Five Imperatives for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion


Organizations recognize the importance of cultivating a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture where all employees feel a sense of belonging. Research shows that diverse, equitable and inclusive workforces perform better. However, many groups continue to face barriers and discrimination in employment. Many organizations have made substantial progress, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Companies have implemented DE&I programs and policies, but achieving the desired outcomes of these efforts remains a challenge. In short, a significant opportunity exists to continue driving forward in this area.


Given the continued scarcity of candidates, it remains challenging to recruit and retain diverse talent, especially at leadership levels. Unconscious biases still come into play during hiring, promotion and day-to-day interactions. Ongoing development opportunities and cultural awareness are needed to mitigate the possible effects of these biases. At times, the lack of representation and inclusion can make underrepresented groups feel isolated or unsupported. While Employee Resource Groups may help, culture change is critical. Pay and opportunity gaps persist despite efforts to close gaps, requiring robust auditing and accountability. Organizations must focus on connecting DE&I efforts to business results by making the case clear and compelling. This is the surefire way to gain top leadership commitment and investment.


Organizations must make diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging core strategic priorities. This requires commitment from leadership, dedicated resources, and accountability. Organizations that fail to act risk falling behind and failing to attract and retain top talent, especially among younger generations who expect DEI&B commitments. The risk of DEI&B falling off the priority list is dire and organizations simply cannot afford for that to happen.

Even if the attention is being shifted to other areas, efforts to ensure that DEI&B remains a lens through which the company looks must remain in the forefront. Doing so will act as a strategic lever. The work in this area works as a strategic lever since these issues will continue to emerge from within other areas that are on the company’s radar. For example, ensuring that talent development opportunities reach employees in underrepresented, underserved populations. Focusing on DEI&B as a business imperative should persist not only for ethical reasons but also for increasing competitiveness. This can be accomplished through fostering innovation and reflecting market diversity.


Foster an inclusive workplace by making it a business imperative that top leaders can own, and therefore, drive accountability. Communicate regularly on diversity representation and program participation to show commitment and increase accountability. Connect DE&I to business goals and articulate the business case and competitive advantage of a diverse, equitable and inclusive culture.

Empower leaders to make a positive impact on inclusion efforts. Develop leaders to be inclusive, but ensure that leaders at all levels, across the enterprise are part of the training on inclusive leadership. Set diversity goals for leadership roles and develop diverse succession pipelines. Review hiring practices to ensure a diverse slate of candidates is being considered. Require diverse interview panel members and enforce a more objective and standardized interviewing process to reduce unconscious bias and increase the likelihood of more valid hiring decisions. Set an expectation that leaders participate in training on unconscious bias, microaggressions, and cross-cultural communication on an ongoing basis. Build relationships and collaborate with organizations supporting underrepresented groups. Celebrate multicultural differences and promote inclusive behaviors daily.

Measure, measure, measure. Hardwire the collection of data that will inform leaders as to whether progress is being made. Identify outcome metrics that indicate inclusivity, in particular, compensation and benefits equity, and use them as performance metrics tied to the business objectives. Make it a goal to close gender and racial wage gaps. Share diversity metrics and monitor progress as you start to see the needle move.

Embed inclusive leadership principles in business practices such as onboarding and annual business objectives/plans. Encourage leaders to foster inclusion on their teams through communication, recognition, and professional development. Create programs to support the advancement of underrepresented groups through mentoring relationships and sponsorship by leaders. Highlight and reward individuals who demonstrate exceptional skill in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.

Consider what approach would be most effective given your organizational culture. Research shows that diverse and inclusive workforces perform better. However, many groups continue to face barriers and discrimination in employment. A significant opportunity exists to continue driving forward in this area. Leverage your Diversity Council as an oversight and strategic group determining direction and guidance. Also leverage your Employee Resource Groups as the people who will take the priorities and bring them to life; put them into action. To encourage buy-in and garner the support of the workforce for inclusion efforts, allocate the resources needed to fund and empower these groups.

Marie Barnes, Principal Analyst, Brandon Hall Group™

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