How to Create a D&I Initiative (With Examples)

Chris Carnduff
Chris Carnduff
January 19, 2023
How to Create a D&I Initiative (With Examples)

Did you know that 67% of job seekers consider workplace diversity an important factor in job searches? Diversity and inclusion are more than just buzzwords in the modern world. Instead, they are essential initiatives that companies must utilize if they want to drive innovation and maintain growth.

As more companies seek to challenge systemic racism, sexism, and ableism, D&I initiatives are becoming increasingly common. Admittedly, it is challenging work, but introducing D&I is something you need to do if you want to create an inclusive company where creativity and growth thrive. 

Alongside the moral obligation for diversity and inclusion, companies should strive to incorporate these initiatives for other reasons. From reduced employee turnover to attracting top talents in the industry, there are plenty of compelling reasons to make your workplace more inclusive. 

In this guide, I will cover everything you need to know about establishing a D&I initiative, including some handy examples to help you get started. 

What Is a Diversity and Inclusion Initiative?

D&I (diversity and inclusion) initiatives are policies implemented by businesses designed to increase diversity and make target group members feel more included. The target groups are anyone disadvantaged by broader society, including:

  • Ethnic minorities
  • Women
  • Differently abled people
  • Religious minorities
  • LGBTQ+ people

Diversity and inclusion initiatives can vary widely between companies. Depending on the size of your business, the way you operate, and the sector you work in, you may need to implement different policies. For example, your D&I policy will look a little different if you have a small business that operates remotely compared to a large corporation working from a single office.

There are many ways to incorporate inclusivity initiatives. Read the sections below to learn more about the types of diversity initiatives and figure out which one best suits your company needs.

The Need for Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

Despite society’s increased perception of a need for diversity, many feel that the progress so far has not been enough.There are still many issues to address.

Some of the current problems faced regarding D&I include: 

  • Low hiring rates for Black and Hispanic Americans, which did not improve between 1990 and 2015
  • Lack of representation at executive levels, and overrepresentation of people of color in lower-paid positions
  • Negative experiences in day-to-day work, with 31% of AAPI employees experiencing stereotyping

These are just a few issues faced by disadvantaged groups, but numbers on a page seldom reflect the realities of the situation. Negative daily experiences can make employees feel demotivated, unwanted, and more. 

Often, problems begin in the hiring process and extend throughout an individual’s career. Therefore, it’s vital to implement an inclusion policy that covers all the bases. The main priority is caring for your employees, but there are also benefits to gain for your business.

Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion

Aside from the expectations for modern businesses to adopt inclusion policies, it’s also vital to give your employees support if you want to make your company worth working for. Having solid policies in place and adhering to them can reduce employee turnover, motivate your staff, and improve productivity.

When employees feel an affinity with your brand, they will go above and beyond for the business. However, to foster this kind of environment, you need to create a cohesive team of individuals that feel valued. Try to create a workplace environment where employees feel comfortable voicing their opinions with certainty that their feedback will be heard.

Furthermore, allowing employees to contribute in this way can help your business to grow. Not only does it help to break down the rigid hierarchical structures that can damage employee happiness, but it can also lead to growth through innovation.

For example, consider how much you miss out on when all your employees come from the same background. With a diverse range of knowledge bases and strengths, you gain a better collective of resources to draw from. This is particularly beneficial in creative fields, but it is an advantage for any business.

Finally, a diverse workforce reflects a diverse audience. No matter what sector you work in, it’s likely that your target audience includes some individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. Including diverse people in your team and highlighting their ideas can help your business grow because it gives you valuable insights into your target market.

Things to Consider When Building a D&I Initiative

Diversity initiatives are seldom simple. There are many factors you need to consider, though you need to adapt most of them to suit the specificities of your business. 

Nonetheless, there are six key factors every D&I policy should incorporate:

  1. Making diversity and inclusion core business values
  2. Investing in training
  3. Leading by example
  4. Tracking data and progress
  5. Investing in diversity software
  6. Emphasizing employee belonging

Let’s cover what each of these mean.

1. Make D&I a Core Value

First and foremost, you need to prioritize diversity and inclusion. It needs to be at the heart of your business and run like a seam through everything you do. 

