Planning, Leader Buy-in Integral to Solid Diversity Efforts

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs have become more important to plumbing manufacturers and businesses – not just because they’re the right thing to do, but because they produce better business results.

However, success doesn’t happen overnight, and organizations need to consider several key elements to make their efforts count. Specifically, they need to tie DEI plans to existing company initiatives, such as recruiting and hiring; get commitment from senior management and throughout their organization; set realistic goals and achieve consistent progress; and build in accountability and incentives.

Creating a sense of belonging in the workplace with the right DEI action plan pays off in many ways – from retaining top talent, to boosting innovation, to realizing cost savings. Workers who feel like they belong experience a 56% increase in job performance and a 75% drop in sick days, while generating a 50% decline in turnover risk, according to a Harvard Business Review article. The result for a 10,000-person company would be an estimated annual savings of more than $52 million, the article reported.

When putting together DEI action plans, organizations must look at every aspect of its employees and culture. That means considering, gender, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability levels, race, and religion, according to a recent panel discussion about evaluating and promoting DEI, hosted by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).

Many organizations have made progress in some of those areas, but still have work to do. For example, a Forbes diversity and inclusion survey showed that companies have made the most progress in the areas of gender, ethnicity and race. However, they would like to improve programs related to disability, age and sexual orientation.

Link DEI to company goals, measure progress

To produce strong results, DEI action plans must be imbedded in a company’s existing initiatives, culture and structure. Weaving DEI into the fabric of an organization starts with a detailed strategy that links to company goals and performance along with strong mechanisms for measuring progress, noted a recent Forbes article.

Companies should first work on educating leaders about the importance of a DEI plan and then invest in meaningful diversity training, according to SHRM. It’s also essential to create a shared vision by including employees, to establish a DEI council that meets regularly, and to report goals and measure progress.

Accountability should be considered, too. One of the best ways to encourage accountability is to link executive pay to a company’s DEI goals. HR firm Mercer recently estimated that between 15% and 20% of S&P 500 companies include DEI metrics in executive incentive plans and said that more should follow this practice. Being responsible for long-term change in DEI can help companies reach their goals, especially during a time when employees and customers are demanding concrete plans for racial equality.

Other ways that many organizations measure success of their programs is by focusing on employee productivity, morale and turnover, according to a Forbes diversity and inclusion survey.

Organizations must talk the talk and walk the walk

A company’s culture and structure must align with its DEI strategies and tactics to help a diverse workforce thrive. Research has shown that employees will leave a company if its actions don’t support its messages.

A Deloitte study showed that 72% of employees would consider leaving their company to work for another with better diversity initiatives. Out of that number, almost 33% said they left a job because they didn’t feel comfortable being themselves.

How can companies do a better job of helping employees embrace their uniqueness? The IABC panel discussed how senior management should pay close attention to the structures put in place that are meant to encourage an open and welcoming culture. These structures can include formal mentoring programs led by diverse leaders and employee resource groups to regularly address diversity challenges, according to the Undercover Recruiter website.

Recruiting is another area where companies can make great progress in backing up their words with actions. Using data to guide hiring and recruiting efforts can be helpful in customizing outreach targeted at specific groups, noted Data can help companies avoid a common mistake: approaching demographic groups as one large set instead of considering their broad experiences. For example, companies often group all women as a single demographic without considering how the experiences of white, Black, Latina and Asian women might vary from one another. Surveying employees and job applicants can help organizations track why people want to join their workforce.

No diversity initiative can be successful without communication. Clear messaging and consistent communications are necessary to ensure employees, and customers are kept up to date on plans and progress. The IABC panel discussed the importance of creating strong foundational DEI messaging based on the following questions: who is your organization and what does it stand for? That messaging should be incorporated into DEI plans and then translated into tactics and actions.

While creating a strong diversity program takes time, planning and resources, the payoff can be substantial – with satisfied, productive employees that boost innovation and produce strong, lasting business results.