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Create a People-First Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategy

Build a sustainable DEI strategy by focusing on real people’s experiences to uncover and address systemic inequities.

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is complex and heavily nuanced. This means that every DEI strategy needs to be based on the specific challenges of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
  • DEI is often siloed under HR, but everyone has a role to play as allies, leaders, and champions when it comes to creating an organization that has diverse groups of employees, is equitable, and is inclusive. However, it is not always clear how everyone participates in creating a diverse and inclusive organization.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion is a continuum – an ongoing journey of unlearning and learning the deeply rooted dogmas that guide the way organizations operate.
  • The DEI strategy is a mechanism through which systemic issues and the ingrained way things are done at organizations can be challenged and changed to build an inclusive and diverse workplace.
  • Creating a scaled and purposeful DEI strategy, upheld by strategic pillars, and customized DEI initiatives kick-starts the journey.

Impact and Result

  • Organizations must create a DEI strategy that is based on their specific organizational DEI challenges. Assess the current state of DEI through organizational data and focus groups, not based on current trends and fads in diversity, equity, and inclusion training.
  • With a DEI strategy project team, identify a clear purpose for DEI that is upheld by defined strategic pillars, carried out by specific DEI initiatives (e.g. inclusive leadership behavior training, implementing sponsorship programs, expanding campus recruitment strategies to more diverse schools), and overseen by a governance model.
  • Implement diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace with initiatives that support all parts of the employee lifecycle.

Create a People-First Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategy Research & Tools

2. Determine the purpose of DEI

Define the overarching objective for DEI, determine strategic pillars, and identify goals and metrics.

3. Determine the governance model and select DEI initiatives

Assess DEI maturity and examine the employee lifecycle from a DEI lens to select initiatives to implement.


Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategy

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How to complete this course:

Use these videos, along with the Project Blueprint deck above, to gain an understanding of the subject. Start with the Introduction, then move through each of the Course Modules. At the end of each Module, you will be required to complete a short test to demonstrate your understanding. You will complete this course when you have completed all of the course tests.

  • Number of Course Modules: 5
  • Estimated Completion Time: 1.5 hours

Learning Outcome

Learners will be able to define a four-step process for creating an effective diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace throughout the employee lifecycle and all areas of the organization.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, learners will be able to:

  • Recognize the value of having a DEI Strategy.
  • Gather data to understand the current state of DEI in their organization.
  • Determine a tailored purpose for building an inclusive and diverse workplace.
  • Establish a governance model and select DEI initiatives.
  • Plan to launch the DEI strategy and set expectations for all employees.

Course Modules

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Create a People-First DEI Strategy - Introduction: Uncover and address systemic inequities and develop a strategy

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Create a People-First DEI Strategy - Module 1: Conduct a Current State Assessment

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Create a People-First DEI Strategy - Module 2: Determine the purpose of DEI

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Create a People-First DEI Strategy - Module 3: Determine the governance model and select DEI initiatives

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Create a People-First DEI Strategy - Module 4: Plan to launch the DEI strategy


Workshop: Create a People-First Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategy

Workshops offer an easy way to accelerate your project. If you are unable to do the project yourself, and a Guided Implementation isn't enough, we offer low-cost delivery of our project workshops. We take you through every phase of your project and ensure that you have a roadmap in place to complete your project successfully.

Module 1: Conduct a current-state analysis

The Purpose

  • Gather organizational data to uncover DEI gaps and challenges.
  • Review the organization’s broader strategic goals and priorities.
  • Understand the broader DEI landscape.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Organizational data gathered
  • Strategic goals and priorities reviewed
  • External landscape analyzed

Activities

Outputs

1.1

Gather debrief data.

  • DEI data gathered
1.2

Debrief DEI assessment.

  • DEI assessment completed
1.3

Review the organization’s broader strategic goals and priorities.

  • Supporting framework of DEI priorities established
1.4

Identify the DEI implications of strategic goals and priorities.

  • Strategic goals and priority implications identified
1.5

Conduct an external analysis by brainstorming external factors (PESTL) to understand the macro-level implications on DEI strategy.

  • External analysis completed

Module 2: Determine the purpose of DEI

The Purpose

  • Conduct a SWOT analysis.
  • Define the overarching purpose for DEI.
  • Determine strategic pillars.
  • Identify goals and metrics.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • SWOT analysis conducted
  • Overarching purpose for DEI defined
  • Strategic pillars determined
  • Goals and metrics identified

Activities

Outputs

2.1

Conduct a SWOT analysis by using the information gathered in the data collection process.

  • SWOT analysis conducted
2.2

Based on Day 1 activities, discuss how you envision the future state of DEI.

2.3

Using the insights from the SWOT analysis, define and draft the overarching purpose of DEI at your organization.

2.4

Select 2-4 strategic pillars and identify goals and metrics for each.

  • Organization’s DEI strategic pillars determined
  • High-level strategic pillar goals and metrics identified

Module 3: Select initiatives & plan to launch strategy

The Purpose

  • Select and customize DEI initiatives to implement.
  • Identify clear DEI responsibilities across the organization.
  • Build a clear action plan for launching the DEI strategy.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • DEI initiatives to implement selected and customized
  • DEI responsibilities identified
  • Action plan for launching the DEI strategy built

Activities

Outputs

3.1

Select initiatives and customize them by describing how the initiative will be implemented, what the considerations are, who will be accountable for the initiative, and what the initiative will achieve.

  • Initiatives to implement selected
3.2

Prioritize the selected initiatives.

3.3

Identify key milestones that must occur to implement the DEI strategy, who will be impacted by the milestone, who owns it, and who will perform it.

  • High-level plan to execute on the DEI strategy created

Create a People-First Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategy

Build a sustainable strategy by focusing on real people’s experiences to uncover and address systemic inequities.

Executive Summary

McLean & Company Insight

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a continuum – an ongoing journey of unlearning and learning the deeply rooted dogmas that guide the way organizations operate. The DEI strategy is a mechanism through which systemic issues and the ingrained way things are done at organizations can be challenged and changed. Creating a scaled and purposeful strategy, upheld by strategic pillars, and customized DEI initiatives kick-starts the journey.

Situation

  • Most organizations recognize that there are several benefits that come from being inclusive to diverse groups of employees.
  • However, despite the implementation of numerous diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, organizations are still having trouble with making progress.

Complication

  • DEI is complex and heavily nuanced. This means that every DEI strategy needs to be based on the specific DEI challenges the organization faces.
  • DEI is often siloed under HR, but everyone has a role to play as allies, leaders, and champions when it comes to creating an organization that has diverse groups of employees and is equitable and inclusive. However, it is not always clear how everyone participates in creating a diverse and inclusive organization.

Solution

  • Organizations must create a DEI strategy that is based on their specific organizational DEI challenges. Assess the current state of DEI through organizational data and focus groups, not based on current trends and fads in DEI training.
  • With a DEI strategy project team, identify a clear purpose for DEI that is upheld by defined strategic pillars, carried out by specific DEI initiatives (e.g. inclusive leadership behavior training, implementing sponsorship programs, expanding campus recruitment strategies to more diverse schools), and overseen by a governance model.
  • Implement DEI across the organization with initiatives that support all parts of the employee lifecycle.

Take a planned approach and start with the DEI strategy before embedding inclusion into your culture

  1. Strategy

    Build the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Strategy
    While it’s important to have an inclusive culture, the organization must start with defining a DEI strategy. The strategy sets the tone and direction for DEI at the organization. A defined strategy includes clear roles and accountabilities along with specific goals and initiatives that are customized to the organization’s DEI needs and challenges.
  2. Culture

    Embed Inclusion Into Your Culture
    Once the organization has defined the DEI strategy, inclusion must be embedded into the culture. For DEI initiatives to succeed, the organization needs to ensure that all employees feel a sense of belonging, valued for who they are, and empowered to participate and contribute freely.

See McLean & Company’s Embed Inclusion Into Your Culture blueprint for more information.

McLean & Company Insight

Diversity, equity, and inclusion must go hand in hand. Having a diverse employee base will not achieve benefits such as higher rates of innovation and profitability if the culture is not inclusive. It is essential that organizations seek to be both diverse and inclusive.

Review the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Primer

Review the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Primer to understand key concepts such as allyship, intersectionality, and privilege. Use the primer as a reference as you work through this blueprint and create the DEI strategy.

This resource can also be provided directly to employees, managers, and senior leaders to expand individual knowledge on key DEI concepts.

A sample of the McLean & Company blueprint 'Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Primer'.

