A sustainable business model today often encourages varying levels of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programming, either through grassroots company initiative or as part of investor or regulatory requirements. 

As of 2022, 100% of Fortune 100 companies run DEI programs with information publicly available on their websites. Of Fortune 500 companies, roughly 16% publish annual DEI reports. Additionally, research shows that companies that embrace diversity are significantly more productive and have higher retention and engagement levels relative to companies that don’t invest in DEI programming. Further reinforcing the criticality and momentum of compiling and transparently reporting DEI metrics are emerging Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting structures from the SEC. 

Advancing DEI initiatives, however, isn’t yet a capability the average organization has fully executed on, at least not to the degree that it can consider its DEI goals “accomplished.” It takes concerted effort, accountability, and strategic action from DEI leadership teams. 

What Is a DEI Action Plan? 

A DEI action plan is the program by which HR and corporate leaders execute against DEI goals in measurable, meaningful ways, with reportable results to employees, boards, and, when relevant, investors. 

Although leaders say they are committed to DEI, people notice when progress is slow, thus necessitating an action plan that propels forward progress at all times.  

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A 6-Part Plan to Change 

Especially when considering younger generations in the workforce who are more diverse and socially active, translating DEI goals into actionable results is becoming table stakes for talent acquisition and competitive differentiation.  

Make progress on DEI strategy with the below action items: 

1. Integrate Leading Benchmarks to Kick-Start and Accelerate DEI Planning and Execution 

By understanding existing best practices across the DEI landscape (and specific to relevant industries), leadership can begin to shape their DEI work in a way that maximizes what’s worked for other organizations and bypasses pitfalls. This includes leveraging DEI benchmarking data from external resources, ideally curated into dashboards for quick, visual insights. Data commonly includes demographic information by job level, employee engagement, accessibility, suppliers, and more. 

2. Build an Employee Feedback Loop for Optimized Programming 

Fresh perspectives can optimize DEI programming and provide greater inclusion and diversity of thought. By granting a pathway for staff to be engaged and responsive, organizations can build bi-directional conversations around DEI. This can simply be done by recurring employee engagement surveys, focus groups, or other forums. The key is open communication channels followed by real shifts or changes in programming from DEI leadership. 

3. Embed Continuous Optimization  

As the organization as a whole acclimates to change (and sees the benefits of it), it’s necessary to systematize a process by which optimization is “always on.” Employees at all levels of the business should have the buy-in and confidence to experiment with new DEI ideas, test new techniques in smaller groups, and innovate on behalf of the business, effectively creating a culture of continuous optimization. This type of culture creates unique ways for individuals to connect, embrace differences, find common ground, and expand awareness, potentially uncovering new areas of programmatic effectiveness that could benefit from smart investment. Organizational design, process architecture, and hiring practices are common functions ripe for greater efficiencies. 

4. Refine Reporting to Be More Quantifiable  

While standing up a reporting structure often starts with a few basic metrics that are important to the organization, it’s just the beginning. Analyze the industry environment, peer organizations, and leading HR practices to gain insights into additional metrics to measure, benchmark, and report. Aim for quantifiable data points that increase accountability and success. For example, most human resources information systems (HRIS) already contain figures for recruiting, hiring, and retention, but can they be broken out further to compare against QoQ progress, competitor benchmarks, and more while attaching a dollar amount. 

5. Implement Compliance Controls as a Baseline 

DEI checkpoints and policy reviews can ensure compliance with federal and state civil and human rights laws and regulatory requirements. These controls can foster compliance in the early stages of DEI efforts; over time, being a DEI leader in the industry can be a competitive advantage. To go beyond compliance, consider launching employee resource groups, mentorship programs, unconscious bias training, and targeted outreach programs. 

6. Customize and Scale the DEI Mission 

With DEI, one size does not fit all. DEI goals should align to the underlying company vision, inspire staff, and improve the communities served. Customizing DEI to future-state business needs and company culture can protect the DEI mission from under-investment and inertia, ensuring progress is measurable and scalable over time.  

For expert support from Human Capital Transformation leaders, contact CrossCountry Consulting