How to Start a Diversity and Inclusion Program

Diversity and inclusion are consistent topics in the workplace. Organizations that have D&I programs are more likely to meet compliance obligations, generate higher morale amongst employees, and have financial returns above industry medians. 

If you’re ready to build your diversity and inclusion program from scratch, here’s how you can get started. 

What is a Diversity and Inclusion Program? 

A diversity and inclusion program helps to support a company’s mission, strategies, and practices to achieve a diverse workplace and promote inclusion within the workplace. Often, this allows them to leverage the effects of diversity to achieve a competitive business advantage. 

How to Create a Diversity and Inclusion Initiative 

Step 1: Compile Data 

What does your workplace look like compared with the rest of the labor market? Are there inequities based on demographics? Are there certain concerns or trends you need to remedy? 

Begin by compiling data so you can determine what exists currently, so you can figure out what needs to change. Here’s the demographic you should consider: 

  • Age
  • Disability 
  • Ethnicity/national origin 
  • Family status
  • Gender
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Generation
  • Language
  • Life experiences
  • Organization function and level
  • Personality type
  • Physical characteristics 
  • Race
  • Religion, belief, and spirituality 
  • Sexual orientation 
  • Thinking/learning styles 
  • Veteran status 

If necessary, consult a diversity and inclusion expert, provide an online diversity training, or use technologies to handle anonymous employee feedback.  

Step 2: Identify Areas of Concern 

No company is perfect, and your organization likely has areas of concern that can be improved. Base your identification of problems on your data. Often, you can identify underrepresentation or problematic areas based on this. Here are some examples of where you may see issues. Dig deep and find out the real diversity and inclusion issues facing your company!

  • Is management in your organization full of older white males?
  • Do Black females (or women of color in general) make less than their white counterparts? 
  • Have promotions been limited for employees with English as their second language? 
  • If you have more than one branch, is your West Coast branch more ethnically diverse than your East Coast branch? 

Step 3: Address Policies and Practices Affecting Diversity and Inclusion 

Once you’ve compiled data and identified areas of concern, begin reflecting on how policies and practices within your organization may be impeding employment, opportunity, or inclusion of individuals from different demographic groups. Is your company placing unnecessary barriers? If you’re not sure how to answer this question, use the following examples to begin your brainstorming. 

  • Unconscious bias: Are hiring managers selecting individuals based on biases against certain groups? Is one manager’s department less diverse than another’s? Look at these factors critically and consider how you can correct underrepresentation. 
  • Company culture: How does your company culture respond to various backgrounds? You may believe you’re open to everyone, but if you discuss your annual Christmas party in an interview or demonstrate a preference toward certain values, then it can repel candidates of different beliefs or lifestyles. Keep this in mind so you can be as inclusive as possible. 
  • Political preferences: When employers advertise their political preferences, it can discourage individuals with different viewpoints from applying. 
  • Employee referral programs: Many companies utilize employee referral programs as a sourcing solution. However, too often referral programs result in “like me” referrals. Employees will recommend candidates with the same social identifiers as themselves, which can thwart diversity and inclusion initiatives.  

Final Thoughts 

Now that you’ve started a diversity and inclusion program, measure the results so you can learn whether your program is achieving its intended purpose. Look for representation among groups, employee survey scores, employee retention, and public recognition. These are some of the indicators that can help you see if you’re moving in the right direction. You’ve got this!

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