Diversity

The unique traits that individuals possess. It can be understood in two general ways:

  • Inherent diversity, e.g. race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability
  • Acquired diversity, e.g. diversity of thought, cross-cultural communication, language, or social skills

Inclusion

It is a state in which all employees feel a sense of belonging, valued for their differences and empowered to participate and contribute freely.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Primer

DEI brings several benefits to organizations

Organizations with diverse employee bases perform better than their less-diverse peers

  • Gender diversity – The performance differential between the most and least gender-diverse organizations is 48%.
  • Ethnic and cultural diversity – Organizations in the top quartile of ethnic and cultural diversity outperform those in the bottom quartile by 36%.
  • Board diversity – When an organization’s board of directors are in the top quartile of gender diversity, they outperform their peers financially by 28%.
  • (McKinsey, Jan. 2018)

When organizations act on DEI:

  • Larger revenue growth
    Achieve 3x the revenue growth compared to less-inclusive organizations (Bush et al., 2018).
  • More-positive employee experience
    18% more effective at creating a positive employee experience.
  • Better retention
    Better at retaining employees, with turnover rates 4% lower than those not acting.
  • (McLean & Company Trends Report, 2020; N=416)

Organizations with above average diversity achieve impactful business results

  • 1.4x more likely to have sustainable growth with greater gender diversity (DDI, 2018).
  • 19% higher innovation revenue compared to organizations with below average diversity (BCG, 2018).
  • 33% more likely to outperform on EBIT (Earnings before income and tax) margin with greater cultural and ethnic diversity (McKinsey, Jan. 2018).

Appreciating diversity strengthens teams and builds trust

Understanding the demographic and geographic factors that influence identity and the stereotypical assumptions team members hold reduces conflict (Sparkman, 2019).

However, many organizations are struggling to have diverse groups of employees and an inclusive culture

Leaders and employees are not on the same page when it comes to DEI

68% of leaders feel they create empowering environments where employees can be themselves, raise concerns, and innovate without fear of failure. However, only 36% of employees agree.

Additionally…
The proportion of employees who do not feel included in their organization is 10x higher than what leaders believe.

  • Employees 20%
  • Leaders 2%
  • (Accenture, 2020)

There are conflicting priorities. Although 87% of leaders recognize the need for an inclusive organization, they are challenged in making it a priority due to the pressure of delivering short-term results (WEF, 2019).

Current DEI initiatives are not making an impact

  • Ninety-seven percent of organizations have established a gender diversity program, but only 25% of employees in diverse groups said they have personally benefited from it (BCG, 2019).
  • Fifty percent of employees interviewed believe their organizations do not have the right practices in place to mitigate bias (BCG, 2019).
  • Almost half of the organizations tracked by McKinsey have made little to no progress in increasing diversity at their organizations since 2014 (McKinsey, 2020).

Organizations need to go beyond acquiring diverse groups of employees and ensure they are retaining diverse groups of employees

  • 36% of women surveyed say that retention is a key issue.
  • 45% of women surveyed say that career advancement is a key issue.

When asked if they are participating in programs that promote non-traditional forms of diversity such as diversity of thought or gender diversity: 69% of organizations said no. (THRiVE 360, 2019; N=109)

McLean & Company Insight

Leaders must listen, put people first, and put their own perspectives and assumptions aside. It’s imperative that leaders understand and prioritize DEI challenges as they control budgets and influence employee behavior.

Diverse representation is an ongoing issue

Although there is gender representation in Fortune 500 companies…
In 2020, the number of women leading Fortune 500 companies rose again, hitting an all-time high (This all-time high represents only 7.5% of Fortune 500 companies).

Number of female Fortune 500 CEOS

  • 32 – 2017
  • 24 – 2018
  • 33 – 2019
  • 37 – 2020

…there is very little diverse representation across racial groups. In Fortune 500 companies, there are only:

  • 3 Women of color CEOs
  • 0 Black women CEOs
  • 4 Black male CEOs
  • (Fortune, 2020)

Nearly 60% of Black executives who oversee major lines of business at Fortune 500 companies felt they had to work 2x harder and accomplish 2x as much to be seen as equal to their peers (Korn Ferry, 2020).

The gender pay gap differs across various races

Overall, women earn $0.82 for every dollar earned by men.
However, there are significant differences when this is broken down by race:

  • $0.90 Asian Women
  • $0.79 White Women
  • $0.62 Black Women
  • $0.57 Native American Women
  • $0.54 Latina Women
  • (National Women’s Law Center, 2020)

DEI challenges are systemic and covert

Systemic versus systematic

Systemic inequalities or structural inequality refer to how the unequal treatment of specific minority groups are maintained through policies, programs, systems, and structures.

While systemic inequalities have deep roots in organizational structures, some forms are harder to see than others.

Systematic inequalities are intentional practices that maintain inequities such as wage secrecy policies or segregation.

An example of systemic inequalities:

Dress code policies are often used to determine how employees should dress in the workplace. However, for Black women, such policies have been used to define natural hair as unprofessional. The enforcement of these policies have marginalized and institutionalized prejudiced notions that Black hair is unprofessional.

To address this issue, California passed the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair). This bans policies or actions that discriminate against those with natural hairstyles (HR Dive, 2020).

Microaggressions are covert acts of sexism and inequality that are common in the workplace

Microaggressions are subtle actions, comments, or statements that communicate a derogatory, hostile, or negative assumption based on someone’s identity group. They may be intentional or unintentional.

All women experience microaggressions at a higher rate than men, and Black women experience microaggressions at a higher rate than other women. (McKinsey, Oct. 2018)

An example of a microaggression women experience more than men:
  • Needing to provide evidence of your competence more than others do
    • 29% – White Women
    • 36% – Asian Women
    • 30% – Latinas
    • 42% – Black Women
    • 34% – Lesbian Women
    • 16% – All Men
  • (McKinsey, Oct. 2018)

To be successful, DEI strategies require support across the organization

Employees have a better experience when both their direct manager and senior leaders are committed to DEI

A bar chart comparing employee responses when 'Executive team is committed [to DEI], but direct manager is not' versus when 'Consistent leadership commitment across all people leaders' to DEI. To the prompt 'The day-to-day employee experience is free from bias': 44-48% when direct manager is not committed and 65-69% when commitment is consistent. To the prompt 'Employees don’t see obstacles to DEI in recruitment, retention, leadership commitment, and advancement': 21-31% when direct manager is not committed and 42-46% when commitment is consistent.

These results are representative of respondents who are women, LGBTQ, and/or people of color. (BCG, 2018)

Employees of organizations where their direct manager isn’t committed to DEI are:

  • 2x more likely to feel excluded at work
  • 3x more likely to seek employment elsewhere

To be successful, organizations need to ensure all leaders are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. (BCG, 2018)

Diversity leaders take a holistic approach to DEI

Diversity leaders are organizations that have shown sustained improvement and are approaching gender parity. These organizations:

  • Take an intentional and organizational-led approach to DEI.
  • Have a strong culture of accountability.
  • Deploy innovative and ambitious interventions.
  • Display strong leadership commitment.

McLean & Company Insight

It is not enough to just have the C-suite champion DEI – everyone needs to understand that they have a role in ensuring the organization is diverse and inclusive for all people.

Creating a comprehensive DEI strategy can help organizations achieve their goals

A triangular visualization titled 'DEI Strategy'. The three point of the triangle are 'Purpose', 'Strategic Pillars', and 'DEI Initiatives' with 'Governance' connecting them along the sides.

McLean & Company Insight

Diversity, equity, and inclusion is a continuum – an ongoing journey of unlearning and learning the deeply rooted dogmas that guide the way organizations operate. The DEI strategy is a mechanism through which systemic issues and the ingrained way things are done at organizations can be challenged and changed. Creating a scaled and purposeful strategy, upheld by strategic pillars, and customized DEI initiatives kick-starts the journey.

Follow McLean & Company’s four-step process to create a people-first DEI strategy

1. Conduct a current state assessment

2. Determine the purpose of DEI

3. Determine the governance model and select DEI initiatives

4. Plan to launch the DEI strategy

Step 1

Conduct a current state assessment

1. Conduct a current state assessment

2. Determine the purpose of DEI3. Determine the governance model and select DEI initiatives4. Plan to launch the DEI strategy
After completing this step you will have:
  • Created a DEI strategy project team.
  • Gathered organizational data to uncover DEI gaps and challenges.
  • Conducted focus groups to uncover the employee experience.
  • Reviewed the organization’s broader strategic goals and priorities.
  • Completed the DEI Assessment.
  • Gathered external data to understand the broader DEI landscape.

Document the current state assessment in the DEI Workbook

Use the DEI Workbook to document:

  • The DEI strategy project team (tab 2)
  • Organizational data (e.g. engagement, new hire/exit survey) (tab 3)
  • Focus group results (tab 4)
  • Organizational strategic goals and priorities (tab 5)
  • External data (e.g. competitor DEI programs) (tab 6)
A sample of the 'Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Workbook'.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Workbook

Review the DEI strategy project team’s roles

This team is responsible for creating the DEI strategy.

Tip: The DEI strategy project team is not the same as a DEI committee. The DEI committee is part of the governance model discussed in Step 3. However, some individuals from the project team may also be members of the DEI committee.

