diversity and inclusion

DEI Initiatives: Meaning, Examples & Benefits

Want to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace? Look at these DEI initiatives and follow their example.

Kinjal Dagli

Senior Content Marketing Manager at Together

Published on 

September 29, 2023

Updated on 

Time to Read

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54% of workers say their organization devotes enough attention to DEI.

And yet, at the current rate, it will take 155 years to close the political empowerment gap, 151 years for the economic participation gap, and 22 years for the educational attainment gap between genders.

And gender is just one aspect of diversity.

Organizations all over the world need to take serious measures to create opportunities for the underserved segments of society and to make sure that the playing field is leveled for everyone. DEI initiatives is how organizations try to achieve this goal.

What are DEI initiatives?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are essential components of a thriving workplace. DEI initiatives are strategic actions that organizations take to promote these values. Before we go into details, let’s quickly visit the definitions of these concepts.

  • Diversity is the presence of a variety of different individuals in a given workplace. This variety encompasses various dimensions, such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, religion, and more.
  • Equity in the context of DEI means that everyone, regardless of their background or identity, has fair and equal access to opportunities, resources, and treatment.
  • Inclusion focuses on creating a work environment where all individuals feel welcomed, valued, respected, and empowered to fully participate and contribute.

DEI initiatives are proactive and deliberate actions taken by organizations to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. These initiatives include all strategies, policies, and programs that aim to foster a diverse workforce, ensure equal opportunities, and create an inclusive culture.

Why are DEI initiatives important?

DEI initiatives are important in the workplace because:

  • Diverse teams bring together a wide range of perspectives and experiences, which often leads to more creative and innovative solutions to problems. The team behind NASA’s Curiosity Rover is an excellent example of a team overcoming unique challenges thanks to their diverse skills and backgrounds.
  • Organizations that prioritize DEI initiatives are more attractive to a diverse pool of job seekers, and they tend to retain employees who feel valued and included. 78% of workers want to work at organizations that prioritize diversity and inclusion. 
  • Companies known for their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion often have a stronger reputation, which can positively impact customer trust and loyalty. While most companies claim to be committed to DEI, 66% of job seekers do not take the leadership at their word and prefer feedback from employees on the state of diversity & inclusion.
  • Understanding and reflecting the diversity of consumers in your workforce can lead to better market insights and the ability to cater to a broader customer base. Procter & Gamble’s My Black Is Beautiful campaign is a prime example of a diverse team bringing different perspectives and insights to the table and resulting in new products for an often ignored segment of the market.
eBook Attract, Retain, Engage, And Develop Your Diverse Talent

4 pillars for your DEI initiatives

There are four pillars any effective DEI initiative should be built on — education, empathy, engagement and accountability. These pillars serve as a foundation for creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organizational culture.

1. Education

Education helps individuals recognize and challenge their biases, stereotypes, and prejudices. It creates a shared understanding of DEI concepts and the importance of building an inclusive workplace.

Before you start building a more inclusive workplace, help your employees acquire knowledge on diversity, equity, and inclusion, so they can understand their significance and benefits. With the right educational efforts, employees become more aware of the experiences and challenges faced by their colleagues from diverse backgrounds. This leads to increased sensitivity and respect for differences, reducing the likelihood of discrimination or exclusion.

Here’s how you can educate your team about your DEI initiatives:

  • Start DEI training programs for all employees. These programs should cover topics such as unconscious bias, cultural competency, and the importance of diversity.
  • Provide educational resources, articles, books, and videos that promote understanding of DEI issues.
  • Invite experts or guest speakers to conduct workshops and seminars on DEI topics.
  • Establish channels for employees to provide feedback on training and educational programs to continually improve them.

Use ‘Leverage Diversity and Inclusion for Organizational Excellence’ by Stanford to educate your leaders about the importance of DEI initiatives. The course explores the hurdles and solutions to creating and maintaining a diverse workforce.

2. Empathy

Empathy helps create a safe and inclusive environment where employees feel valued and heard. It encourages open dialogues and allows individuals to share their experiences and concerns.

When empathy is a core value, employees are more likely to support one another, collaborate effectively, and be proactive in addressing DEI issues. This leads to increased trust and a stronger sense of belonging for all.

