Are you looking for tips and advice on how to create a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)?
Creating a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is an important goal for any organisation. In this post we explore some essential strategies for how to create a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
In this post:
- What exactly are diversity, equity and inclusion?
- What is the difference between equity and equality?
- What are the benefits of focussing on diversity, equity and inclusion?
- What are the key steps to creating a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion?
- What should leaders do to create a culture of DEI?
- What things should be included in a DEI strategy?
- What are the behaviours managers should look out for that might indicate they are displaying bias or discrimination?
Not only does diversity, equity and inclusion foster a sense of fairness and respect for all individuals, but it can also improve overall productivity and innovation by drawing on the unique perspectives and experiences of a diverse workforce.
However, creating a truly diverse, equitable and inclusive culture is not a one-time task, but an ongoing process that requires commitment and effort from all levels of the organisation.
What exactly are diversity, equity and inclusion?
What is diversity?
Diversity is about respecting differences between people based on things such as their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or age.
Where you have a culture of diversity people from all backgrounds and with all differences will feel safer and more welcome.
What is equity?
Equity in the workplace refers to providing employees with the opportunities and resources they require according to their unique individual needs.
Where you have a culture of equity people will feel as though they all have the same opportunities to shine and to grow.
What is inclusion?
Inclusion is about ensuring that people feel heard and valued among their peers and managers.
Where you have a culture of inclusion people will feel at ease speaking up and being themselves.
What is the difference between equity and equality?
Equity and equality are two related concepts, but they have distinct meanings when it comes to creating a fair and just society. Understanding the difference between these two concepts is crucial in developing effective policies and practices that promote social justice.
Equality refers to the idea of treating everyone the same way, without any discrimination or bias. It is a fundamental principle of fairness and justice, but it assumes that everyone has the same starting point and the same needs. In other words, equality assumes that everyone is starting from the same place, and therefore, everyone should be treated the same way.
Equity, on the other hand, refers to the idea of treating people differently based on their needs, in order to achieve fairness and justice. Equity recognises that people have different starting points, different needs, and different barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential. It aims to level the playing field by providing the resources and support that are needed to overcome these barriers.
To illustrate the difference between equity and equality, consider the following example.
Imagine a classroom of students who are given the same standardised test to assess their knowledge and skills. In an equal society, all students would be given the same test with the same time limit, regardless of their individual needs or circumstances.
However, in an equitable society, students would be given different resources and accommodations based on their individual needs.
For example, a student with a visual impairment might be given a larger font size or extra time to complete the test, while a student who speaks English as a second language might be given a translation or interpretation service.
In short, while equality seeks to ensure that everyone is treated the same way, equity seeks to ensure that everyone has equal access to resources and opportunities, so that they can achieve their full potential.
What are the benefits of focussing on diversity, equity and inclusion?
Companies that pay attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) can see a number of benefits, including increased employee engagement, improved innovation and problem-solving, better customer relations, and enhanced reputation.
1. Increased employee engagement
Employees who feel that their organisation values DEI are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work. They are more likely to feel valued and respected, which can lead to higher levels of job satisfaction and retention.
2. Improved innovation and problem-solving
A diverse workforce brings a variety of perspectives and experiences, which can lead to more innovative solutions to problems. Different perspectives can help identify blind spots and bring fresh ideas to the table, leading to more effective and efficient problem-solving.
3. Better customer service
Customers are more likely to feel comfortable and valued when they see themselves represented in a company’s workforce and products. Companies that are attentive to DEI can better understand the needs and preferences of their diverse customer base and tailor their products and services accordingly.
4. Enhanced reputation
Companies that prioritise DEI are seen as more socially responsible and are more attractive to both employees and customers. This can lead to a better reputation, increased loyalty, and a stronger brand.
5. Increased financial performance
Companies that prioritise DEI can see financial benefits as well. Studies have shown that diverse teams can lead to better financial performance and higher profits. Additionally, companies that are perceived as socially responsible can attract investors who are interested in investing in companies that align with their values.
What are the key steps to creating a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion?
Creating a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion means valuing and respecting the perspectives and experiences of all individuals within the organisation.