ROLE SOURCE ACTIVITIES
Project Manager
  • Chief Human Resources Officer
  • Chief Diversity Officer/DEI Director
  • DEI Officer/Manager
  • Works with executive team to gather resources for the project and aligns the project with organizational priorities.
  • Manages the team’s progress.
Members
  • Employees who have interest in the project. Core team that is supplemented by subject matter experts when appropriate.
  • Conducts current state analysis and makes recommendations to the project manager.
  • Activates networks within HR and across other functions to bring in the right subject matter experts when needed.
Subject Matter Experts (SME)
  • Individuals from various departments (e.g. Finance, Operations) who have expertise on the current and future state of the organization.
  • Fills knowledge and expertise gaps.
  • Flows in and out of project team on as-needed basis.
Executive Champion
  • An executive who is committed to DEI and can be a diversity champion to help ensure DEI is taken seriously.
  • Champions the project.
  • Leverages position to communicate high-level outcomes of current state assessment to create further buy-in for the project.

McLean & Company Insight

Developing a DEI strategy is a lot of work. When building a project team, be conscious of who would think or feel it burdensome. To build an impactful and sustainable strategy, you need people who are passionate about championing DEI efforts and initiatives.

Recruit members for the DEI strategy project team

Select members who are:

  • Influential. Include individuals who have a degree of influence in the organization and can act as DEI champions.
  • Knowledgeable. Include individuals who have the skills, knowledge, or background specific to the anticipated DEI issues that need to be addressed.
  • Representative. Include a cross-functional and diverse group of individuals (i.e. departments, identity categories). This will ensure the organization is represented holistically and all groups have a spokesperson to bring issues that impact them to light.

Recruit project team members using the following approaches:

  1. Communicate the project and ask for volunteers:
    • Have the executive champion introduce the DEI project to the organization in a town hall meeting or communicate it via email/newsletter/intranet indicating what a DEI strategy is and what it hopes it achieve.
    • Ensure the information they share includes:
      • The intent of the project and why it’s a priority for the organization.
      • The desire for input and assistance from employees at every stage of the project.
      • HR contact information for any individuals who are interested in participating on the project.
  2. Involve key stakeholders:
    • If you are aware of specific individuals who are passionate about DEI and would be good additions to the team, reach out directly and ask for their participation.
    • Reach out to individuals who have formal or informal influence in organization. Their support helps generate buy-in throughout the organization.
    • If you already have a diversity department or employee resource groups, they can provide input for project team members.

Avoid common biases when conducting data analysis

  • Past-Experience Blindness
    Individuals instinctively categorize and identify patterns, leading to the use of a practiced rather than a new approach.
  • Confirmation Bias
    Individuals are more likely to lend more weight to information that confirms pre-existing beliefs.
  • Conjunction Fallacy
    Occurs when multiple events are projected to have a greater probability of occurring together than apart.
  • Self-Serving Bias
    Individuals give themselves credit for successes while avoiding the blame or laying it at the feet of others (Cherry).
  • Hero Mindset
    Leaders often feel it is their responsibility to make all decisions, as they have the most experience and knowledge and are accountable for organizational welfare.
  • Optimism Bias
    Individuals overestimate the likelihood of positive events taking place while underestimating the likelihood of negative events or underestimating their impact.
  • Inside-Out View
    People focus on their unique circumstances and rely on personal experiences, ignoring broader patterns that tend to be more predictive of future events – this often holds true even when they are aware of the broader patterns (Kahneman).

McLean & Company Insight

Having a diverse project group with different backgrounds and experience levels and from different functions will mitigate these biases and improve the accuracy of the external analysis.

See McLean & Company’s Biases & Heuristics Catalog for more information.

Gather organizational data to uncover DEI gaps and challenges

Data Sources Engagement Data New Hire/ Exit Data Current DEI Training Programs Workforce Demographics
Analyze the data for:
  • Review data for any drivers or questions regarding DEI in the work environment.
  • If demographics are included, review level of engagement by demographic to uncover issues.
  • Review satisfaction of new hires across diverse identities and backgrounds.
  • Review reasons people are leaving the organization and if they relate back to issues around DEI.
  • Review content and outcomes (i.e. impact, feedback) of any current DEI or cross-cultural training programs.
  • Determine if content is comprehensive and if it had an impact on participants’ behaviors.
  • Review current level of diversity in workforce (i.e. gender identity, ethnic/cultural identity, disability, family status, sexual orientation).
  • A homogeneous workforce may indicate present DEI challenges. Some differences require self-identification; use anonymous surveys where individuals can either self-identify or choose not to disclose.

Tip: Build the DEI strategy to address specific challenges occurring in the organization. For example, if exit surveys show higher turnover of people of color (POC), the strategy must address how to retain POC employees.

Conduct focus groups to understand the employee experience

Why?

Discrimination often goes unreported. Listening to employees share lived experiences shines a light on key narratives that are good indicators of deeper or broader DEI-related issues in the organization.

Tip: Use shared lived experiences as high-level indicators of broad trends and as signals to probe deeper into a situation.

Keep in mind that focus groups on DEI require careful and intentional execution, as it touches on personal and sensitive topics. Ensuring employees are psychologically safe will enable authentic discussions.

Plan focus groups thoroughly

Determine facilitators:
  • Inclusion is a sensitive topic. Evaluate whether an external facilitator would result in more honest discussions. Source language interpreters where required.
Draft agenda and questions:
  • Use quantitative data gathered to guide probing focus group questions to help explain the “why.”
Confirm anonymity:
  • Communicate that feedback collected will be anonymized and participation will be confidential.

Focus group composition

  • Create voluntary sign-up sheets. Allow employees to sign up for the focus groups in which they feel the safest.
  • In addition to general focus groups, organize optional focus groups for any identity categories.
  • Do not make focus group questions unique to these identity categories.

Note: Due to the sensitive nature of the topic, provide an option for employees to share their experiences in one-on-one interviews.

Draw out employee experiences on:

  • Empowerment
  • Openness
  • Belonging
  • Leadership

Refer to the appendix for best practices on how to conduct focus groups on inclusion and how to analyze focus group data.

Use McLean & Company’s Standard Focus Group Guide to prepare for focus groups.

Identify shared DEI challenges at the organization

Review organizational data and focus group feedback to identify shared DEI challenges. Shared challenges are categories of similar insights that appear across the data collected from different sources. For example:

  • Focus group theme
    Parents found rigid work hours make it difficult to attend to the needs of their children.
  • Engagement data
    Low engagement results on “I can maintain a balance between my work and my personal life” among parents.
  • Exit data
    High turnover of employees (primarily women) within one year of returning from maternity or parental leave.
  • Shared challenge: Parents at the organization are finding it difficult to feel like they belong with the organization due to work-life balance

  • Focus group theme
    LGBTQ2IA + employees agreed that non LGBTQ2IA+ coworkers often seemed uncomfortable when they would talk about something related to their sexual orientation.
  • Engagement data
    Low engagement results on “my co-workers care about me as a person” question among employees who identify as LGBTQ2IA+.
  • New hire survey
    Low scores on “my manager invested time to get to know me” question among employees who identify as LGBTQ2IA+.
  • Shared challenge: Coworkers and managers make LGBTQ2IA+ employees feel like outsiders or that their whole selves are not welcome.

Review the organization’s broader strategic goals and priorities

Align DEI

The DEI strategy must be aligned with all other organizational priorities and initiatives, such as:

  • Talent programs
  • Sustainability goals
  • Vendor, supplier, and procurement strategies
Evaluate areas such as:
  • Talent/organizational strategy
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR) or environment social governance (ESG) strategy
  • Other priorities: Senior leaders often have concerns or priorities that are not formally documented (e.g. culture). Consult with stakeholders in various functions to discover these concerns or listen closely to what you hear organizational leaders regularly talking about.
Identify the DEI implications of strategic goals and priorities. For example:
Strategic Goal DEI Implications
Serve a large customer base by providing personalized solutions. Improve customer awareness competencies to recognize the diversity of the customer base.
Expand to global markets over the next three to five years. Hire diverse groups of talent and encourage diverse referrals with higher rewards. Evaluate bias in the selection process.
Enhance business performance and organizational reputation. Create a campaign to become more involved in the community and develop diverse talent pipelines.

“DEI must be an explicit part of the business operating model and, as the architect of organizational culture, the CHRO must align DEI activities and strategies to the future business strategy.” (World Economic Forum (WEF), 2019)

Complete the DEI Assessment

Using the data you have gathered, complete McLean & Company’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Assessment.

Complete the assessment with the DEI strategy project team.

