What is a Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, its Functions and Key Elements?

In the wake of the social justice movement and COVID-19, many organizations took action to improve inclusive practices, discuss social issues and support employee activism at work and in the communities they serve. But most did it without a strategic plan; a blueprint for a comprehensive approach toward becoming a more diverse, equitable and inclusive organization.

DE&I is unique as a business driver because it often involves significant culture change. DE&I has suffered from lack of executive-level leadership — critical for culture change — and the absence of a comprehensive approach. Only about 35% of organizations employ a DE&I strategic plan or even a set of short-term and long-term DE&I goals, Brandon Hall Group research shows. 

In a survey of HR professionals involved with DE&I in their organizations, respondents were far more likely to say a strategic plan is important than they were to have an effective one. 

Lack of leadership and strategic planning for DE&I created a disconnect between its high level of importance and the impact of DE&I on the business. For example, less than one-third of organizations address pay transparency issues by gender and race/ethnicity, have a diverse talent pipeline or a leadership group that reflects the composition of the workforce, according to Brandon Hall Group research. 

For DE&I to have significant business impact, there must be an organization-wide mission, vision and strategy. Key questions organizations should address include: 

  • What are the functions of a DE&I strategic plan? 
  • How do we create an organization-wide strategy around DE&I aligned with key business objectives? 
  • What are the key components of a DE&I strategic plan? 

DE&I requires a holistic approach. It starts with developing and communicating strong values, building a robust talent strategy, dedication to continuous learning and a commitment to organization-wide engagement. 


Making the business case. A successful strategic plan must be relevant to the organization’s mission, vision and business objectives. 

Commitment and involvement from the top. Business leaders must have the backing and active involvement of leadership, including the CEO. 

Vision, Mission and Strategy. This is the “where, what and how” of the plan. Each part should establish timetables for meeting goals and objectives. 

Governance. How will the DE&I strategy be run? All stakeholders of the organization should be represented in some way. 

Diverse hiring. The plan must define and outline an approach to recruitment and hiring that aligns with the DE&I vision, mission and strategy. 

Onboarding. Everyone involved in onboarding new employees must advocate and demonstrate the organization’s DE&I values. 

Employee retention. The plan must identify the retention drivers and behaviors needed to retain historically excluded employees. 

Training and Development. The strategic plan must show how to provide development opportunities to diverse populations and how everyone will be trained to demonstrate DE&I values and behaviors.

Communication. There must be a detailed plan for communicating the values of DE&I on an ongoing basis across the enterprise, considering different audiences, locations and, when applicable, languages and customs. 

Marketing, Advertising, Branding. The plan must include how the diversity, equitability and inclusiveness of the work environment can be marketed as differentiators to provide the organization with a competitive advantage. 

Strategic Alliances and Partnerships. The organization must consider resources outside the organization to help drive ongoing DE&I efforts. 

Corporate Social Responsibility. Identify how outreach initiatives to diverse communities will be part of the corporate social responsibility strategy. 

Customer and Employee Experience. The plan requires goals for how DE&I will improve customers’ and employees’ experience with the organization. 

Supplier/Vendor Diversity. Philosophy, strategy and goals for doing business with a wide variety of suppliers and vendors. 

Measurement and Accountability. The plan should define how the organization will determine if DE&I efforts have achieved the desired results. 

Brandon Hall Group Strategy Briefs answer the critical questions learning, talent, HR and business leaders must address to manage their human capital. To tackle these critical questions in more detail, we built tools, frameworks, research summaries and business builders based on up-to-date research and case studies for you to implement best and next Human Capital Management (HCM) practices. To gain access to these valuable resources, contact [email protected].

Leading minds in HCM choose Brandon Hall Group to help them build future-proof employee-development plans for the new era. For more than 27 years, we have empowered, recognized and certified excellence in organizations around the world, influencing the development of over 10,000,000 associates and executives.

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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.