How to Create a DEI Policy for Your Workplace [+Template]
A closer look at DEI best practices in the modern workplace.
by Jennifer Kiesewetter - November 9th, 2022
HR departments increasingly understand that embracing and advocating for workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) drives profits and performance and attracts top talent while keeping employees engaged. More employers now see that they must decry the ongoing tragedies of racism and inequality in America.
In an often-cited study, McKinsey found that more diverse leadership teams are 25 percent more profitable than companies that don’t prioritize diversity. Meanwhile, HR expert Josh Bersin has found that companies promoting DEI initiatives increase employee engagement 2.6 times while improving retention. According to a recent Boston College study, 99 percent of Gen Z respondents said workplace diversity is important, with 87 percent saying it’s “very important,” showing employers the youngest working generation’s expectations.
CultureAmp recently found that the greatest DEI drivers include:
Having a diversity, equity, and inclusion policy
Implementing a strategic plan when considering DEI initiatives
Using DEI data to make business decisions
Despite this compelling evidence favoring DEI workplace initiatives, employers often struggle with creating and implementing DEI workplace policies. Keep reading to learn more about creating a DEI policy for your workplace.
Download the free DEI Policy Template
What Is a DEI Policy?
Before drafting your DEI policy, let’s take a step back for a moment and look specifically at what a DEI policy is. As you know, DEI stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion. But let’s break down each one.
Diversity includes and involves people of different races, ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations, genders, religions, languages abilities, socio-economic statuses, and many more characteristics that define that person. Diversity can also mean differences in backgrounds, experiences, thoughts, and opinions.
Equity refers to “fair and just practices and policies that ensure all employees can thrive. Equity is different from equality in that it implies treating everyone as if their experiences are the same.” It ensures that each and every person, or in HR’s case, employee, has access to the same opportunities. Equity recognizes the advantages and barriers that exist and are deeply rooted in our society. Acknowledging all that isn’t equal and creating a plan to address imbalances is the basis of equity.
Inclusion means ensuring every team member feels valued, welcomed, and included in your workplace. It refers to how individuals feel as part of a larger group. You can have diversity in the workplace without being inclusive, which results in marginalized identities feeling left out, included, or unsupported. Inclusion does not occur naturally with diversity and is equally important for HR managers and employers to focus on.
A diversity, equity, and inclusion policy is a foundational set of policies and procedures for your organization, stating your commitment to DEI initiatives while establishing complaint procedures for employees regarding discrimination, unfair treatment, and other similar complaints. Additionally, you should address how you’ll continually monitor your DEI policy, make changes when needed, and benchmark your DEI policy’s effectiveness.
Let’s now look at how to turn your good intentions into meaningful (and trackable) actions.
What Should Be Included in a DEI Policy?
Here are four topics to include in your DEI policy:
Organizational Values and Strategic Goals.
State your commitment to workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion. Identify which organizational goals you’d like to achieve through your DEI initiatives, such as increasing representation at leadership levels or providing additional training and education for underrepresented employees.
DEI Plans For Recruiting
Describe how your organization will implement DEI initiatives in recruiting, hiring, and onboarding practices. Here are some examples:
Describe how you’ll use gender-neutral terminology in your job ads.
Strive to recruit an applicant pool, with 25 - 30 percent coming from diverse backgrounds.
Include diverse leaders in the interview process
Conduct standardized interviews, limiting implicit bias when recruiting
Train your team on DEI when recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding
Professional Development Programs
State how your DEI initiatives include your training, education, and professional development programs. For example, discuss your commitment to growth for all employees. Include mentoring and advocate programs. Build targeted leadership programs. Give managers and leaders tools to develop their teams.
Finally, be transparent in implementing your workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. For example, describe how you’ll create a culture of inclusivity. Talk about your DEI guiding principles. Emphasize your commitment to continued progress. Discuss how you’ll measure your success.
How to Implement Your DEI Policy In 4 Steps
Let’s look more specifically at how to implement your organization’s DEI initiatives.
1. Get Stakeholders Involved
When implementing your DEI policy, be sure to get buy-in from leadership. Participation increases when you have managers and leaders onboard. Further, it’s easier to communicate your organization’s commitment to implementing DEI policies.
2. Measure where you stand
Planning where you want to go without knowing where you currently stand is challenging. Get feedback from your employees on how your organization currently embraces DEI. Where do they see the need for improvement? How do they want additional support?