A sample of the 'Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Assessment'.
Use McLean & Company’s DEI Assessment to evaluate your current state in the following areas:
  • Organizational culture
    • Leadership commitment
    • Corporate environment
    • Corporate branding
  • Talent acquisition
    • Candidate sourcing
    • Candidate selection
  • Retention
    • Performance management
    • Learning and development
    • Total compensation
  • Promotion
    • Learning and development
    • Talent management
  • Departure
    • Offboarding

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Assessment

Gather external data to understand the broader DEI landscape

A holistic DEI strategy is also informed by the macro-level impacts of the following external factors:

POLITICAL
  • How does the current political climate impact employees from marginalized groups?
  • Are there any government policies that affect minority employees (e.g. childcare/ healthcare policies, labor regulations/ immigration)?
  • What is the political narrative and discourse on DEI?
TECHNOLOGICAL
  • What technology tools are available/being used to provide DEI analytics?
  • Is there a disruptive technological change that would require diverse talent?
  • What impacts have artificial intelligence and workforce automation had on diverse individuals/employee groups in the industry?
ECONOMIC
  • What emerging economic disruptions will impact DEI at your organization (e.g. recession impacts diversity recruiting)?
  • Is your workforce representative of the target customer base/industry the organization operates in?
  • How diverse is your vendor pool/industry? Does the organization source from diverse vendors?
  • What are competitors doing in DEI?
  • What are the labor force participation rates of diverse groups?
  • What percentage of the unemployment rate is minority groups?
  • What are the immigration rates?
  • What are the urban population growth trends?
SOCIAL
  • What are the demographics of the communities the organization operates in?
  • What social inequalities/barriers exist for minority employees?
  • What is being said on social media about your organization’s DEI state?
  • What social movements are currently taking place (e.g. Black Lives Matter, MeToo)?
LEGAL
  • What human rights legislations are in place in relation to DEI?
  • What are the minimum requirements established by the government for DEI at workplaces?
  • Are there any labor laws that impact DEI at the organization?

Monitor the factors as an iterative and regular activity, not as a one-and-done exercise. It’s more effective to conduct quick and frequent scans than a deep analysis infrequently – the risk of missing key changes in each factor is too high.

Step 2

Determine the purpose of DEI

1. Conduct a current state assessment

2. Determine the purpose of DEI

3. Determine the governance model and select DEI initiatives4. Plan to launch the DEI strategy
After completing this step you will have:
  • Conducted a SWOT analysis.
  • Defined the overarching purpose for DEI.
  • Determined strategic pillars.
  • Identified goals and metrics.

Conduct a SWOT analysis using the data collected

Use the information gathered in Step 1 to complete a SWOT analysis:

INTERNAL

Strengths
  • What do you do well?
  • What internal resources do you have?
  • What unique advantages do you have?
  • E.g.
  • Top management supports DEI programs
  • Diverse representation in entry-level roles

SWOT
ANALYSIS

Opportunities
  • What opportunities exist in the market/environment?
  • Who are potential partners we can collaborate with?
  • Who stands to benefit the most from us succeeding?
  • E.g.
  • Tap into local colleges to develop a diverse pipeline
  • Leverage community partnerships
  • Invest in technology to support employees with disabilities

EXTERNAL

Weaknesses
  • What do you lack?
  • Where do you need to gain additional support or buy-in?
  • What limitations exist in terms of resources or budget?
  • Where are the organizational challenges?
  • E.g.
  • Struggling with retaining specific groups of talent
Threats
  • What external situations could impact your budget and resourcing?
  • What external regulatory changes might impact the strategy?
  • What are our industry partners doing?
  • What gaps exist in terms of how we support our diverse customer base?
  • E.g.
  • Growth of more diverse organizations competing for talent

Document in McLean & Company’s Standard SWOT Analysis Template.

Define the overarching purpose for DEI

Use the insights from the SWOT analysis to define the overarching purpose of DEI at your organization.

Articulate your organization’s DEI purpose by asking:

  1. What does a diverse workforce look like?
  2. What does an inclusive culture look like?
  3. What is the purpose of measuring DEI?
  4. What sparked an interest in improving DEI?
  5. Who will be informed of the purpose?
  6. What are the outcomes you hope to achieve?
  7. What does success look like?

The overarching DEI purpose helps:

  • Articulate why DEI is a priority for your organization and the long-term vision (e.g. what does the future look like? What is the organization trying to achieve?).
  • Determine your key messages for communication and to get buy-in from all stakeholders. It sets the tone and direction for the organization’s DEI strategy.
  • Reflect the organization's mission, vision, and values.

Use these questions to help define a purpose statement.

E.g. NBA strives to cultivate a workplace in which everyone feels welcomed and empowered to bring their whole selves to work. As an organization, we respect and value our differences while coming together as colleagues and teammates. We recognize the importance of both diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we work to advance our culture to ensure diverse viewpoints are heard. (NBA)

Define DEI for your organization. Create your own definitions or use McLean & Company’s definitions as a starting point.
  • Diversity
    The unique traits that individuals possess. It can be understood in two general ways:
    • Inherent diversity, e.g. race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability
    • Acquired diversity, e.g. diversity of thought, cross-cultural communication, language, or social skills
  • Equity
    Equity focuses on the outcome of “fair treatment.” Fairness looks different based on an individual’s power and privilege in society. While equality focuses on equal opportunity, equity takes it a step further and addresses the accommodations required to achieve a fair outcome. It considers individual differences.
  • Inclusion
    A state in which all employees feel a sense of belonging, valued for their differences, and empowered to participate and contribute freely.

Document the purpose statement and DEI definitions in tab 7 of the DEI Workbook.

Determine the organization’s DEI strategic pillars

Strategic pillars are high-level, directional statements or concepts about the future of DEI in the organization. The pillars should answer the question, “how will the purpose statement be achieved?

Tip: The SWOT analysis and purpose statement will inform the strategic pillars. The number of strategic pillars selected will depend on the scope of strategy but two to four is a good starting point.

Document the strategic pillars in tab 8 of the DEI Workbook.

SWOT ANALYSIS PURPOSE STRATEGIC PILLARS
EXAMPLE
There is a lot of diversity in the organization. However, that diversity diminishes as we move up the organizational ladder. We want our organization to be a diverse and inclusive environment where all people have an equitable chance to succeed and thrive.
  • Equitable treatment
  • Mitigate bias

Identify goals and metrics that will indicate progress

Keep it manageable: each DEI strategic pillar should have two to five relevant goals and associated metrics.

For example:
STRATEGIC PILLARS Equitable treatment
GOALS Have an environment that ensures all employees are rewarded equitably for their work. Have flexible work hours to ensure employees can balance work and family responsibilities.
METRICS Gender wage gap Work environment engagement driver score
Racial wage gap Number of personal days taken
Employee satisfaction with pay fairness Turnover rates citing flexibility

Review legal and ethical requirements around storing sensitive information when selecting metrics.

Document goals and metrics in tab 8 of the DEI Workbook.

See McLean & Company’s HR Metrics Library for a comprehensive list of HR metrics.

Step 3

Determine the governance model and select DEI initiatives

1. Conduct a current state assessment2. Determine the purpose of DEI

3. Determine the governance model and select DEI initiatives

4. Plan to launch the DEI strategy
After completing this step you will have:
  • Determined placement on McLean & Company’s DEI Maturity Matrix.
  • Clarified roles and accountabilities for each component of the governance model.
  • Examined the employee lifecycle from a DEI lens.
  • Selected and customized DEI initiatives to implement.

A comprehensive and clear governance framework provides the energy and fuel the DEI strategy needs for success

A triangular visualization titled 'DEI Strategy'. The three point of the triangle are 'Purpose', 'Strategic Pillars', and 'DEI Initiatives' with 'Governance' connecting them along the sides.

The DEI strategy acts as a mechanism that helps the organization navigate through constantly evolving equity challenges. Instances of discrimination and inequities are not only evident in human-to-human interactions, but many organizational practices have evolved from discriminatory barriers that have not been addressed in our society. The combination of systemic, covert, and overt racism presents complex equity challenges that a DEI strategy can navigate.

To navigate these constantly evolving and complex challenges, the DEI strategy must be sustainable. Develop a comprehensive and clear governance framework based on the organization’s specific DEI purpose, strategic pillars, and goals to sustain the strategy.

Ensure the organization has completed a current state assessment and has a clearly defined DEI purpose and goals before creating the DEI governance framework.

The current state analysis provides an understanding the specific challenges facing an organization.

  • For example, low representation of specific employee groups or difficulty promoting employees from diverse backgrounds. This means the DEI governance framework will have employees from these groups participate in governance to ensure that the DEI work addresses the organization’s need.

The purpose statement identifies the scope and breadth of the strategy by clearly describing what the organization aims to achieve.

  • For example, if the organization’s strategic aims are to provide an inclusive organizational culture to employees and ensure customers or clients are treated equitably, the DEI strategy has an impact on both internal employees and external customers. It will be important that members of the DEI governance framework have experts in human resources and customer strategy.

Review the four key purposes of a DEI governance framework

The DEI governance framework serves four key purposes to ensure a successful DEI strategy. Each work unit within the DEI governance framework will be responsible for activities that support these four key purposes.