Empty gestures are sometimes worse than not having a policy at all, especially since people today are clued up on diversity initiatives. It’s pretty obvious if you aren’t adhering to your own policies.

Instead of implementing diversity policies out of necessity, make it a priority to understand the need for them and improve the situation.

2. Invest in Training

Implementing diversity is not something that happens overnight. It takes time and effort to make it something that rests at the heart of your business. Therefore, it’s essential to invest time (and money) into diversity to ensure that your policies work.

It’s one thing to devise a carefully thought out mission statement and another to ensure everyone in the company is on the same page.

You should also try to go above and beyond standard unconscious bias training. Instead of just preaching to employees about stereotypes, you should endeavor to include action-oriented strategies to eliminate bias. 

Focus on training in relation to workplace-related scenarios, including hiring and day-to-day team dynamics. Each person in the company should be aware of potential biases they encounter in their role and how to eliminate them. 

For example, are your hiring managers asking everyone the same questions? If not, do they need to create a better interview structure?

3. Lead by Example

DIversity usually occurs from the top down. Without people who can see opportunities for improvement, it becomes much more challenging to implement a policy that really works. 

Not only should the team at the top aim to reflect diversity, but all higher-ups should be knowledgeable about the use of inclusive language and the importance of D&I. Execs can also help by sharing articles and information about your company’s commitments on social media.

Again, though, you need to do more than just lip service. Make sure you are promoting diverse employees to leadership roles and providing platforms for progression.

4. Compile Data to Track Progress

Remember those actionable strategies? It’s essential to have goals for improved diversity, or there will be no way to track your progress as you move toward a more inclusive business.

Business is all about tracking metrics, and D&I is no different. Compile an initial dataset that can help you assess where your company is at and whether you are meeting any objectives already.

Then, as you work to improve, keep tracking data to see if you are meeting your goals.

Track metrics such as:

  • Diversity in hiring
  • Job satisfaction for all employees
  • Employee responses in inclusion surveys

You should send surveys at least annually to assess employee satisfaction. In terms of diversity, segment employee answers by gender, generation, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc. to find out if responses differ across any of these categories.

Remember, though, that diversity programs need to go beyond box-ticking to be truly successful. Meeting goals is important, but those goals must focus on addressing the needs of employees and customers.

5. Invest in Diversity Software

Unfortunately, there is always a margin for human error. Even despite diversity training, people will still retain some unconscious bias. In fact, research shows that some diversity training can even reinforce stereotypes.

Software, on the other hand, can work to remove bias. There is plenty of available HR software nowadays that can automate processes, including Manatal, Greenhouse, and Yellow, three types of recruiting software to help diversify your team with solid candidates.

You have to be careful with software, though. In 2015, Amazon’s AI-trained recruitment software accidentally began to favor male applicants and penalize resumés mentioning “women”. It reinforced the tech industry as a male-dominated sphere, which is why it’s essential to find unbiased software. 

Other platforms, like CoffeePals, go beyond recruitment to foster a healthy workplace environment using unbiased matching processes. It’s vital to maintain that thread of diversity and incorporate software at all levels.

6. Emphasize Belonging

All employees should feel as though they belong to a team. It should not just be a case of diversity and inclusion, but instead diversity, inclusion, and belonging.

‘Belonging’ is a buzzword in the business world right now, but it’s nonetheless an important one. Employers should consider ways to make their employees feel valued and important, and not just another name on the payroll. 

From the hiring process and beyond, you should attempt to make your workplace environment feel inclusive, welcoming, and almost like a family. 

Examples of D&I Initiatives

Here are several ways you can attempt to make the workplace a more inclusive space.

