Participants in our Building Resilient Organizations Panel shared best practices in prioritizing a company-wide commitment to DEI to better support the needs of diverse employees. Check out the event recording to hear directly from DEI and ERG leaders and continue reading for eight lessons you can implement in your own workplace.
1. Remember: DEI affects all business operations.
Creating an equitable workplace is fundamental to upholding sustainable business practices. An organization’s commitment to DEI affects all components of its operation: customer perception, employee experience, talent retention, internal decision-making processes, and positioning amongst industry peers. While building a strategy and spotlighting DEI is an important step, it is critical that organizations push further to build equity and inclusion into each piece of their work.
2. Be consistent and normalize discussions of DEI.
Consistency is key. Create an environment that encourages ongoing dialogues by building DEI into organizational goals. Further, normalizing DEI conversations and initiatives at all levels will allow organizations to develop a more nuanced understanding of workforce diversity and encourage individual employees to recognize their own roles in fostering equitable workplaces.
Start by dedicating time in meetings for employees to provide updates on current ERG or DEI projects. Set aside five minutes in regular meetings or schedule recurring check-ins with smaller teams to provide similar opportunities for discussion. Empower employees to speak about their work and ERG leadership positions with pride.
3. Recruit the C-Suite to gain executive buy-in.
Communicate the importance of diversity and inclusion to those in executive and managerial positions. Encourage c-suite leaders across departments to provide statements of support that teams can reference when presenting events and initiatives for approval. Supplement these requests with industry data to make the business case that DEI has become a cornerstone for companies hoping to remain competitive in today’s marketplace. Explore opportunities to directly engage executive leaders in programming, such as sponsorships of Employee Resource Groups.
“The body of work that is ESG is booming and the ask is really keenly focused on DEI right now… What it means to be a sustainable business is not just your environmental practices, but now your human practices and how you manage human capital.”Kameelah Benjamin-Fuller (she/her) | PTC | Event Panelist
4. Set benchmarks and track the right data.
Work with these leaders to identify key diversity, equity, and inclusion benchmarks to build into your organization’s yearly goals. Track diversity data alongside existing business performance metrics in external reports and internal dashboards. Dig deep to bring different dimensions of diversity to the surface, circulating targeted surveys to fill gaps in aggregate data. If possible, use company-wide gatherings like town halls to collect anonymous feedback on a larger scale.
Beyond diversity data, seek to measure actions that bolster inclusion. Across your employee lifecycle, take advantage of outlets where supportive behaviors, such as hosting a related training, can be documented.
5. Recognize burnout in volunteers.
Employee resource groups (ERGs), business resource groups (BRGs), and similar affinity groups share a purpose of holding space for employees to connect, express their needs, access resources, and advocate for their communities. Members of these groups volunteer their time to develop and execute impactful programs on behalf of their employers.
“What we do for DE&I offsite of our desk is work. We all have 24 hours in a day and if I’m essentially doing the job, like my counterpart is, plus this additional work for DEI on behalf of the company, then that work has to come out of somewhere… That extra effort should be recognized and celebrated.”Winson Wang (he/him) | TD Bank | Event Panelist
Amidst rising rates of corporate burnout and employee turnover, it is important to acknowledge that employees volunteering with ERGs or larger DEI initiatives may feel that they are overworked and undervalued. To build sustainability, organizations should reframe employee involvement as a continuation of one’s assigned work.
6. Acknowledge and reward the contributions of ERG leaders.
Build in time and capacity for ERG leaders to accomplish DEI work within scheduled workdays. Compensate these volunteers by offering spot bonuses, equity plans, or opportunities for career advancement. Frame ERGs as a track for professional development and skill-building that can be included in formal documentation. Create opportunities for ERG members to connect with higher level executives within the organization.
HR representatives and resource group executive sponsors can alert managers to the additional work taken on by ERG leaders. Communicate this work’s value and encourage managers to include this information during annual performance and salary reviews.
7. Engage allies to aid in advocacy efforts.
When allies feel confident in their ability to speak to community DEI concerns, they can amplify an ERG’s messaging and begin educating others on behalf of the marginalized communities they’re working to support.
Updating a resource group’s name to “LGBTQ+ Employees and Allies,” rather than “LGBTQ+ Pride,” can broaden the reach of your work and communicate that the group welcomes all employees, regardless of their familiarity or affiliation with LGBTQ+ communities. Increasing your membership by recruiting allies can reinvigorate existing initiatives, introduce new perspectives, and relieve the workload placed on LGBTQ+ members.
8. Understand that progress looks different for everyone.
As the future of work continues to evolve, it has become clear that there isn’t a one size fits all solution for navigating remote and hybrid working models. While best practices can speak to company-wide initiatives, we recognize that each organization is on its own journey in developing this work.
Sometimes progress in DEI means starting small. It’s asking, “what did you mean by that,” when a coworker uses outdated or offensive language. It’s showing up as your authentic self and openly mentioning your partner in a group setting. Gradually, the presence of diverse voices and identities in a space will impact a company’s culture.
“Success is that we exist. It was years in the process to have an LGBTQ+ ERG … Our success is that we’re here and finally have a seat at the table.”Alison Batey (she/her) | Granite Base Camp | Event Panelist
We would like to thank Alison Batey, Kameelah Benjamin-Fuller, Winson Wang, and Bryan Vermes for sharing their perspectives during our Building Resilient Organizations Panel. We are grateful for their contributions to the field and to our work. Click below to watch our full conversation with panelists and be sure to share these best practices (also available as a digital download) with your team.