Here’s how you can use empathy in your DEI initiatives:

  • Encourage open and honest conversations about DEI issues. Create safe spaces for employees to share their experiences and concerns.
  • Hold regular listening sessions where leaders and employees actively listen to and empathize with one another's perspectives.
  • Share personal stories and experiences related to diversity to humanize the DEI journey.
  • Implement mentorship programs that pair employees from different backgrounds to foster understanding and empathy.

Salesforce implements empathy through an initiative called Ohana Groups. Ohana Groups are employee-led resource groups that provide a supportive and inclusive community for employees with shared backgrounds, experiences, or interests. These groups cover a wide range of themes, including LGBTQ+ rights, women's empowerment, racial and ethnic diversity, and more.

Through these Ohana Groups, Salesforce encourages employees to connect with colleagues who share similar life experiences and challenges. This not only helps employees feel a sense of belonging but also ensures that their voices are heard and valued within the organization.

3. Engagement

Engagement means actively involving employees in DEI initiatives, programs, and activities. Engaging employees in DEI efforts ensures that everyone has a role to play in creating an inclusive culture. It empowers individuals to take ownership of change and promotes a sense of shared responsibility.

A highly engaged workforce is more likely to contribute to the success of DEI initiatives. Employees become advocates for inclusion, share ideas, and work collaboratively to drive positive change within the organization.

Here’s how you can involve your employees in your DEI initiatives:

  • Establish Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) focused on various dimensions of diversity (e.g., LGBTQ+, women, people with disabilities) to provide employees with platforms for engagement.
  • Organize events, workshops, and activities that celebrate different cultures and identities.
  • Encourage leaders to actively participate in DEI initiatives and serve as role models.
  • Recognize and celebrate individuals and teams that contribute to a more inclusive workplace.

IBM uses this strategy in their skills build program. IBM is their "SkillsBuild" program. This program focuses on providing free digital skills training to underserved and underrepresented communities, helping them develop in-demand skills for the job market. IBM employees play a vital role in this initiative by volunteering their time and expertise as mentors and trainers.

4. Accountability

Accountability involves setting measurable targets, tracking progress, and holding individuals and leaders accountable for their actions. Without accountability, DEI initiatives can lack direction and impact.

Accountability results in meaningful change. It drives leaders and employees to actively work towards diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. When there are consequences for discriminatory behavior, it sends a strong message that such actions will not be tolerated.

Here’s how you can introduce accountability in your DEI initiatives:

  • Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) DEI goals for the organization.
  • Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to track progress toward DEI goals and regularly report on results.
  • Clearly define consequences for behaviors that violate DEI principles, and ensure that these consequences are consistently enforced.
  • Hold leaders accountable for their role in advancing DEI, including their support, actions, and results.

Accenture is a good example of a company that holds its leadership accountable for DEI progress. The company's leadership regularly reviews and assesses DEI metrics and goals. If a leader consistently fails to meet DEI targets or exhibits behavior contrary to DEI principles, it impacts their performance evaluations and advancement within the company.

4 DEI initiative examples

Let’s explore the four most impactful and commonly practiced DEI initiatives and see how different organizations are implementing them all over the world to make a difference.

1. Employee resource groups (ERGs)

ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups that bring together individuals with shared characteristics or experiences, such as women, LGBTQ+ employees, or people with disabilities. They provide a sense of community and support, fostering a more inclusive workplace. Some of the most prominent examples of ERGS are as follows:

  • Google’s Women Techmakers — This is a program that supports women in engineering roles by providing networking opportunities, mentorship programs, and advocating for gender diversity in tech.
  • IBM Abilities BRG — IBM's Abilities Business Resource Group focuses on fostering an inclusive environment for employees with disabilities, promoting accessibility, and raising awareness about disability-related issues.
  • Salesforce BOLDforce — BOLDforce is Salesforce's Black Organization for Leadership and Development ERG, which aims to empower Black employees through mentorship, career development, and community engagement.

ERGs enhance employee engagement, retention, and morale. They create a platform for employees to share insights, collaborate on projects, and offer suggestions for improving workplace diversity. ERGs also serve as a resource for organizations to gain insights into specific demographic perspectives.

