Top tips for evaluating your DEI strategy

Top tips for evaluating your DEI strategy

For many of us in the diversity, equity and inclusion space, DEI is always top-of-mind. We filter our thoughts, actions and engagements through a lens that ensures we are thinking through our words, paying attention to how we and those around us show up, and discerning who we partner with and bring on as service providers. We do this not simply because it is what we’ve been charged to do at our organizations, but because we know it is the right, fair, just, equitable thing to do.

We are keenly aware that the work is not easy. We have a plan, we work the plan, yet the plan doesn’t always work the way and in the timeframe we most want it to. Often, at the crux of a challenge or failure, is a failure to communicate. How well and how often we communicate with leadership, management, team members and colleagues in our organizations and how they communicate with us about DEI-related issues and successes, is critical to ensuring that DEI-related plans are understood, participated in and successful.

Click to TweetClick to tweet: These 5 tips will help DEI leads to step back and check in on #DEI in your workplace. http://ow.ly/OY7Q50K6Bcu @taftcomms

In Taft’s recent national State of Diversity® survey, employed and recently employed respondents were very vocal as to what their expectations and experiences are in the workplace.

  • Only half (50%) of us interact with people of other races/ethnicities outside of work, but that number jumps to nearly 70% at work.
  • When asked who is responsible for promoting inclusion, 59% said their employers should build a more inclusive culture.
  • When it comes to managers and non-management employees, 30% and 28%, respectively, say that DEI communication is a top priority at their organizations.

During the second half of 2022, here are some tips and insights that will help both DEI leads and the allies that support their organization’s DEI efforts, to step back and check in on DEI in your workplace.

1. Work the plan

Have you refreshed your DEI strategy? The vision you, your team and leadership had when you drafted the strategic plan may not be suitable now.

  • What has changed in your workforce since colleagues have started to return to the office, even if in a hybrid state?
  • What are the new work dynamics taking place in the halls, offices and conference rooms?
  • Are you seeing the implementation of what was taught during Q1 and Q2 trainings? Is it time for a refresher course or a group discussion? What about your leaders — how are they demonstrating newly learned inclusive leader skills?
  • Is there a known and safe process to report DEI-related issues?
  • Are you sharing the successes of the plan throughout the organization at meetings, in newsletters and more?

Mid-year is a great time to make sure our plans are working and to refresh and reintroduce as we head into the end of summer and the busy fall season.

2. Allies need to be equipped and supported

We can’t and shouldn’t do it alone. It takes more than the DEI team to make real change happen, and stick.

  • Are allies equipped with the knowledge, tools and information they need to speak and act to support change?
  • If not, how can they access courses, open forums, group discussions, online resources, etc.?

Being an ally takes bravery and consistency, among many other things. Allies are here to support, yet they need support too. Mid-year is a great time to check in with them, but it’s best to have an ongoing, safe space for them to check in throughout the year.

3. Employees need to be heard

Employees need to know that their voice matters and that their leaders hear them. We know this to be true, yet organizations often fail at creating the spaces where this is easily and effectively done. From surveys to town halls, we should seek to gain a sense of what our employees are feeling and need, as well as seek to share the organization’s stance on items that affect them and the business.

And, are we doing it in a fair and equitable way? The results of Taft’s DEI survey gives us some insight. Forty-five percent and 39% of Black and Hispanic employees, respectively, say they hear offensive things about people of color at work at least “somewhat often.”

  • Employee and DEI-surveys are great, but what’s happening with the results?
  • Are your employees burnt out or tuned out when it’s time to take another survey?
  • How else are you, management and leadership listening?
  • Is there a safe space for colleagues to speak up and share issues and concerns without the threat of judgment or negative impact to their careers? What actions are taken afterward?

Don’t forget to check in with colleagues to see how they are doing. With the mix of in-office, hybrid and fully remote settings in the workplace, creativity and flexibility in how we communicate within our organizations wins the day. Follow up with a topline analysis of what was heard. Be open and transparent. Applaud the good news and commit to addressing the concerning news.

4. Leaders’ voices are vital

If our leaders are only speaking up during high-stakes moments or key months (Black History Month, Pride Month, etc.), they’re missing a vital communications opportunities to establish and reinforce DEI-related plans and activities, as well as create and maintain an inclusive culture.

  • Has your leadership joined you in communicating DEI plans, or in touting successes and expressing the need for corrective actions?
  • Is your leadership attending and participating in key events that you and others are encouraging employees to engage in? Are they speaking up during and after to share their thoughts?
  • Are they checking in with employee resource group (ERG) leads and finding ways to participate? Are they sharing and celebrating the good news and activities taking place in the ERGs? How are they using the insights from ERGs to lead?

In Taft’s DEI survey, although most say their leadership is doing just the right amount of communication, nearly a quarter (24%) say they are not doing enough. Fifteen percent of executives say leadership is not doing the right amount of communication, while nearly double that amount (27%) of those in non-managerial roles say otherwise.

5. Burnout is real, but don’t run from it

Our challenges in the workplace have only been compounded by what’s been happening around the world — pandemic, racial injustices, climate change, political unrest, war and so much more. There is no longer a real separation, especially between work and home. Both trickle, or flood over, into the other. In Taft’s DEI survey, 26% of Black and Hispanic employees said that the pandemic has had a negative impact on racial equity. So, what can we do to take care of ourselves and the beautifully diverse people and situations we face each day?

  • Are you and your organization being sincere in how you communicate about issues that matter most to your employees? Do you really know what those issues are?
  • Are the DEI-related policies and expectations in place being effectively executed, or are they simply performative?
  • Is empathetic leadership expected and valued?
  • Is there training and/or communication on the signs to look out for regarding DEI-related issues that may lead to stress, hostile work situations, and ultimately burnout and resignation?

Employees notice everything, good and bad, and are affected by them. It is always important to check in to ensure that they know and understand the policies and expectations of them, their managers and leadership so that they can successfully engage in the workplace.

Whether you are in the early or more advanced stages of implementing your DEI programs, Taft offers a platform to discuss, review and implement your strategic plans and communications efforts. To learn how we can help you, contact us via email or the below form.

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