  • Set Strategy
    DEI decisions that directly connect to the strategic direction of the organization. Work units that are responsible for setting strategy will oversee the DEI strategy to ensure it is meeting the organization’s needs.
  • Design and Build
    The processes of creating DEI initiatives. Work units that design and build will be responsible for developing the specific identified DEI initiatives such as a mentorship program or learning material.
  • Implement
    The activities involved in implementing and delivering DEI initiatives to the organization. Work units that implement the DEI strategy are accountable to ensure the initiatives identified by the DEI strategy are integrated into the organization’s various departments and locations.
  • Advise
    Consultation activities with diverse groups of employees. Work units that are responsible for advising on the DEI strategy provide insights on organizational initiatives, practices, or experiences of people from diverse backgrounds.

Use McLean & Company’s DEI governance framework job aid to identify the governance model

A sample of the 'Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Assessment'. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Governance Framework Job Aid

The DEI governance framework ensures that the DEI strategy is successful by defining clear inclusion accountabilities for the organization based on the organization’s specific challenges. This leads to a sustainable DEI strategy. Use this job aid to:

  • Determine who must be involved given the breadth of the DEI strategy.
  • Identify work units or roles for the DEI governance framework.
  • Define each work unit’s accountabilities.
  • Determine how members will be recruited to participate in the governance framework.

McLean & Company Insight

It’s essential to identify roles and responsibilities for everyone as ERGs cannot be expected to do all the heavy lifting. They are placed with the burden of creating an inclusive culture by calling out non-inclusive behaviors and implementing DEI initiatives. This overburdens ERGs and implies that leaders and the organization are not required to be accountable for DEI.

Examine the employee lifecycle from a DEI lens

With the DEI strategy project team, use the data gathered in step 1 and the SWOT analysis in step 2 to examine the employee lifecycle from a DEI lens.

Tip: Reviewing the employee lifecycle helps identify deeper, systemic inequities. This will help prioritize DEI initiatives that support the organization’s broader DEI goals.

The employee lifecycle, a cyclical diagram with an inner and outer circle. The inside circle consists of 'Employee', 'Advocate', and 'Candidate'. The outside circle consists of 'Attract', 'Recruit', 'Onboard', 'Perform', 'Grow', 'Exit', 'Alumni', and back to 'Attract'.

Evaluate people, process, and technology at each stage of the employee lifecycle.

People

Identify people who are a part of the employee lifecycle.

  • Who facilitates this stage of the employee lifecycle? Why? This could be a manager, a trainer, or HR.
  • Who is not being included at each stage of the employee lifecycle?
For example: Homogenous hiring panels can impact how diverse groups of candidates move through the hiring process. It’s important to have representation for diverse groups of employees in the hiring process.

Process

Evaluate existing processes to identify systemic changes needed to improve DEI.

  • Are there process steps in the employee lifecycle that perpetuate inequality?
  • Are there any policies that are reinforcing inequality or the absence of policies to protect employees?
For example: Asking for salary history can further the wage gap. Instead, organizations should have a base salary for a role.

Technology

Assess the technology or other resources used in each stage of the lifecycle for inequities such as poor accessibility or biases.

  • Are technologies acting as a barrier to employees or candidates (e.g. video interviews, visual skill assessments)?
  • Have we reviewed any AI for biases?
For example: In 2018, Amazon scrapped an AI recruiting tool that showed bias against women (Reuters, 2018).

Document the people, process, and technology at each stage of the employee lifecycle in tab 10 of the DEI Workbook.

Use these sample questions to help examine each stage of the employee lifecycle

  • Attract
    • How are we attracting people of diverse backgrounds (e.g. people with disabilities, veterans, people of color)?
    • Are we using accessible platforms for reaching out to candidates (e.g. leveraging community partnerships)?
  • Recruit
    • Are we interviewing and hiring enough candidates from diverse backgrounds?
  • Onboard
    • Who are new hires meeting when they’re hired?
    • Do new hires from diverse backgrounds feel a sense of belonging?
  • Perform
    • Are performance reviews as objective as possible?
  • Grow
    • Are diverse groups of employees being promoted?
  • Exit
    • Are there specific groups of employees experiencing higher turnover?
  • Alumni
    • Which groups of alumni are we engaging with (e.g. only male alumni)?

Document answers to these questions in tab 10 of the DEI Workbook.

Review McLean & Company’s DEI Initiatives Catalog

Initiatives refer to actions, projects, or events the organization can implement to drive DEI efforts.

These initiatives vary from sponsorship programs to recruitment events to process analysis.

Initiatives need to align with the organization’s specific DEI challenges and goals. This will ensure that initiatives, such as employee resource groups (ERGs), sponsorship programs, or implicit bias training, will have an impact on the organization.

As you review the catalog, it’s important to keep the following in mind:
  • The results of the SWOT analysis and DEI diagnostic
  • The organization’s DEI purpose
  • The organization’s strategic pillars
  • The organization’s DEI goals and metrics
  • The employee lifecycle analysis
A sample of the 'Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives Catalog'.

See McLean & Company’s Job-Aid: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Talent Acquisition for a detailed list of DEI initiatives across the TA process (attract and recruit phase of the employee lifecycle).

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives Catalog

Select DEI initiatives to implement

Tip: Selected initiatives need to mitigate negative biases and heuristics as well as value, leverage, and appreciate diverse groups of employees. Keep in mind that employees should not be tokenized for their identity.

What is the purpose of DEI?

Selected initiatives need to be informed by the overarching purpose of DEI at the organization.

What are the DEI challenges?

Selected initiatives need to address the organization’s specific DEI challenges.

What resourcing is required?

Determine whether the organization has the resources to support the initiatives (funding, space, time, etc.).

If not, determine whether the initiative can be outsourced.

Prioritizing initiatives

The organization cannot realistically roll out all selected initiatives at once. Prioritize initiatives based on:

  • High-need areas (e.g. lack of career progression for diverse groups of employees)
  • Available resourcing
  • Balancing quick wins that can be implemented quickly with initiatives that will require a longer-term implementation

Document selected initiatives in tab 11 of the DEI Workbook.

McLean & Company Insight

One-off and impromptu initiatives show the organization is taking steps towards becoming inclusive to diverse groups of employees. However, individual initiatives cannot fix deeply rooted and systemic inequities alone. Organizations must select initiatives that work together to amplify outcomes. For example, unconscious bias training can work more successfully if paired with inclusive behavior training. Additionally, inclusive behaviors are further reinforced if they are ingrained in the organization’s culture.

Customize the selected DEI initiatives to the organization’s needs

What is the initiative? What does this initiative look like in practice? Who will own this initiative? What will this initiative achieve?
Define the selected initiative for your organization. Describe how this initiative will be implemented at the organization. Determine who is accountable for the selected initiative. Identify the intended outcome of the selected initiative.
EXAMPLES
ERGs for BIPOC employees BIPOC employees can meet in a safe space to discuss their experiences and concerns pertaining to their identities (e.g. impact of external social events). The ERG program will be overseen and managed by the DEI manager. Give BIPOC employees the network they need to be resilient.
Build empowerment and improve relationships between diverse groups of employees.
Sponsorship program that will pair executives with a protégé for a year Executives will be paired with employees from diverse backgrounds. They will then be responsible for the direct advancement of their protégé. The L&D manager will oversee the sponsorship program. Improve promotion of diverse groups of employees.

Document initiative details in tab 11 of the DEI Workbook.

Step 4

Plan to launch the DEI strategy

1. Conduct a current state assessment2. Determine the purpose of DEI3. Determine the governance model and select DEI initiatives

4. Plan to launch the DEI strategy

After completing this step you will have:
  • Identified clear DEI responsibilities across the organization.
  • Built a clear action plan for launching the DEI strategy.
  • Embedded the DEI strategy in the organizational EVP and brand.
  • Determined a communication plan for the DEI strategy.

Outline DEI responsibilities

It’s important to clearly define responsibilities as everyone has a role to play. Review the following responsibilities and customize to fit with the DEI strategy, governance structure, and selected initiatives.

Document responsibilities in tab 12 of the DEI Workbook.

Leadership responsibilities

Leaders play a significant role in creating a diverse and inclusive environment. They set the stage for the employee experience and how the organization prioritizes DEI. This includes the C-suite, functional leaders, and people managers.

  • Modeling behavior
    Leaders have a responsibility to model behaviors that support the organization’s DEI efforts as this sets the tone for the rest of the organization.
  • Championing the strategy
    All leaders must champion the DEI strategy. This includes promoting the strategy, aligning team goals, and advocating and participating in initiatives.
  • Calling in/calling out behavior
    All leaders must be able to stand up to practices and people that are inequitable. This includes educating others but also telling others to stop when they’re harming others.

Departmental responsibilities

DEI is often siloed under HR. However, this impacts how effective DEI will be at the organization. Clarify how different departments have a role to play in the DEI strategy to ensure it is an organization-wide impact.

  • HR
    HR is the culture architect, but they also play a big role in designing the employee experience. However, it’s important to make it clear that HR isn’t the only department with a role by facilitating active participation from other departments.
  • Building management
    Building management designs the physical environment and this plays a big role in creating an environment that supports a diverse workforce (e.g. providing gender neutral bathrooms or physically accessible office space).
  • IT
    IT is responsible for making sure the technology the organization uses is accessible and free from bias.

Individual responsibilities

Everyone is responsible for DEI. Be clear about what everyone is responsible for on an individual level.

  • Providing direction
    Ensure the strategy creates room for employees to provide direction and participate in DEI initiatives.
  • Being an ally
    Everyone must understand their privileges, do the work to educate themselves on the experiences of others, and understand how to be inclusive and equitable to others.
  • Participating in initiatives
    Encourage employees to participate or lead initiatives that support the DEI strategy.

Create a plan to execute on the DEI strategy

The action plan should answer the following questions:

  1. Launch the DEI strategy
  2. Implement prioritized initiatives

Key Milestones

  • Identify milestones around how the strategy and initiatives will be communicated.
    E.g. CEO communicates DEI strategy and initiatives to the board.
  • It will be important to meet with specific stakeholders to inform them of their role.
    E.g. Meet with executive leadership team to review leadership responsibilities.
  • Determine the actions required to implement the prioritized and selected initiatives.
    E.g. Determine logistics for employee resource groups.
  • Some resources will not be in-house and will have to be purchased, such as anti-racism or unconscious bias training.
    E.g. Identify a vendor for anti-racism training.

Impacted Stakeholders, Milestone Owners, and Performers

Creating and implementing the DEI strategy needs to be a diverse and inclusive experience. Be cognizant of who is doing this work. When identifying stakeholders and milestone owners and performers, ask the following questions:

  • Who is being impacted and how will this action impact them?
  • Who owns the milestone, who is performing it, and why?

Start and Completion Dates

Becoming a diverse and inclusive organization is an ongoing journey. Avoid rushing to implement big changes or overwhelming people by introducing initiatives all at once. For example, achieving pay equity is a long project that requires a lot of resources.

  • Is there anything that must happen before this milestone to start and complete it?
  • Does the timing of this milestone conflict with another?

Document the action plan in tab 13 of the DEI Workbook.

Determine how the DEI strategy will be measured and iterated

Create Checkpoints

  • Identify regular checkpoints for when initiatives and the DEI goals and metrics will be assessed.
  • Some metrics (e.g. engagement levels) may not have results at each checkpoint as they may only be collected annually.
  • Make sure to check in on how implemented initiatives are working. For example, in sponsorship programs are sponsors meeting with their protégés?

Consult Stakeholders

  • Meet with key stakeholders to gather feedback on the strategy and implemented initiatives.
  • Consult with employees across all levels of the organization and gather input from diverse groups of employees.
  • Meet with ERGs and the DEI committee to gather their feedback. While it is not expected that ERGs do all the DEI work, ERGs can provide valuable insight on what can work for the organization.

Iterate

    Based on the information from your checkpoints and stakeholder feedback:
  • Determine if you need to reprioritize milestones or actions.
  • Modify initiatives if you’re not experiencing desired results.
  • Reallocate resources to ensure initiatives are meaningful and successful.
  • Work with stakeholders to ensure that iterations make the organization diverse and inclusive to its workforce.

Brand the DEI strategy

Incorporate the DEI strategy into the employee value proposition (EVP) and the employer brand to:

  • Attract diverse groups of candidates.
  • Ensure that the employee experience is aligned to the EVP.
  • Reinforce that DEI is an organizational priority.
  • Work with Marketing and executives to ensure that organizational branding is more inclusive where possible.
  • Use the language from the DEI purpose and the strategic pillars as a guidepost to ensure consistency and alignment between the DEI strategy, the EVP, and any branding efforts.
  • Leverage implemented DEI initiatives as strengths in the organization’s EVP and ensure they are included in branding content.
  • Ensure organizational websites (e.g. social media, career sites) are accessible and use inclusive images, language, etc.
  • Build an inclusive brand by sponsoring community events.

The EVP and employer brand are two separate elements and mistaking one for the other can result in unclear, misaligned, or inaccurate messaging to current and potential employees.

Employee Value Proposition

The unique offering an employer provides to employees in return for their effort, motivating them to join or remain at the organization.

Employer Brand

The perception internal and external stakeholders hold of the organization and exists whether it has been curated or not.

Use McLean & Company’s Uncover an Impactful Employee Value Proposition blueprint to incorporate DEI into the EVP.

McLean & Company Insight

Be cautious of being a performative ally when branding the DEI strategy. The EVP is the promised employee experience. By working on incorporating the DEI strategy as an inspirational aspect into both the EVP and the employer brand, the organization ensures that DEI is a priority in the employee experience. This ensures that the DEI strategy is a genuine effort and not just communication messaging.

Communicate the DEI strategy to the organization

Having a strong communication plan is key to successfully launching and implementing the strategy.

The DEI strategy must be broadly communicated to ensure that stakeholders understand, buy into, and act in accordance with it.

  • Keep the audience in mind as you tailor communication of the strategy (to senior leaders, HR, people managers, employees from diverse groups, etc.).
  • Outline their roles and responsibilities.

The introductory messaging is crucial, but don’t wait for the strategy to be completed to start communicating.

Communicate what you know through the CEO/executives or executive champion and engage in ongoing communication by following these communication best practices.

What to communicate?

  • Outline the organizational benefit of DEI and the importance of an inclusive environment in leveraging diversity in all its forms. This will highlight how DEI supports organizational success.
  • Share the DEI purpose and strategic pillars.
  • Explain the strategy in plain language (or explain any buzzwords you must use) so employees can more easily understand the strategy and its value. Refer to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Primer.

How to communicate?

  • Consistent
    • Choose three distribution channels for each message to guarantee it is accessible to all employees. Ensure that all channels are communicating the same message.
  • Open & Honest
    • Update employees on the progress of the DEI strategy and share accurate information with employees as soon as it is appropriate.
    • Misrepresented information regarding the state of DEI will damage the credibility of the organization’s efforts and derail change.
  • Timely
    • Timely communications help avoid circulation of misinformation and allow the organization to guide the narrative around changes.
    • Mitigate resistance towards DEI by communicating changes before they are implemented.
  • Two-Way
    • Provide anonymous feedback loops for employees to freely share their opinions and ideas.
    • Have the DEI strategy project team oversee the feedback loops to ensure the anonymity of the feedback is protected.

Use McLean & Company’s Standard Internal Communications Plan to document target audiences, mediums, and timelines.

Use McLean & Company’s DEI Strategy Presentation Template.

Train managers and leaders on the new DEI strategy

Managers play a key role in successful implementation of DEI – train them to leverage the strategy in their departments by modeling inclusive behaviors and sharing learning resources.

Train managers

  • Use McLean & Company’s Training Deck: Equip Managers to Adopt Inclusive Leadership Behaviors to train managers on inclusive behaviors to:
    • Identify and reduce common biases throughout the employee lifecycle.
    • Adopt four leadership behaviors that have been demonstrated to create inclusion and boost innovation.
  • Use McLean & Company’s Foundations of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion LMS Download to enable an understanding of core DEI concepts.
  • Check in with managers regularly during the first few months to ensure they feel supported and have the training they need to manage employees in an inclusive manner.
  • Hold managers accountable: Tie DEI strategy to their development plan so there is incentive to follow.

Provide several avenues to learn

  • Involve managers in each department in the DEI strategy by encouraging them to give suggestions as to how to improve.
  • Once DEI committees and/or subcommittees are formed, leverage them as resident advisors on DEI:
    • Recruit these groups to compile a DEI resource library and use in ongoing training.
    • Align development plans with the DEI strategy, e.g. a development goal to research a particular DEI issue and decide on specific action steps to address this issue at the organization.

See McLean & Company’s Embed Inclusion Into Your Culture blueprint

DEI is an ongoing process, and an inclusive organization does not happen overnight – there’s still a long way to go. Diversity on its own will not create inclusion. While DEI is a process of continuous improvement, you can look at it in terms of two phases: strategy and culture.

The creation of a DEI strategy is the first phase. The next phase is to embed inclusion into your organizational culture.

Use the Embed Inclusion into Your Culture blueprint to begin Phase 2.

A road where the 'Create a DEI Strategy' blueprint is closer with a map highlight 'You are here'; down the road is the 'Embed Inclusion Into Your Culture' blueprint.

Key insights

Insight 1

Diversity, equity, and inclusion is never a one-and-done initiative, it’s a continuum – an ongoing journey of unlearning and learning the deeply rooted dogmas that guide the way organizations operate. The DEI strategy is a mechanism through which systemic issues and the deeply ingrained way things are done at organizations can be challenged and changed. Creating a scaled and purposeful strategy, upheld by strategic pillars, and customized DEI initiatives kick-starts the journey.

