Diversity and inclusion

Building your diversity and inclusion plan: A quick start guide

In this quick start guide, we break down what should be included in a diversity and inclusion plan and how to ensure its success.

Meryl D’Sa-Wilson

Published on 

May 16, 2022

Updated on 

Time to Read

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Bringing diversity and inclusion initiatives into a workplace can be a challenging task. Where do you start? How do you determine what type of initiative is needed? And then, how do you run the program?

We’ve created this quick start guide to give you a clear idea of how to get started with building a diversity and inclusion plan. We’ll outline what should be in a D&I plan and include a concrete list of tactics to support it.

What is a diversity and inclusion plan?

A diversity and inclusion plan is an ongoing process that aims to meet your workforce’s diverse needs and increase their engagement. You can integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into different aspects of your company, such as: 

  • Policy development
  • Recruitment, internship, and returnship programs 
  • Training and mentoring programs
  • Company culture
  • Company communications 
  • Career development, and so on.

A well-developed diversity and inclusion strategy will increase employee engagement and success. And when your employees are included and are supported, your company will thrive.

What should be in a diversity and inclusion plan?

A substantial D&I program will make an impact. It will help you create a workforce that reflects a diversity of thoughts, backgrounds, and experiences. And to foster this environment, your diversity and inclusion plan should tie back to business goals, have concrete initiatives (such as mentorship programs or training), and include ways to measure success.

So, you will need to consider your company’s demographics and what they need to succeed. You can understand what business goals and outcomes you should aim for and what you want to improve in your organization.

Once you have clear goals in mind, decide on the initiatives that will help you reach your goals. You may consider DEI training, mentorship programs, employee resource groups, and so on. As you launch these initiatives, remember to measure how these programs perform and how they tie back to your business goals. This data will secure further buy-in from leadership, which will allow you to expand your strategy.

Steps to building a diversity and inclusion action plan

Let’s take a look at how your business can build a successful diversity and inclusion plan. Here are some key aspects to keep in mind:

Take a look at the current demographics of your company

First, you want to capture data on employee demographics. It is important to understand what your workforce looks like when compared to the labour market. Paying attention to your company’s employee demographic will also help you identify any areas of concern.

Traditionally, this data has included federal and state-protected categories such as age, gender, ethnicity, and so on. Recently, however, organizations implementing D&I initiatives also consider personality type, goals and skills, and thinking and learning styles. When you collect this data, you can create compatible groups or pairs within your program.

When collecting demographic data, look for:

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

There are a few different ways to collect this data. Your organization may already have this information available in your HRIS system or captured during the onboarding process.

Otherwise, you may need to survey your employees through voluntary self-identification to obtain necessary information. Alternatively, you can inform employees that leadership plans to run employee engagement and mentorship programs, and this information will help decide the course of the program. As for personality types and thinking/learning styles, you may conduct personality testing for the entire workforce.

What business outcomes will your strategy improve?

So, what are the goals of your diversity and inclusion plan, and how will you achieve these goals?

Once you’ve captured the necessary information and identified gaps and areas of concern, you can set diversity and inclusion goals. These performance goals should aim to build a diverse workforce. And having clarity on how this program contributes to overall business goals will secure more buy-in from leadership.

Look carefully at the data you’ve collected. Are there any underrepresented or problematic areas? Do you need to bring more diversity in management? How can you support employees whose second language is English? Is your organization hiring moms returning to the workforce?

You may even provide employees an opportunity to provide feedback via surveys focused on company culture. This way, you can understand how employees view culture, and if attitudes match, you have a clear path of what needs changing.

If the data collected shows little to no diversity, it may mean that individuals do not want to disclose personal information. This could be due to a variety of reasons, including distrust in the organization or fear of harassment. In this case, you may need to collect data anonymously, where employees don’t need to name or identify themselves.

With this data, you can decide the course of action and recommend programs or activities to bridge gaps. It is also crucial to communicate these goals to your employees. Help them understand how these programs will develop their skills and foster a sense of belonging within the organization.

Consider initiatives to include in your plan

Next, think about the initiatives you want to include in your diversity and inclusion plan. You may choose to run 1-2 different programs, depending on your goals. 

Here are a few examples of possible initiatives you may include:

1. A diversity and inclusion mentoring program

Diversity and inclusion mentorship programs give diverse and minority employees a chance to rise above the ranks. Whether through group or 1-on-1 mentoring, mentors train mentees to help them learn the ropes and gain essential skills. They work closely to ensure mentees grow closer to their career goals, whether that be a promotion or learning a new skill.


2. Employee resource groups

Another initiative rooted in advocacy and employee support is employee resource groups (ERGs). These groups focus directly on assisting employees in continued career growth. 

You may run ERGs for specific categories, such as working moms or LGBTQ+. Those participating in these groups will gain access to a community of like-minded individuals and join in the collective effort to succeed in this workspace. This will reduce feelings of loneliness, alienation, and discomfort.

3. Diversity and inclusion training

DEI training, while crucial, can lead to division within an organization. However, there are a few ways to pursue it without causing much friction. You may consider reverse mentoring, group mentoring, sponsorship, and ERGs so that employees can better connect with and support each other.

4. Fireside conversations about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging topics

Finally, and this may need to come from leadership, create a safe space where talking about DEI topics is acceptable. Depending on the size of your organization, you may run fireside chats or company lunches to check in with one another.

Launch your initiatives

Collecting and sorting through data and then choosing the right initiatives for your diversity and inclusion plan may take a while. But once the course is decided, take time to determine how you will run the program. 

In other words, what do you need to do for this program to be successful?

Assign responsibilities

Assign responsibilities to the right personnel and provide the necessary training material and resources. Establish a workable timeline and be flexible. 

Plan how you will track performance

The first run of any program may need some tweaking and adjustments. So, as you launch, remember to record progress from the very beginning and plan for how you will measure results and success.

How will you launch it?

Then think about execution — how exactly will you run this program, and how can people join it? You may choose to run it manually by reaching out to employees individually and asking them to join the program. Alternatively, you can include it as part of the onboarding process. 

Then plan out exercises and activities that groups can use to guide their sessions. Explain how this group and these tasks work towards the organization’s goals

While you and your team can manage the program manually, investing in a diversity and inclusion mentoring or training software may help automate these processes.

Measure results and share with leadership

Now let’s look at how to measure the progress and success rate of your program. During the planning stage, you should have considered certain quality and diversity metrics, milestones, and goals that would determine your program is progressing well. Some examples include:

  • Increased representation in leadership
  • Number of members participating in the program
  • Diverse employee promotion rates
  • Hiring targets reached
  • Employee feedback, etc.

You may calculate this on your own or use a mentoring software with reporting capabilities. For instance, Together’s mentoring platform provides various reports, including registration data, session reporting, skills and goal development, mentor-mentee feedback, and so on.

Then, disseminate these results through presentations, briefs, emails, and other channels to leadership, so they know your D&I plan works. These results will move them to continue supporting your initiatives.


Iterate and continue expanding your diversity and inclusion strategy

After establishing and successfully launching your program, you will have the opportunity to expand it. Look at feedback, consider gaps, learn from errors, and improve your diversity and inclusion plan. Then, take your plan and expand it to include more employees and departments.

Having a diverse workforce that feels included and heard is important, and so is equity and fostering feelings of belonging in the workplace. When employees feel welcomed and clearly see opportunities for growth and success, they will stay with your organization longer and this sense of loyalty will help your business grow.

Learn more about cultivating an employee-friendly workspace on our blog on best practices for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

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