Also, examine your recruiting policies. Are your job ads gender-neutral? Do you recruit from underrepresented candidate pools? Are your interviews objective?
Understanding where your organization stands will help determine where you want to go for DEI success.
3. Outline Your Goals
Create a framework for your DEI policy, outlining your goals. Address your organization’s DEI philosophy. Reinforce your commitment to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization. Define your DEI goals, across the organization (from recruiting to professional development and everything in between).
4. Develop an Action Plan
Based on your philosophy and goals, it’s time to develop an action plan. Here are some examples to consider:
What efforts are required to achieve your goals?
How will you integrate these actions into your ongoing operations?
Who will be responsible for implementing these actions?
How will you continually communicate these goals (and your progress) to current and future employees?
How will you measure your success?
5 Common Challenges Employers Face When Implementing a DEI Policy
Creating a DEI policy is not without its challenges. But knowing what may lie ahead can help you strategically plan.
Here are five common challenges employers face when implementing a DEI policy:
Lack of involvement (or prioritization) from leadership.
Assuming one person can implement the policy. (Hint: This is a team effort).
Limited budget or resources directed towards creating and implementing your DEI policy.
Failing to get consistent feedback from employees.
Not knowing what to measure (or how to measure) progress and success.
Creating and implementing your DEI policy should be a continual work in progress. It’s not a one-and-done task. You’ll need to tweak and improve your DEI policy as you implement, measure, and seek feedback.
Working off a DEI template will also give you insight into what you want to achieve for your organization. Download our DEI policy template today to help you get started.
Want to learn more about how to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace? Take a tour of GoCo today.
4 Companies With Great DEI Policies and Initiatives
Companies with a great DEI culture don't just talk about their commitment - they take actionable steps to ensure employees feel respected, safe and empowered. We've compiled a list of companies leading the charge regarding DEI policy innovation and initiatives. From fostering diversity of thought to providing mental health resources for employees of all backgrounds, these companies have set strong examples for how employers can promote true equality in the workplace.
Johnson & Johnson - Maximizing the Power of Diversity and Inclusion
Johnson & Johnson is committed to a Global Diversity and Inclusion vision of "maximizing the global power of diversity and inclusion to drive superior business results and sustainable competitive advantage." Their strategy has enabled them to build teams with various perspectives, backgrounds, and life experiences. They're not just recruiting diverse people on paper but fostering an inclusive environment that values each team member's unique identity and experience. With programs like employee resource groups and "Diversity University," Johnson & Johnson is known for actively working towards a better future by authentically valuing all members of their teams.
RingCentral - Building a Culture of Belonging for All Employees
RingCentral is among the leading companies that understand and prioritize the importance of DEI in its core values. The company's initiatives were founded under the direction of former Diversity Equity & Inclusion Leader Danita Oliver, who emphasized that DEI work is challenging but essential because it deals with what people believe from their hearts. From purposeful growth initiatives to employee-led groups, RingCentral is unyielding in its passion for DEI. It's no surprise that RingCentral employees gave their company's diversity initiatives an A.
Patagonia – Sustainable DEI
Patagoniaprioritizes DEI in addition to its well-documented sustainability efforts. The company has a history of championing gender equality and engaging individuals from diverse backgrounds in its hiring process. Patagonia's focus on its brand purpose, which includes environmentalism and social responsibility, is also a factor in its commitment to DEI initiatives. Patagonia's CEO, Rose Marcario, has been vocal about the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and has made it a priority for the company.
GoCo – DEI Engrained Into the Product
GoCo's commitment to DEI can be seen in every aspect of its HR platform, which purposefully includes features such as expanded pronoun functionality and anonymous workflows. They've hosted DEI "hackathons" to create innovative tools to help small and medium businesses become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. With this dedication to DEI policies and initiatives, GoCo.io stands out from other companies as a leader in making workplaces fairer and more inclusive for all involved.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion FAQs For HR
Improved Employee Engagement
When your employees feel included in the workplace, regardless of their background and characteristics, they tend to be much more engaged. Higher employee engagement positively impacts overall business profitability, team morale, and retention rate.
With a DEI-focused organization, you’re likely to have better luck with new ideas and innovation outcomes. Harvard Business Review discovered that diverse businesses were also the most innovative.
In addition to happier employees and more creative ideas, DEI is beneficial to your business results as well. More diverse companies report higher earnings.
Larger Talent Pool
If your goal is to hire a variety of people from diverse backgrounds, your talent pool widens and you’re much more likely to attract interested and qualified applicants.
It’s the Right Thing to Do!
Aside from the other added benefits, accelerating DEI in the workplace is socially responsible, and can be part of how your company lives out and demonstrates its values.
While your talent is diverse in nearly every way, here are some frequently mentioned types of diversity in the workplace.
Racial diversity means including, involving, and acknowledging people with diverse inherited physical traits. It also means being color-conscious while supporting differences in the workplace. Examples of races are African, Latinx, Caucasian, etc.
Ethnic diversity means including and involving people with a diverse set of traditions, ancestry, language, history, society, and more. Examples of ethnicities are Hispanic, Asian, White, Black/African American, etc.
Diversity in gender and sexual orientation refers to the inclusivity and involvement of all variations of gender and sexual orientation, regardless of how one identifies.
Age diversity means working with, hiring, and involving people of all ages and generations. For example, GenZers, millennials, GenXers, Baby Boomers, and other generations would coexist in the same workplace.
Cultural diversity is when population differences are represented in the workplace and include people with varying practices, values, religions, traditions, and more.
Physical Attributes and Abilities
Physical ability diversity aims to represent people with various levels of physical attributes and abilities, including disabled workers. Physical ability diversity should aim to dispel misconceptions about people with different levels of physical abilities and result in a more equitable work environment.
Hiring, including, and fairly treating people regardless of veteran status is also crucial in the workplace. Giving veterans equal opportunity in the workplace results in a more inclusive and productive workplace culture.
There is a growing and necessary trend to hire people from different educational backgrounds for roles that may have previously been designed for people with a specific education level. Involvement and inclusivity in education levels allow for innovation, creativity, and problem-solving that may not be achievable otherwise.
Diversity in the workplace encompasses far more than just race, gender, and age. In fact, it encompasses more than the list we’ve included above as well. The goal of accelerating diversity in the workplace is to allow individuals to contribute unique experiences, ideas, and stories, regardless of who they are and how they got there.
HR departments should include diversity and inclusion initiatives in their plans and their day-to-day activities. Most successful DEI initiatives include similar best practices, including:
- Fair treatment of all team members
- Equal access to opportunity and promoting opportunities for staff and leadership development to ensure a diverse workforce prepared to meet current and future needs
- Active recruitment and promotion of a diverse workforce reflective of the populations it serves
- Teamwork and collaboration
- A focus on innovation, creativity, and different perspectives
- Flexibility and responsiveness at the organizational level
- Conflict resolution processes that are collaborative
- Proactive measures to retain a diverse workforce
- Evidence of leadership’s involvement and commitment to diversity
- Representation of diversity at all levels of the organization, from C-level executives to specialists
- Representation of diversity among internal and external stakeholders
- Diversity education and training
Every organization will differ in its approach to a DEI framework, but these are some strong points to stick by. This framework enables HR managers and employers to evaluate/re-evaluate their current state and plan improvement initiatives.
Strong DEI efforts start with recruitment. As an HR professional, you must constantly evaluate your recruitment procedures to ensure not only that potential candidates are provided equal opportunities, but also that you are looking in diverse places for new teammates.
- Adjust recruitment procedures to provide expanded access to ethnic minorities in an effort to reflect the ethnic composition of your customers
- Adjust recruitment procedures to provide expanded access for applicants of different age groups. This could include physical job boards, online job bulletins, community centers, and more.
- Implement bias interrupters in your hiring policies to ensure that BIPOC, LGBTQ+, etc. will not suffer from discrimination in your company
- Revise job listings to remove discouraging language
- Use software instead of people where it makes sense to screen applicants
- Reduce hiring from referrals and word of mouth
- Utilize a static set of interview questions and ensure they are free of nuances that only certain interviewees will understand
- Ask applicants to omit names and schools from resumes
- Take thorough notes during interviews so you have information, instead of impressions to go by
HR plays a more important role than ever in eliminating racism in the workplace. Consider these facts:
- 43% of Americans have seen or experienced racism at work
- Black individuals specifically are twice as likely to be unemployed and earn nearly 25% less than white peers
- Hiring discrimination against Black Americans hasn’t improved in more than 25 years
- Companies with diverse leadership are 33% more likely to see above-average profits
Change starts in the workplace and can shape the future of inclusion, representation, and upward mobility for BIPOC and other under-represented populations for generations to come. Here are some actionable steps you can take to make a difference.
Provide leadership with statistics on why diversity makes good business sense, and be ready to demonstrate that your employees need to hear an anti-racist stance from executives.
Open up a dialogue
Whether it’s a dialogue on why Black Lives Matter or a dialogue on anti-racism in general, open conversations on what your organization, leadership, and employees can do to better support initiatives. Demonstrate that you understand white supremacy culture is predominant in America, and that you take decisive action to combat it.
Invite employees to weigh in
Whether you start a forum, an anonymous survey, a chat room, or anything else, ask your team:
- How can we hire more diversity?
- Are we paying BIPOC fairly?
- Do all team members have the same growth opportunities?
- Are we listening?
Review and customize your existing policies
Evaluate all of your policies around anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, compensation, awards and recognition, training, dismissal, dress code, and more. Make sure you understand how to address workplace compliance issues raised by race, protests, and politics.
From hiring new talent to inclusion efforts and maintaining employee relationships, HR needs to be color-conscious in order to effectively lead strategies to support racial, cultural, and ethnic diversity at work. Read our full article on why racial colorblindness hurts your employees.
In June of 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on sex and gender orientation. Whereas previously Title VII of the act did not explicitly include “sexual orientation” in its terms, the High Court’s ruling provided clarity that discrimination based on sex includes discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
This ruling came as a significant victory for the LGBTQ+ community, and it protects gay, lesbian, and transgender workers from being discriminated against. What does this mean for HR, and how can you continue to support DEI in the LGBTQ+ community? Here are some considerations and actionable steps.
Review your employee handbook
Make sure that your handbook is not only compliant with changing laws, but also reflects your cultural values of inclusion to protect your employees.
Re-evaluate employee policies
Similar to your handbook, ensure that employee policies encourage team members to bring their whole, authentic selves to work. Look back at policies that may disenfranchise people, including dress code and anti-harassment policies.
Update your DEI mission statement
It’s a great time to review and update your organization’s DEI mission statement or craft a statement if you don’t already have one. Enable new hires and existing employees to understand how important inclusivity is to the company, from gender/sexual orientation to race. Ensure that your policies accommodate the needs of trans and non-binary persons as well. Ask questions like: Have we considered adding a unisex option for the bathroom? Are we using preferred pronouns and names?
Over 860,000 women left the workforce in September of 2020 — 4x the rate of men who left the workforce. Gender DEI initiatives should be equally as important as others on your list. Particularly in 2020 with the coronavirus in full force, the persistent wage gap makes it an “obvious” choice on which person should bow out of the workforce. Additionally, the stereotypes that women should be primary caregivers remain present in today’s society.
Women leaving the workforce is a crisis for your business and for DEI because it impacts everyone. Having more women in the workforce directly correlates with higher employee engagement, retention, and stronger financial results. Here are some tips for retaining women in your workforce.
Offer Flexible Work Hours or WFH Options
Flexible options help female employees maintain a healthy work-home balance, even if they are taking on household responsibilities. If your employees prefer working early mornings, weekends, or evenings, see what you can do to help.
Integrate Activities and Mentorship Programs For Women’s Empowerment
Let female employees know they’re respected and heard. Review your leadership and development programs to make sure that women are provided equal opportunities for growth and learning as men.
Hold Gender Equality Training
Sexism and discrimination continue to run rampant in the office — women and minorities in your workforce may be discouraged to stay. Make sure to hold mandatory training for respect in the office. Microaggressions like interrupting someone when they speak or even sexist jokes can add up to an unproductive and frustrating work environment for women.
Close the Gender Pay Gap
Women earn about 80% of what men make in the same age groups and positions. Review your compensation packages and make sure your female workers are offered the same salary as males.
HR managers should recognize that providing better resources, DEI support, and empathy for women is necessary for a stronger future.
Nearly 80% of people living with mental illness have felt negatively impacted by the current pandemic. Additionally, 40% of U.S. adults recently reported struggling with mental health or substance use, according to the CDC. Supporting employee mental health is crucial for accelerated DEI in your organization. Here are some ways to celebrate and support mental health this year.
- Invite team members to a guided group meditation on zoom.
- Promote your company’s mental health benefits and your Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
- Offer reimbursement for mental health applications.
- Have leaders share their own mental health journeys.
- Educate your team with statistics on mental health, and break the stigma.
- Listen to your employees by creating a space or chat for your team to share experiences.
Your team’s overall efforts around positive mental health are important for diversity and employee happiness. Working remotely can leave your employees feeling more lonely and helpless than before.
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