8 Concepts to Drive DEI Initiatives

by | May 6, 2022 | News

Nearly every day we see articles released on DEI, which may be an unfamiliar acronym to many, but it is permeating the workplace and will get broader visibility in the future. It stands for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which  is defined as a conceptual framework that promotes the fair treatment and full participation of all people, especially in the workplace, including populations who have historically been underrepresented or subject to discrimination because of their background, identity or disability. In the IT space, it is particularly important as we work to overcome the ever-widening skills gap through any and all means.

Individually, for clarity’s sake, the categories are:

Diversity  – the presence of differences that may include race, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, language, (dis)ability, age, religious beliefs, or political perspective. 

Equity – promotes justice, impartiality and fairness within the procedures, processes, and distribution of resources by institutions or systems. 

Inclusion – an outcome to ensure those that all people feel and/or are welcomed. 

DEI was highlighted in my earlier article, “Trends in IT Talent Solutions 2022”, and today I will share some of the ways your organization may choose to drive their diversity efforts. There is no one magic path but all of the work being done is imperative. If you are not aware of things going on within your organization, there are ways you can initiate the charge – it is vital to your success!

1. Know your data

Collecting the data about your organization and its employee makeup is an important first step. Double checking what you are legally allowed to collect and then asking employees for voluntary disclosure are both important steps.

 Ensuring that the data is fully protected and anonymous  can make employees more comfortable with sharing more, but you must always be concerned with the privacy issues that may occur. If you are a global organization, there can be lots of factors to consider so take some time and make a repeatable and flexible plan. The idea here is to better understand where you are today and make sure to create a firm baseline of the categories that  you want to focus on improving.

2. Set clear goals

Setting a clear set of goals becomes critically important to the success of your DEI initiative. Some common goals might include; diverse candidates as a percentage of each stage of your recruiting cycle, overall diversity hiring metrics or diversity in leadership positions. It also may be worth considering some goals less specifically about percentages and hard numbers and more about employees’ experiences, both good and bad.

3. Evaluate bias

Evaluations and assessments in the IT space are multi-faceted, including both personal and technical components. As is the case with nearly all evaluations, bias exists, and for your DEI initiative to have success, identifying and mitigating bias is critical. Acknowledging that it exists and then examining what is being measured will lead you to a consideration of who is conducting the assessment. Making sure the evaluators are diverse can be often forgotten or overlooked. As you push your DEI program forward, take time to consider all of the areas bias might exist, as interviews and assessments are certainly a part of them. Consider having an expert come in and help you look at your organization objectively.

4. Be transparent

Transparency is the workplace has shown positive effects in the workplace such as a reduction of stress for employees and an increase in worker morale. It can also positively impact your DEI program if you communicate the goals of the initiative and highlight the areas for development, focus, and improvement. Fostering an environment of communication and trust welcomes the opportunities for ALL employees to feel encouraged to participate in the dialog.

5. Start at the top

Gaining the support of your company’s leadership could be the difference between implementing a successful and transformational DEI program or one that is for ‘image only’.

6. Develop DEI recruiting practices

Job listings attract and repel candidates because descriptive language sends subtle signals about company culture. Research conducted by professors at Duke University and the University of Waterloo studied the impact of language on candidate pools and concluded:

  • Male-dominated jobs tend to employ more masculine wording in their recruitment materials, and wording differences may not be entirely innocuous
  • Masculine wording led people to predict that there are relatively more men within the relevant occupation
  • As a result, positions studied appealed to fewer women, supporting institutional-level biases that maintain gender inequality

Words are powerful, and they communicate more than a laundry list of required skills. If you do not see enough diversity among candidates, consider re-writing your job postings and job descriptions.

7. Create DEI action committee

The key here is identifying and engaging a diverse set of employees to participate in the committee. Bringing a wide variety of views and opinions to the team will produce new conversations. Next, set some definable and measurable goals for the work of the committee. The goals need to be focused on the areas that your data revealed to need the most attention.

8. Measure and report results

Deciding what to measure and how to share the results are just the first very difficult decisions you have regarding the question of “did it work?”. Choosing how to handle baselines, accountability, morale and productivity numerically may be one of the most difficult pieces of your DEI program. Revealing truths to leadership in the data will certainly drive your initiative, though not highlighting tangible results to the same group may impact your program negatively. Deciding what to measure and what to share can impact your outcomes, so take time to consider this as you commit making DEI an ongoing commitment.

Driving DEI has become a hot topic in 2022 – I hope that in some way one or some of these list ideas helps you improves your company’s efforts.  As always, I hope you find them interesting, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments.