An increasingly remote world has led to an increasingly remote workforce, which has opened the door for global diversity, and for businesses to expand—or initiate—diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. On March 24, Bold Business–in conjunction with Diversity MBA Media–hosted a free webinar titled Getting DEI Started: 5 Proven Steps for a Successful Launch, which tapped into the expertise of three people who are “boots on the ground” when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
The experts for the panel discussion were:
- Ed Kopko, CEO of Bold Business. For over two decades, Ed has helmed global companies, and has been a big proponent of global diversity during that time
- Pamela McElvane, CEO of Diversity MBA, a national brand that helps businesses iron out DEI strategies.
- Tina Ragland, Enterprise Leader for DEI & Learning Development at Pacific Life. Tina has firsthand experience implementing DEI programs.
“What do companies who are starting–who are young in the journey or growing–what are some of the steps that they need to go through to start successful diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives?” said Kopko. The answer can be broken down into five steps.
Knowing Your ‘Why’
“There is a difference between building a passion for DEI and making a consensus,” said Kopko. That difference is knowing your “why”–as in, why your business should embrace diversity, equity and inclusion, why it’s good for employee culture, why it’s good for the bottom line, etc. From that knowledge comes the passion and, inevitably, the consensus needed for the first step.
Said Ragland, “We’re a 150+ year-old organization with an amazing culture, and when we thought about building up DEI and understanding our ‘why’ and connecting that to our business, it was about understanding the passion that goes along with incorporating clear, actionable items and tying that to the [return on investment] that supports our customers, and employees as well. Having that passion, it sustains that work you’re doing. Having that consensus just checks a box.”
“When you’re thinking about launching and developing any kind of strategy, you always want to think about your ‘why’ first.” –Pam McElvane, CEO, Diversity MBA Media
Added McElvane: “In this changing world, the ‘why’ should be because we want to mirror the consumers that we serve and the constituents that will be part of our value proposition. It is a business imperative, if you want to have your products and services in different markets and have different groups and consumers purchase them.”
The Importance of an Assessment
The second step involves Making the Commitment, which is synonymous with goal-setting. But a crucial component of goal-setting and determining where you want to go is first knowing where you’re starting out from. Therein lies the importance of an assessment.
“When it comes to making a commitment, there’s a process that companies need to go through.” –Ed Kopko, CEO, Bold Business
“Ninety-eight percent of larger companies right now have some type of initiative in diversity and equity,” said McElvane. “They’ve made some level of commitment. What assessments do is give you some way to measure where you are. Some people call them audits, some call them reviews, but at the end of the day they’re meant to help you understand where you are so you can design a plan that tells you where to go.”
“From a fundamental standpoint, there are key performance indicators,” she continued. “An example would be, if you wanted an inclusion metric to measure engagement, you would look at the kinds of activities that your organization is celebrating, the number of people it’s impacting, and you would do an evaluation to understand the rate of satisfaction and impact. There are probably 86 different metrics you could use to measure diversity, equity and inclusion, and at some level they all have to move simultaneously. It is critical to any business strategy to have an assessment to take a review of where your organization is and where you’d like it to go. I would say 78% of the companies that participate in our index are doing multiple assessments on an annual basis.”
“Part of that Step 2 is creating an assessment, and it’s also then working with consultants and your leadership to come up with some goals in terms of where you’re going to go. When you have those goals, you’re ready to start talking to your company.” –Ed Kopko
Meet the Organization Where You Are
Much of the impetus behind Step 3, Communicating Vision with Insight and Objectives that Share Your Story, involves realistic actions to accomplish those realistic goals.
Said Ragland: “At Pacific Life, we really took some time with the management committee to focus on our guiding principles. We worked on our guiding principles, and then we talked about ‘why are we doing this?’ Our leaders also did some time with unconscious bias training to figure out where they were, and they could show up as leaders and be successful on this journey.”
“When it comes to setting realistic goals, it’s important to meet the organization where you are.” –Tina Ragland, Enterprise Leader, Pacific Life
“Once the leadership has made the commitment, they’ll try to illustrate that through actions,” said McElvane. “They will embed the communication strategies and have a goal that all the communications platforms will convey a clear strategy. Then they’ll set up quarterly or monthly ‘listening sessions’. Right now you find that there’s a lot of energy around engaging the workforce, and companies will look to engage the full workforce through town halls and fireside luncheon and establish diversity committees to help model the messages.”
Tips for Successfully Implementing DEI Initiatives
The fourth step, Making the Strategy and Vision Come Alive, is where the wheels meet the road and the DEI initiatives start moving forward. Kopko, McElvane and Ragland each had firsthand perspectives to share on what that can look like.
Said Kopko: “One of the things we’ve seen at Bold Business with our clients is that many companies are sometimes very geographically concentrated—sometimes only in one location. They don’t accomplish many diverse dimensions because of geographic limitations. Bold Business has been helping clients achieve that diversity goal by bringing diversity via a global workforce.”
“How do you bring respect?” said McElvane. “How do you bring your core values to life? That means being able to listen and being able to hear. If you want to meet someone where they are, let’s start respecting the honesty of what someone has to say that’s important to them. That’s the first part that’s important. You have to have a guide. You have to be able to give people direction, and opportunities to measure and be engaged in it.”
“Benchmarking allows you to see where you are in your industry, and it also provides a roadmap. Most importantly, it helps you recognize the milestones that you have achieved—where you started and how you’ve progressed along the way.” –Pam McElvane
Said Ragland: “One thing we’ve done is we have six strategic pillars that we’re focused on, and out of the six, we make sure we have meaningful goals and metrics so we can measure our success. How do we measure success? We have an enterprise inclusion council we put together, and they also have goals and metrics that they put together as well.”
The Role of Consultants in the DEI Space
The fifth and final step, Implement Smartly and Stay With It, involves acknowledging that outside help is useful–and often necessary–and enlisting their aid.
“I find that, particularly with younger companies, more people understand the ‘D’ in DEI but not the ‘E’ and ‘I’. I think a fair amount of companies are going to scratch their head and not know the questions to ask and the data to pull together. It’s kind of like going to a doctor versus trying to diagnose yourself.” –Ed Kopko
“We don’t have to be the experts in the space because there are some great partners out there who we can partner with,” said Ragland. “What that’s done for us is have more resources available to us—we’re not out there trying to figure it out on our own. It prevents us from wanting to go forward too fast, and the consultants are able to help us with what we want to accomplish.”
“I really think that it’s important that you don’t try to bite off the entire apple, especially if you’re not ready for that as an organization.” –Tina Ragland,
“We were able to provide those benchmarks to her, and support companies in achieving what’s important to them,” said McElvane, whose company has a diversity benchmarking index it shares to help businesses gauge where they are relative to others when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion.
“I found we could do it ourselves, but I would recommend you seek support externally—especially if you’re brand new on this journey,” said Ragland. “You’ll get the best practices, plus there’s the distance between yourselves and the people you’re having the conversations with.”