Insight 2

One-off and impromptu initiatives show the organization is taking steps towards becoming inclusive to diverse groups of employees. However, individual initiatives cannot fix deeply rooted and systemic inequities alone. Organizations must select initiatives that work together to amplify outcomes. For example, unconscious bias training can work more successfully if paired with inclusive behavior training. Additionally, inclusive behaviors are further reinforced if they are ingrained in the organization’s culture.

Insight 3

Be cautious of being a performative ally when branding the DEI strategy. By working on incorporating the DEI strategy into both the EVP and the employer brand, the organization ensures that DEI is reflected in the employee experience. This ensures that the DEI strategy is a genuine effort and not just communication messaging.

If you would like additional support, have our analysts guide you through other phases as part of a McLean & Company workshop.

Contact your account representative for more information

workshops@mcleanco.com
1-888-670-8889

Online Workshop Overview

Pre-work Post-work
McLean & Company Analysts
Client Data Gathering and Planning

Discuss participants, logistics, overview of workshop activities

Examples:

  • Guide establishment of DEI strategy project team
  • Review data analysis (contact Account Representative if data analysis support from McLean & Company is required)
Implementation Supported Through Analyst Calls

Establish touch points to review progress of strategy implementation

Examples:

  • Guide strategy iteration
  • Review milestones
  • Review success metrics
Client Gather organizational documents and results of relevant diagnostics (Engagement, New Hire Survey, Exit Survey), previous focus groups and stakeholder feedback, and DEI Assessment

Examples:

  • DEI Assessments
  • Strategies (i.e. existing DEI strategy, organizational strategy, talent strategy)
  • Engagement, New Hire, Exit survey data
  • Previous focus groups and stakeholder feedback
Roll out the DEI strategy

Examples:

  • Identify appropriate governance structure
  • Implement selected initiatives
Both Attend a series of calls to discuss and complete foundational work.

Examples:

  • Outlining internal and external data requirements
  • Identifying organizational priorities and constraints
  • Microsoft Teams orientation

Maximum of eight to ten participants per workshop.

Online Workshop Overview

Module 1 Module 2 Module 3
Activities
Conduct a current state analysis
  • Debrief data gathered
  • Debrief DEI Assessment
  • Review the organization’s broader strategic goals and priorities
  • Identify the DEI implications of strategic goals and priorities
  • Conduct an external analysis by brainstorming external factors (PESTL) to understand the macro-level implications on DEI strategy
Determine the purpose of DEI
  • Conduct a SWOT analysis by using the information gathered in the data collection process. Identify the internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats.
  • Based on Day 1 activities, discuss how you envision the future state of DEI.
  • Using the insights from the SWOT analysis, define and draft the overarching purpose of DEI at your organization.
  • Select two to four strategic pillars and identify goals and metrics for each.
Select initiatives & plan to launch strategy
  • Select initiatives and customize them by describing how the initiative will be implemented, what the considerations are, who will be accountable for the initiative, and what the initiative will achieve.
  • Prioritize the selected initiatives.
  • Identify key milestones that must occur to implement the DEI strategy, who will be impacted by the milestone, who owns it, and who will perform it.
Deliverables
  • Established integrated framework of DEI priorities to support organization’s long-term strategic initiatives/goals
  • Defined overarching DEI purpose statement
  • Determined the organization’s DEI strategic pillars
  • Identified high-level goals and metrics
  • Selected initiatives to implement over a specified timeline
  • Created a high-level plan to execute on the DEI strategy
  • Completed DEI Strategy Presentation Template
  • Completed relevant tabs in DEI Workbook

Maximum of eight to ten participants per workshop.

Leverage Feedback to Drive Performance

Identify impactful initiatives using our diagnostic programs to collect feedback from employees, stakeholders, and the HR team.

Optimize the HR Department for Success

HR Stakeholder Management Survey
Align HR initiatives with business strategy and stakeholder needs.

HR Management & Governance
Improve HR’s core functions and drive project success.

Improve Employee Experience and HR Processes

Pandemic Engagement Pulse Check
Assess the effect of pandemic response plans on employee engagement.

New Hire Survey
Ensure recruiting and onboarding programs are effective by surveying new employees.

Employee Engagement
Move beyond measuring job satisfaction with a comprehensive view of engagement.

McLean Employee Experience Monitor
Evolve to leader-driven engagement with a real-time dashboard and results.

Employee Exit Survey
Understand why people leave the organization to proactively retain top talent.

360 Degree Feedback
Empower employees with a holistic view of their performance to prioritize development.

View our diagnostic programs for more information.

McLean & Company offers various levels of support to best suit your needs

DIY Toolkit

Guided Implementation

Workshop

Consulting

"Our team has already made this critical project a priority, and we have the time and capability, but some guidance along the way would be helpful." "Our team knows that we need to fix a process, but we need assistance to determine where to focus. Some check-ins along the way would help keep us on track." "We need to hit the ground running and get this project kicked off immediately. Our team has the ability to take this over once we get a framework and strategy in place." "Our team does not have the time or the knowledge to take this project on. We need assistance through the entirety of this project."

Diagnostics and consistent frameworks used throughout all four options

Self-identification survey questions

Self-identification surveys are essential for taking an evidence-based approach to building the DEI strategy.

However, collecting self-identification data can be complex. Underneath the questions, provide an area for employees to self-describe or to prefer not to say.

Lastly, ensure that employees can opt out of sharing this data by allowing them not to answer or to provide another answer.

Data privacy
Ensure that the organization identifies a way to ensure that the self-identification data collected is confidential.

Gender identity and sexual orientation
  • Do you consider yourself a member of the LGBQT2IA+ community: Yes / No / Prefer not to say
  • What is your sexual orientation: Straight (Heterosexual) / Gay or Lesbian / Bisexual / Prefer to self-describe / Prefer not to say
  • Do you identify as: Male / Female / Non-binary / Prefer to self-describe _________ / Prefer not to say
  • Do you identify as transgender: Yes / No / Prefer not to say
Race/Ethnic origin
  • What is your race/ethnicity? Black / White / Asian / Prefer to self-describe__________
    • Provide an area for employees to also self-describe.
    • Note that when referring to the Black community you should always capitalize the B.
Place of origin
  • What is your place of origin? Provide a definition to not confuse this with ethnic origin or citizenship. For some people, where they were born will differ from where their ethnic origin is and what their current citizenship is.
    • Provide an area for employees to also self-describe.
Citizenship
  • Of what country are you a citizen of?
    • To be most inclusive, you will want to make this an open-ended question.

Identify categories by seeking out resources specific to your geographic region (e.g. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S. Census Bureau, Statistics Canada, Human Rights authorities, SHRM).

They can provide the correct terminology (e.g. Black and African American, Indigenous person, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, Latino).

Additional questions on the following slide

Self-identification survey questions

Creed
  • What is your religion or creed?

Identify categories by seeking out resources specific to your geographic region (e.g. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S. Census Bureau, Statistics Canada, Human Rights authorities, SHRM). They can provide the correct terminology (e.g. Roman Catholic, Atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant, Sikh).

Veteran status
  • If you believe you belong to any of the categories of protected veterans, please indicate by checking the appropriate box below.
    • I am not a veteran (I did not serve in the military)
    • Disabled veteran
    • Recently separated veteran
    • Active wartime or campaign badge veteran
    • Armed forces service medal veteran
    • I am a protected veteran, but I choose not to self-identify the classifications to which I belong
Age
  • Select your age from the following: Under 18 / 18-25 / 26-33 /34-41 …
    • One of the best ways to provide answers is to use multiple choice questions with different age ranges.
Family status
  • Are you a caregiver to: Children / Parents / Another family member / Yes but prefer not to self-identify the classification
Disability
  • Are you a person with a disability? No / Yes / Check all that apply
    • To identify potential categories for answers, refer to resources such as the U.S. Department of Labor.

Resources to leverage when creating self-identification surveys:

  • U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • Statistics Canada website
  • Government of Canada
  • U.S. Department of Labor
  • Human rights organizations
  • SHRM

Supplement organizational data with an inclusion survey

If there is a lack of organizational data regarding inclusion, send out a survey through platforms like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms or connect with your employee survey vendor.

Potential survey formats include:

Rating scale
  • For example, how likely would you agree with the following statement, rated on a scale from 1 (not at all) to 5 (extremely likely).
Likert Scale
  • For example, to what extent would you agree with the following statement, ranked on a scale of strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree, neither agree nor disagree.

Regardless of format, ensure that open-ended comment sections are available for employees to leave additional insights.

If appropriate, include an optional prompt for employees to disclose their identity, including gender identity, sexual identify, ethnic/cultural identity, disability, and family status.

Sample inclusion-focused questions include:

  • I am not discriminated against at this organization.
  • I am treated with respect by my manager.
  • I am emotionally safe at work (not bullied or harassed).
  • I can be my authentic self at work.
  • I feel empowered to participate and contribute in meetings.
  • My opinions matter to:
    • My colleagues
    • My team
    • My manager
    • The organization
  • I feel a sense of belonging at work.
  • I feel valued for my differences.
  • I am given equal opportunity for development.

