In response to national conversations on institutional racism and racist violence in the past year, many companies have started to take action to address their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategy. From Ulta’s $25 million dollar commitment to Amazon’s release of its workforce data, the responses to increased calls for workplace equity have varied across industry and organization. But as organizations move their DEI efforts into the spotlight they face continued criticism. As seen in the corporate response to the new Georgia voting laws, companies find themselves in a recurring pattern: they make statements of solidarity, get called out for not acting on those statements, feel pressured to react quickly, and then get surprised by unforeseen consequences to their actions.
That being said, how to most effectively utilize DEI to support business growth is completely open-ended. This ambiguity, combined with little ROI research on recent initiatives, leaves companies with two big questions: “What are we really trying to do here?” and “How do we all get on the same page?” The longer those questions go unanswered, the higher the likelihood of frustration and turnover.
The best way to end this pattern of inaction and internal friction? Creating a long-term, multiyear DEI plan. This starts with addressing questions of impact and trajectory of your narrative, writing down your top priorities and getting feedback from others. But having a clear, consistent, and sustainable DEI agenda can benefit you beyond the initial planning stages. Here are three top reasons for planning out your diversity narrative– regardless of your organization’s size.
1. Allocating Resources
The need to allocate proper resources is perhaps the most obvious reason to plan out your DEI agenda. While having supersized funds to achieve your goals would be nice, this is not possible for most organizations. Much like in personal finance, knowing where to spend your money can be just as important as how much you spend; with little ROI research, identifying hidden costs to your diversity strategy before getting started is a great way to ensure that whatever budget you have devoted to DEI initiatives aligns with your priorities.
Another reason to plan ahead– a dramatic increase in budget doesn’t necessarily align with the multi-year, even multi-decade process of DEI evolution. What we’ve learned from the mistakes of companies like Coca-Cola is that large financial commitments which don’t account for the entire cross-functional landscape of change can do more harm than good.
2. Measuring Outcomes
If budgeting represents a front-end benefit to thorough diversity planning, metrics is the back-end benefit. Having a clear idea in mind and complete control over your DEI narrative allows you to attack the question of how to evaluate it. Reaching truly representative recruitment or addressing pay equity comes from quality metrics, which contextualize your data and accurately report your strengths and pain points.
A strong set of priorities and strategies not only helps you leverage your data, it also provides you with a clear idea of a “metrics ceiling”– that is, at what point does a data-driven strategy cease to be useful in successful strategy implementation? Solely relying on numbers as knee-jerk reactions to diversity issues leads to low employee retention and minimal long-term improvement. Data can help you get employees in the door, but it doesn’t always tell you what happens as they advance. This is where smart planning comes in, enabling you to bolster your metrics-related strategies with outside support.
3. Alignment with Key Stakeholders
Finally, thorough planning allows you to address one of the biggest problems that DEI leaders face: cross-functional change ultimately leads to conflicting priorities. Diversity initiatives are accountable to both internal and external stakeholders– this can be tricky in a variety of contexts. Let’s take, for example, reporting ESG information; different stakeholders will inevitably have conflicting ideas on both where the data should live and it’s importance. Take for example, this survey from PwC, showing that CFOs might not prioritize reporting in the same way that your DEI team does. With a firm plan in place, you can minimize (even eliminate) the frustration that accompanies team misalignment.
A smart, sustainable, and consistent approach to diversity is essential to breaking the pattern that the private sector has found itself in. With key benefits to budgeting, metrics, and stakeholder conflict, DEI prioritization is the difference between plugging leaky holes as they appear and rebuilding your plumbing to last. The team at FutureSelf Network is available to support your DEI strategic planning and everyday execution.
About FutureSelf Network, LLC
FutureSelf Network (FSN) www.futureselfnetwork.com is the leading network of organizations focused on executing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. We identify management strategy, processes, tools and frameworks that will allow our members to avoid reinventing the wheel in addressing problems they share in common with their peers. Our goal is to support our member community with action-oriented deliverables that drive their DEI strategy forward.
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