This includes creating a safe and welcoming environment for all employees, regardless of their background or identity.
This can be achieved by providing training and education on issues related to DEI, encouraging open and honest communication, and creating opportunities for employees to share their experiences and perspectives.
1. Define what DEI means for your organisation
Before any action can be taken towards creating a culture of DEI, it is important to first define what that means for your organisation. This means creating a clear and concise statement of values and objectives related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This statement should be developed with input from all levels of the organisation and should reflect the specific goals and challenges that the organisation faces.
However, as we will go on to explain, culture is grounded in leadership behaviour so it is crucial that leaders take the lead on everything to do with DEI. It is not just about saying the right things. It is also not just the responsibility of the HR function and it is more than employing someone to ‘manage’ DEI.
Once this statement is developed, it should be communicated widely throughout the organisation, so that all employees are aware of the company’s commitment to DEI.
2. Make diversity, equity and inclusion part of your values
Values underpin your organisation culture and values underpin employee engagement. Values define what your organisation stands for. They define what customers can expect if they buy from you, they define what patients or service users can expect, and they define what your employees can expect.
Values should reflect what is important to leaders. What the organisation’s most senior leaders hold dear should be reflected in the organisation’s values. Conversely, every leader who is appointed should reflect the organisation’s values.
This is because leaders reward the things they value and they punish the things they do not.
As such, diversity, equity and inclusion need to be valued, rewarded and reinforced by every single leader in your organisation. This is the only way that diversity, equity and inclusion can truly permeate throughout the organisation and make it the fabric of how your organisation does business.
3. Hire and retain a diverse workforce
One of the most important steps in creating a culture of DEI is hiring and retaining a diverse workforce.
This means actively recruiting and hiring individuals from diverse backgrounds, and providing support and resources to ensure their success within the organisation.
This includes providing training and development opportunities, mentorship programs, and creating a culture of inclusion and respect.
4. Provide opportunities for professional growth and development
Providing opportunities for professional growth and development is key to retaining a diverse workforce.
This means providing training and development opportunities that are tailored to the unique needs and perspectives of each individual.
This can include mentoring programmes, leadership training, and opportunities for employees to take on new and challenging roles within the organisation.
5. Measure progress
Finally, it is important to measure progress towards creating a culture of DEI and hold leaders accountable for achieving those goals.
This means regularly reviewing and analysing data related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and using that data to inform decisions and actions. DEI surveys are a great way to assess how much of your DEI initiatives are becoming part of the culture.
It also means setting clear goals and objectives related to DEI and holding leaders accountable for achieving those goals.
What should leaders do to create a culture of DEI?
Changing an organisation’s culture is difficult to do, as we explain in more detail in our post on how to change organisation culture in 5 steps.
However, culture is defined by leadership behaviour. What leaders say and do, and how they say and do it, what they reward and punish, what they pay attention to and what they ignore all define your organisation’s culture.
Everyone looks to their leaders to understand what is important to them and they naturally model their behaviour.
As such, creating a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion is a long-term and ongoing process that requires active and intentional efforts from all leaders.
Here are some specific steps that managers can take to create a culture of DEI.
1. Develop a DEI strategy
Managers should create a DEI strategy that outlines the company’s goals, objectives, and action plan for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.
This strategy should be communicated to all employees and reviewed regularly to ensure that the company is making progress.
2. Promote transparency and accountability
Managers should be transparent about their efforts to promote DEI and hold themselves and their teams accountable for achieving their DEI goals.
This can include setting targets, tracking progress, and reporting on results.
3. Build a diverse workforce
Managers should actively recruit, hire, and promote a diverse workforce.
This can involve reviewing job descriptions to ensure that they are inclusive and free from bias, expanding recruitment channels to reach a broader pool of candidates, and providing training to hiring managers on DEI best practices.
4. Foster an inclusive workplace
Managers should create an inclusive workplace culture in their own parts of the organisation. One where all employees feel valued and respected.
This can involve promoting open communication, providing opportunities for feedback and collaboration, and creating policies and procedures that support diversity, equity, and inclusion.
