), Likert scores around feelings of inclusion and belonging, and more.

Leverage tools that can help you visualize and understand your data to see where your organization is excelling and needs improvement. From here, create an action plan to address any issues and present progress and pitfalls to your leadership team.

3. Recruit your talent through diverse sources and build an inclusive hiring process.

Think about the channels you’re using to build your talent pipeline. If your organization runs an internship program, are you sourcing solely from Ivy League and similar universities, or are you including HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities), minority-serving institutions, community colleges, and trade schools in the mix? Where are you advertising your job postings—are they accessible? Are you and your team leveraging tools that anonymize resumes to eliminate unconscious and conscious biases? Where you source your talent is critical in dictating the state of DEI at your organization, but building an inclusive hiring process goes beyond just the source.

Ensure the interview process is fair for those who come from diverse backgrounds, have disabilities, or are neurodivergent. Offer asynchronous recorded video or written interviews, and provide best practices (and potentially the interview questions) beforehand, so expectations are set. Standardize the interview process so candidates are asked the same set of questions; altering the questions you ask each candidate can lean toward bias. If you have multiple interviewers, ensure they’re diverse. And last but not least, survey all your candidates (not just the ones you hire) to improve the overall candidate experience.

4. Be transparent about wages and compensate your employees fairly.

Wage transparency within your organization allows for candid conversations around employee pay and empowers your employees to be able to compare their pay rates to industry standards and their peers. It aims to eliminate unfair pay gaps through transparency. An added benefit: An economist at UCLA found that wage transparency also increases productivity. Keeping wages a secret hides pay inequalities and any gender/racial discrimination in pay that may exist at your organization.

In addition to wage transparency for all employees (contingent, part-time or full-time), always pay your interns. Unpaid internships disproportionately affect BIPOC and multi-racial students. And unpaid interns typically face a longer post-internship job-search process than their paid peers, especially since 72 percent of paid internships end up with full-time offers compared to 44 percent of unpaid internships. Paying your interns is crucial for leveling the playing field and creating more equitable workforce access.

5. Build a DEI program that incorporates training, employee resource groups, and mentorship.

Most, if not all, people inevitably have conscious and unconscious biases that affect how they behave and react in the workplace. Implementing DEI training programs for all levels of employees can help to address these biases, build awareness and empathy, and foster positive behavior. Offer a variety of training methods (including targeted training for different audiences, such as inclusive management for managers). Make sure you measure the results of your training program to understand its effectiveness; you could find that specific training methods are more effective than others or that you need to implement additional elements to your schedule to make it more engaging.

However, training certainly isn’t a silver bullet and doesn’t necessarily produce results. In addition to training programs, you should encourage creation of employee resource groups (ERGs). Such groups are generally employee-led and create a space for employees from underrepresented populations to feel connected and empowered at work. They promote inclusive workplaces and support both personal and professional development. Mentorship programs are also effective ways to promote DEI. When executed well, it encourages increased engagement and feelings of belonging and leads to better retention of diverse talent.

These five tips do not include everything you could do to prioritize DEI in your workplace, but they set the stage for an effective DEI program.

Ahva Sadeghi is the CEO of Symba, a social impact tech startup that has built an industry-leading all-in-one internship management platform.