Initiative Examples
Celebrate Diverse Holidays Honor multiple holidays with celebrations to suit all staff.
Offer floating vacation days so that employees can take days off on their religious holidays.
Celebrate everything from Pride, to Hannukah, to Juneteenth.
Create Buddy Systems Consider buddy systems that involve employees from all departments, allowing for mentorship and sharing of experiences.
Host coffee mornings that pair up individuals from different backgrounds to foster healthy workplace relationships.
Create spaces for employees to hang out and bond.
Make Diversity a Selling Point Share articles, case studies, and more on the brand’s social media pages regarding diversity, inclusion, and current social justice issues.
Leverage personal branding and encourage executives and employees to share this information, too.
Promote diversity as a core value of your business, and follow through on mission statements.
Get Feedback from Employees Hold annual surveys that make specific reference to points of diversity and inclusion.
Act on negative feedback from employees regarding discrimination and poor experiences.
Anonymous Recruiting Use unbiased software to help with recruiting.
Engage in anonymous hiring practices that are not subject to human error.
Invest in unconscious bias training for hiring managers to minimize human error.
Honor Cultural and Religious Practices Keep a separate refrigerator and utensils for Kosher or Halal food items.
Allow spaces and relevant time for prayer.
Foster an environment in which employees are comfortable discussing their backgrounds if they so wish.

Case Studies of D&I Initiatives

Companies are already employing D&I initiatives, and you don’t want to fall behind the curve. Three companies with excellent policies are:

  1. General Motors
  2. Salesforce
  3. TALA

General Motors

GM has introduced fantastic diversity policies that aim to pioneer a more equal future for everyone. Not only have the executives, including Chairman and CEO, Mary Barra, appeared at events to promote social justice, but the brand has also publicly condemned police brutality, bigotry, racism, and more. 

GM has also put its money where its mouth is and pledged $10million to support racial justice campaigns. It is going far beyond lip service and making an effort to appear (and, indeed, be) progressive.

Salesforce

Salesforce is an example of using diversity in a B2B SaaS company. It has taken action as an organization to stand with the Black community during the BLM movement, and has also incorporated these values into the workplace.

Employees from across the business and leaders of Black employee resource groups were invited to help Salesforce create actionable targets to improve D&I. The brand’s aims now include improving representation at all levels, spending $100 million on Black-owned businesses over the next three years, and advocating at federal and state level for policies to address the equity gap.

TALA

Fashion company TALA has consistently aimed to champion women in the workplace. The board is over 50% women, and the brand also invests money into its values. TALA makes sustainable clothing in factories where it can ensure female garment workers in developing countries are paid fair wages, championing equality in the fashion industry. 

What’s more, the brand showcases its commitment to diversity by using models on the website that accurately reflect their consumer base. The site depicts women of all ethnicities and sizes, proving that a diverse team reflects a diverse customer base, and that representation sells.

TALA is a brilliant example of diversity and inclusion in marketing as well as in the office.

How to Use CoffeePals as Part of a D&I Initiative

CoffeePals is a virtual coffee app that integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Teams. It works by pairing employees on a weekly basis to foster healthy, helpful relationships. 

If you want to make your workplace feel like a family, you might want your employees to bond. However, introducing people manually is not only tedious, but the individuals involved could perceive there to be some bias.

CoffeePals eliminates this by using an unbiased matching system that pairs employees at random. It ensures everybody gets a chance to meet each other in a relaxed, non-work-related setting, but without the awkward set-up and potential for biased introductions. 

Instead, groups of between two and five employees can meet new people every week and discuss leisurely topics. The aim is to get people chatting and develop deeper bonds with each other and with the business itself, leading to better productivity and increased growth. 

Plus, the Coffee Maker function prompts everybody in the team to answer fun questions and engage in lighthearted, friendly discussions. By valuing everybody’s opinion, you can forge an inclusive, positive, and engaged workforce.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Make an account with CoffeePals and add the bot to your company’s Microsoft Teams.
  2. Add the employees who want to be involved to a team.
  3. Adjust settings, including when and how often you want employees to be matched and how many per meeting.
  4. CoffeePals will match the relevant individuals, selecting at random and pairing new people each week.
  5. View analytics in the dashboard to track how successfully the matches are going.
  6. Enjoy your newly inclusive, friendly approach to working!

Final Thoughts

Diversity and inclusion are absolutely essential for any business, but it’s important to go beyond stale mission statements. Company leaders and HR managers should make every effort to diversify the workplace, especially with so many options for doing so.

Those with big budgets can invest in social justice schemes, but smaller companies can still commit to diversity with simple approaches like coffee mornings and responding to feedback.

Try out CoffeePals today to see how it can make a difference to your company’s approach to diversity, inclusion, and belonging.

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