Include 10-15 questions to be distributed to the whole organization.

Draw out employee experiences

Employee Experiences Sample questions Positive comment examples Negative comment examples
Empowerment What could the organization do to better support you? “The organization provides options to flex my work hours and encourages work-life balance.” “There is very limited flexibility to balance work and familial obligations. Any accommodation is seen as laziness.”
Openness Do you feel that you have emotional and social support at work? “My colleagues and senior leaders treat me with respect and encourage my growth.” “The environment is toxic and consistently fails to recognize employees from minority groups.”
Belonging Do you feel like you must codeswitch or downplay aspects of your identity at work? “I don’t feel inhibited to be myself. My manager and colleagues encourage me to speak my mind and be myself.” “I don’t feel like I can be myself without judgement.”
Leadership Can you see yourself as a future leader in this organization? Why or why not? “I can see that my manager creates an inclusive environment, because she calls out negative behaviors.” “The senior leadership team and the workforce is not representative to me … I feel like I can’t progress here.”

Follow best practices to conduct focus groups on inclusion

The best way to create an inclusive work environment is to build it around the specific experiences of employees within the organization. However, the topics discussed within DEI are very personal and sensitive.

Make it clear to participants that:

  • It is a safe space to share their experiences. There is no judgement.
  • They only need to share what they’re comfortable with.
  • Tell participants to use “I” statements and to speak from their own experience. Participants don’t need to speak for everyone.
  • Even if someone seems similar to you, identities are very complex, and experiences will differ. No experience is invalid.
  • People can continue to share their experience in private, if they’re more comfortable with that.

As the facilitator, model inclusive behaviors:

  • Give all participants an opportunity to share their experiences before moving onto the next question or participant.
  • Respect everyone’s experience and ensure everyone in the group respects everyone else’s opinion.
  • Keep an eye on body language. Look for any signals that someone is uncomfortable.
  • Give time to check in with everyone when heavy, sensitive experiences are shared.

Questions to ask:

  • What makes you feel like you belong at the organization?
  • In your experience, what are some barriers people don’t see but impact your ability to participate in the organization?
  • Do you have any experiences of masking or downplaying aspects of your self at work?
  • Have you ever felt left out at the organization – either in work practices or socially?
  • In your experience, what are some ways the organization can be more inclusive?
  • How can your peers, managers, leaders, and other partners at the organization be more inclusive?
  • If you’re comfortable with sharing, have you ever felt emotionally or physically unsafe?

Analyzing focus group data

Engagement surveys, exit surveys, and new hire surveys identify a problem, but focus groups and interviews will provide details and context about the problem. Using qualitative data to support quantitative data is known as the process of “enrichment,” which will help identify further issues or information on inclusion and belonging that quantitative research cannot gather (Carvalho & White).

Use this process to analyze focus group data:

  • Compile the focus group feedback into a table
    Document the focus group notes into a table, consolidating all answers under each question.
  • Analyze focus group feedback
    Identify the main ideas in the answers and document them beside the original answers. Indicate whether this was a negative or positive experience for the employee.
  • Summarize the common ideas
    Now that the main ideas have been pulled out of the focus group data, reassess the data to identify where the trends and common themes are.

Example: Do you have any experiences of masking or downplaying aspects of your self at work? Why?

1. Original Focus Group Feedback 2. Main Idea 3. Summary
People are quick to ask about my girlfriend. Then I must correct them and let them know my partner is male. This makes me avoid conversations around my relationships because people look uncomfortable when I correct them. Negative: questions about personal life Employees feel like they must hide their sexuality at work because of team members’ behavior.
When my colleagues make jokes about people’s sexuality, I feel like I must hide mine to avoid being the punchline. Negative: jokes about sexuality
I don’t, but I feel like my team is super supportive and understanding about who I am. They ask questions and are open to learning. I don’t feel judged on my team. Positive: team listens

Adapt McLean & Company’s inclusion competency

Description Contributes to an environment in which all employees feel a sense of belonging, valued for their differences and empowered to participate and contribute freely.
1.
  • Respects the uniqueness of individuals.
  • Listens to others’ points of view with an open mind and tries to relate to their experience.
  • Understands the impact of their own actions and how others might perceive it.
  • Speaks up and challenges non-inclusive behaviors and work practices.
2.
  • Values the differences that individuals bring to the team.
  • Openly seeks diverse opinions and ensures everyone is heard.
  • Makes it safe to propose new ideas.
  • Shares credit for success.
  • Gives team members decision-making authority.
3.
  • Actively promotes and celebrates individual differences.
  • Enables an environment where people feel safe to speak openly.
  • Rallies employees to communicate their ideas and share differing perspectives.
  • Shares insights about their own strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures to show empathy and help others relate.
  • Recognizes and rewards inclusive behavior.
  • Demonstrates accountability for ensuring work practices are inclusive.
4.
  • Demonstrates self-awareness of biases and preferences for how to get things done.
  • Uses an inclusive approach in setting strategic direction and making decisions.
  • Recognizes and rewards inclusive behavior throughout the organization.
  • Influences others to promote and embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Helps the organization to understand the business case for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Creates accountability for diversity, equity, and inclusion progress in the organization.

Works Cited

Abouzahr, Taplett, et al. “Measuring What Matters in Gender Diversity.” BCG, 3 April 2018. Web. June 2020.

Carvalho, S. & White, H. Combining quantitative and qualitative approaches to poverty measurement and analysis. World Bank Technical Paper, 1996. February 2020. Unleash Hidden Potential. DDI, 2018. Book. January 2020.

Cherry, Kendra. “10 Cognitive Biases That Distort Your Thinking.” Verywell Mind, 7 September 2019. Accessed 18 Nov. 2019.

Dastin, Jeffrey. “Amazon scraps secret AI recruiting tool that showed bias against women.” Reuters, 9 Oct. 2018. Web. June 2020.

DeLoatch, Pamela. “’A source of tremendous discrimination’: Why hair policies matter.” HR Dive, 28 Feb 2020. Web. June 2020.

“Diversity and Inclusion.” NBA. n.d. Web. February 2020.

Dixon-Fyle, Hunt, et al. “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters.” McKinsey & Company, May 2020. Web. June 2020.

Fins, Amanda. “Women and the Lifetime Wage Gap: How Many Woman Years Does It Take To Equal 40 Man Years?” National Women’s Law Center, March 2020. Web. June 2020.

“HR4.0: Shaping People Strategies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” World Economic Forum, 2019. Web.

Hunt, Vivian, et al. “Delivering growth through diversity.” McKinsey & Company, January 2018. Web. January 2020.

Kahneman, Daniel. “Daniel Kahneman: Beware the ‘inside view’.” McKinsey Quarterly, Nov. 2011. Accessed 29 Nov. 2019.

Krentz, Dean, et al. “Fixing the Flawed Approach to Diversity.” BCG, January 2019. Web. June 2020.

Krivkovich, Nadeau, et al. “Women in the Workplace 2018.” McKinsey & Company, Oct 2018. Web. June 2020.

Lorenzo, Rocio, et al. “How diverse leadership teams boost innovation.” BCG, 23 January 2018. Web. January 2020.

Parsons, Hyter, et al. “Are We Being Heard?” Korn Ferry, 2020. Web. June 2020.

Shook and Sweet. “Getting to Equal 2020: The Hidden Value of Culture Makers.” Accenture, March 2020. Web. June 2020.

Taplett, Garcia-Alonso, et al. “It’s Frontline Leaders Who Make or Break Progress on Diversity.” BCG, March 2020. Web. June 2020.

Whaba, Phil. “The number of Black CEOs in the Fortune 500 remains very low.” Fortune, June 2020. Web. June 2020.

About McLean & Company

McLean & Company is an HR research and advisory firm providing practical solutions to human resources challenges via executable research, tools, diagnostics, and advisory services that have a clear and measurable impact on your business.

What Is a Blueprint?

A blueprint is designed to be a roadmap, containing a methodology and the tools and templates you need to solve your HR problems.

Each blueprint can be accompanied by a Guided Implementation that provides you access to our world-class analysts to help you get through the project.

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Guided Implementation #1 - Conduct a current state assessment
  • Call #1 - Discuss the process to identify the DEI strategy project team and review the D&I assessment.
  • Call #2 - Plan how the organization will assess the current state by identifying data and conducting focus groups.

Guided Implementation #2 - Determine the purpose of DEI
  • Call #1 - Review SWOT analysis and draft overarching purpose of DEI.
  • Call #2 - Define the organization’s strategic pillars and determine how goals/metrics will be measured.

Guided Implementation #3 - Determine the governance model and select DEI initiatives
  • Call #1 - Review recommended governance model and discuss requirements.
  • Call #2 - Discuss and prioritize appropriate initiatives.

Guided Implementation #4 - Plan to launch the DEI strategy
  • Call #1 - Review the plan to execute on DEI.