Over the past several years, many organizations have advanced diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs in their organizations. In fact, according to Just Capital, most employers (94%) and employees (74%) say that their organization has made a commitment to advancing DEI in the workplace. And, 95% of employers and 83% of employees feel that these programs can be effective in creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. Organizations with a strong commitment to a diverse, equitable culture are much more likely to be high-performing.
However, DEI programs work best when they’re strategically thought out to support the greater business goals and made an organizational priority. If there isn’t authentic buy-in at the top for DEI programs, they risk being seen as a peripheral program and efforts may fizzle.
At Circa, we advise organizations on their DEI practices and to do that effectively, we lead by example. One of the crucial ways we made diversity, equity and inclusion a strategic priority at Circa was through the creation of the Circa DEI Council. It is comprised of numerous individuals across all functional areas who are committed to dedicating time every month to educate, ideate, engage and lead diversity by example throughout the entire organization.
As CEO, my involvement began by supporting the formation of the DEI Council, which our leadership team felt was foundational to our DEI strategy. Not only did the leadership team put budget towards it, but we made sure that employees were able to take time out of their daily job responsibilities to contribute. Today, my role in the council is to act as a steward to ensure we sustain the momentum we’ve gained.
I have seen other benefits from Circa’s DEI council as well. It enables employees’ voices to be heard on topics close to them such as racial equity discussions, LGBTQIA+ issues, accessibility for individuals with disabilities and so much more. In addition, the council provides leadership opportunities for people who may not have that as part of their job role, making it a valuable forum for career development.
If your organization is still in the early stages of establishing a DEI strategy or trying to expand your current one, consider the following that I’ve learned both in establishing Circa’s strategy and advising others.
Leaders don’t have to have all the answers. If you don’t have the expertise in house, reach out to partners who have done this before for advice and guidance. For example, Circa has extensive experience guiding companies and organizations of all sizes. Learn more about how Circa can help simplify building DEI into your organization. In addition, look for partner organizations such as CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion or other CEO peer networks to get first-hand insight on how to create an inclusive organization from other company leaders.
Creating a DEI strategy and seeing the results as a more inclusive organization doesn’t happen overnight. Similar to any other strategic initiative that you may implement, creating meaningful change takes time.
It’s important to be clear and straightforward with where your organization is with your DEI journey. Regularly share data to show the results of your strategy, such as hiring data or employee satisfaction survey results. Give your employees opportunities and a safe environment to share their concerns, beliefs, comments to engage in meaningful conversations.
Embrace the fact that no one knows everything about DEI issues – it’s a source of learning and growth for every single person. This is where Diversity Councils and the collective wisdom that comes from them is so vital to an organization. At Circa, we have incorporated educational opportunities through guest speakers and online learning as a way to demonstrate we are all in this together, and together we will discover and grow.
Creating a diversity environment, of course, means creating a workplace where people of all races and ethnicities are embraced and encouraged to be their authentic selves. But diversity goes beyond skin color and includes women, people over 50, individuals with disabilities, LGBTQIA+, Veterans, religious backgrounds and more. As a leader, you can guide your organization to set policies so all employees can thrive and are valued for the different perspectives they bring to the workforce.
DEI councils and employee resource groups have evolved beyond simply leading fun cultural events. They now drive overall organizational impact. This includes making a measurable impact on recruiting, hiring, onboarding, performance management, product development and sales – it truly impacts the motor of what makes a company grow.
If you are looking for additional help you can simplify building DEI into your workplace with Circa’s new Advancing Belonging & Inclusion which includes ready-to-use DEI calendar, content, guides, and resources for consistent employee engagement.