2. Mentoring

Mentoring programs pair experienced employees with less experienced ones to provide guidance, support, and career development. They help underrepresented employees access valuable networks and opportunities. Some of the most popular mentoring programs around the world include:

  • IBM Pathfinder Mentoring Program — This program connects university students with IBM professionals, offering personalized career guidance through one-on-one meetings and group events.
  • PwC's Mentorship Program — PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) offers a mentorship program where experienced professionals guide junior staff, providing career advice, skill development, and networking opportunities to foster career growth.
  • Deloitte's Emerging Leaders Development Program (ELDP) — This program focuses on mentoring emerging talent within the organization, helping them develop leadership skills and offering exposure to various aspects of the business to accelerate their career progression.

Mentoring facilitates professional growth, increases retention rates, and boosts confidence among diverse talent. It can lead to more diverse leadership pipelines and promote equity in career advancement. 

To create and implement a mentoring program like the ones listed above, you will need a platform like Together.

Together Platform is a comprehensive solution that enhances employee engagement by connecting mentors and mentees seamlessly. It optimizes mentorship through AI-driven matching, offers robust analytics for data-driven decisions, and supports personalized development plans, ultimately fostering a vibrant and inclusive workplace culture that promotes talent growth, well-being, and purpose-driven work, key elements of employee engagement.

3. Diversity training programs

Diversity training educates employees about biases, stereotypes, and the importance of inclusion. It promotes awareness and helps employees recognize and mitigate unconscious biases.

While most companies create their own diversity training programs, you can also use popular training programs such as:

Effective diversity training increases cultural competence and reduces bias-related incidents. It also improves collaboration and decision-making by leveraging diverse perspectives.

4. Accessible workplace accommodations

Physical and digital accessibility ensures that employees with disabilities can fully participate in the workplace. Physical accommodations include wheelchair ramps, adjustable desks, and accessible restrooms. Digital accommodations involve assistive technologies and accessible websites.

When it comes to physical and digital accommodations, Google sets a shining example with the Disability Alliance — an ERG that focuses on inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities. The Disability Alliance drives initiatives like accessible product hackathons and promotes disability inclusion across the organization, raising awareness at all levels.

Cisco is another good example of an organization that focuses on physical and digital accessibility for all. Their Connected Disability Awareness Network unites employees affected by disabilities, leading transformative initiatives at Cisco. One such initiative is Project Lifechanger, which enabled remote work for employees with disabilities and was developed in collaboration with engineers who have disabilities, subsequently adopted by other organizations.

Accessibility initiatives create an inclusive environment, attract diverse talent, and enhance employee satisfaction. They also demonstrate a commitment to diversity and compliance with legal requirements, reducing the risk of discrimination lawsuits.

Measure and track progress on your DEI initiatives

Track the following metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to effectively evaluate the impact of your DEI efforts:

  • Representation metrics — Measure the demographic composition of the workforce, such as the percentage of employees from underrepresented groups in different roles and at various levels within the organization.
  • Hiring and promotion rates — Analyze the recruitment and advancement rates of employees from diverse backgrounds and assess whether equitable opportunities exist.
  • Pay equity analysis — Assess pay equity and make sure that employees receive fair compensation regardless of their background or identity.
  • Employee engagement surveys — Use surveys and feedback mechanisms to measure employees' sense of belonging, inclusion, and satisfaction within the workplace.
  • Training and development participation — Track participation in DEI training programs to gauge their effectiveness and identify areas for improvement.
  • ERG engagement — Measure ERG engagement to see if they are succeeding in making a difference.
  • Leadership and accountability — Assess the commitment and actions of leadership in advancing DEI goals.
  • Customer feedback — Analyze feedback from your customer base and see if your DEI initiatives have positively influenced the organization's relationship with its clients.

Several organizations, including Salesforce and Microsoft, have been transparent in reporting their DEI efforts. They regularly release diversity reports that detail their progress, challenges, and future commitments in the realm of DEI. These reports not only hold these organizations accountable but also set an example for others to follow.

Forge ahead in your journey towards inclusivity and equity with Together

Mentorship fosters a sense of belonging, facilitates cultural awareness, and promotes inclusivity, contributing to the overall success of DEI efforts by nurturing talent, breaking down barriers, and promoting equal opportunities for career advancement.

A mentoring program will play a vital role in supporting your DEI initiatives by providing opportunities for traditionally underrepresented employees to access guidance, advice, and career development from experienced colleagues. It will help you create a platform for knowledge sharing, skill-building, and networking, helping to bridge gaps in representation and empower individuals from diverse backgrounds to thrive within the organization. 

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