5. Provide DEI training
Managers should provide regular DEI training to all employees to ensure that they have a basic understanding of DEI principles and how they can contribute to a more inclusive workplace culture.
This can include training on unconscious bias, cultural competence, and inclusive leadership.
360 degree feedback can also be a powerful tool to encourage managers to demonstrate DEI behaviours. Incorporating specific DEI focussed questions into a 360 degree feedback questionnaire is the best way to develop managers as it provides managers with essential feedback on how others perceive them.
6. Review and update policies and practices
Managers should regularly review their company’s policies and practices to ensure that they are inclusive and free from bias.
This can involve reviewing performance evaluation processes, compensation policies, and other HR practices to identify and address any potential biases.
By taking these steps, managers can create a culture of DEI that supports and values diversity, equity, and inclusion. This can lead to increased employee engagement, improved innovation and problem-solving, better customer relations, enhanced reputation, and increased financial performance.
What things should be included in a DEI strategy?
A diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy is a plan that outlines a company’s goals, objectives, and action plan for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
Here are some things that should be included in a DEI strategy.
1. Goals and objectives
The DEI strategy should include clear and measurable goals and objectives that align with the company’s mission and values. These goals should be specific, achievable, and relevant to the company’s business objectives.
2. Leadership commitment
The DEI strategy should include a clear commitment from senior leadership to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. This commitment should be communicated to all employees and should be reflected in the company’s policies, practices, and culture.
3. Employee engagement
The DEI strategy should include strategies to engage employees in the DEI efforts, including regular communication, feedback mechanisms, and opportunities for involvement.
4. Recruitment and hiring
The DEI strategy should include specific steps to promote diversity in recruitment and hiring processes.
This can include reviewing job descriptions to ensure they are inclusive and free from bias, expanding recruitment channels to reach a broader pool of candidates, and providing training to hiring managers on DEI best practices.
7. Metrics and Reporting
The DEI strategy should include metrics to track progress towards DEI goals, and a reporting mechanism to share progress with employees and stakeholders.
You should also use employee surveys as an important way to monitor the impact of DEI initiatives. You can either include DEI questions in your regular employee experience surveys or you could create a specific DEI survey.
What are the behaviours managers should look out for that might indicate they are displaying bias or discrimination?
Managers should be aware of their own biases and take steps to minimise the impact of bias in their decision-making processes.
Here are some behaviours managers should look out for that might indicate they are displaying bias or discrimination.
Managers should avoid stereotyping employees based on their gender, race, age, religion, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics.
This can involve assuming that certain employees are better suited to certain roles or treating employees differently based on their perceived group identity.
Stereotyping can also go beyond the protected characteristics of race etc. For example, managers need to be aware of how to manage neurodivergent employees and how to support women going through the menopause.
2. Lack of diversity
Managers should be aware of the diversity of their team and take steps to ensure that they are not inadvertently excluding qualified candidates from underrepresented groups.
This can involve reviewing job descriptions and job postings to ensure that they are inclusive, expanding recruitment channels to reach a broader pool of candidates, and providing training to hiring managers on DEI best practices.
Managers should be aware of the impact of their language and behaviour on employees from diverse backgrounds.
This can involve avoiding micro-aggressions, such as making assumptions about an employee’s culture or background, using inappropriate language or jokes, or excluding employees from conversations or opportunities.
4. Unconscious bias
Managers should be aware of their own unconscious biases and take steps to minimise their impact.
This can involve providing training to managers on unconscious bias, encouraging managers to seek feedback on their decision-making processes, and using objective criteria in hiring and promotion decisions.
5. Lack of accommodation
Managers should be aware of the needs of employees with disabilities or other personal circumstances that may require adjustments to their workplace or role.
This can involve providing reasonable accommodations to employees, such as flexible work hours or specialised equipment, and creating a culture that supports employees with diverse needs.
In conclusion, creating a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion is an ongoing process that requires commitment and effort from all levels of the organisation. By defining what DEI means for your organisation, hiring and retaining a diverse workforce, fostering a culture of inclusion, providing opportunities for professional growth and development, and measuring progress and holding leaders accountable, organisations can create a culture that values and respects the perspectives and experiences of all individuals.