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Toby Egbuna
September 21, 2021

3 DEI Goals Your Company Should Set for 2021

Happy new year! It goes without saying that 2020 was one for the books. For many companies, it was a year of realization and reflection. We saw positive movement for companies in their commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for their employees and for their customers, and it’s important that employers continue this momentum.

As we enter into this new year, here are three DEI goals that every company should look to incorporate into its 2021 DEI strategy. 

1. Embrace tough conversations.

For so long, companies have put DEI on the back-burner. There are a few reasons for this, but one of them is that this isn’t something that any firm wants to get wrong. Companies understandably want to avoid the negative PR wave that comes from a diversity scandal. However, the longer companies sweep these issues under the proverbial corporate rug, the more frustrations build up for the diverse employees that are directly affected by these social issues. 

Some tips for having more open conversation at work:

  • Encourage people to ask questions – make it clear to employees that it’s okay to ask questions. If you don’t think that employees have quite the level of psychological safety that they need to feel comfortable posing questions about social issues, create ways for them to submit their questions anonymously. Then, when you have a company all-hands or group meeting, use the anonymous questions to start the dialogue. 
  • Use case studies – storytelling is one of the best ways for people to learn. If you can start the conversation with an article, book, or video about a specific topic, that makes it easier for people to understand the issue. Ask probing questions like “what do you think the company could have done better?” 

Make 2021 the year of embracing difficult conversations about diversity and societal issues at work. Don’t let managers or leaders get out of having these discussions because this is “just how things have always been” or because they “don’t like talking about politics at work.” There’s a difference between not knowing how to go about these conversations and not wanting to have them at all. People can be taught how to have these conversations – either by an internal team or by a third-party that specializes in this sort of coaching. 

Disclaimer: before opening channels for people to begin having these conversations, make sure that you have someone on your team that is equipped to lead and/or facilitate the session. You don’t want these conversations led by people who aren’t used to handling the natural emotion that can come out.

An illustration where a team of five people celebrate successfully hitting a bullseye with an arrow.

2. Apply metrics to your DEI work.

While all of those DEI commitments and donations are nice, they mean nothing if companies aren’t doing the work to hold themselves accountable. It’s great that you have a DEI roadmap for the items that you want to accomplish this year, but if you don’t have metrics associated with each of them, you’re doing nothing more than checking a box. 

DEI needs to be treated like every other business function. Would your company ever put out a quarterly report that simply says “we increased revenues last quarter?” The same mentality must be attached to your inclusion strategy.

Because so much of DEI work is based on qualitative data, it can be difficult to identify and track metrics. However, this should not stop your company from doing so. Get creative! Think about how you can measure the impact of the work that your team is doing, and not just whether that work gets done. Here are some examples of ways to measure impact for common DEI initiatives:

  • ERG events – send engagement surveys after each event that ask event participants to state whether they agree/disagree with statements like “the objective for this event was clear” or “I would recommend attending this event to one of my colleagues.”
  • Mentorship programs – track employee performance for individuals who participate in the mentorship program and for those who don’t. Assuming your mentorship program is designed to help mentees grow their career at your firm, there should be some correlation between mentees and employees with higher scores. 
  • Customer diversity – there’s your marketing/sales team almost certainly has a pulse of who they are targeting when going after new customers. Segment your acquisition channels by demographics and see if there are opportunities to reach new customers that had previously been overlooked.

3. Track more than just representation.

We get it. The number one DEI priority for companies is to increase representation for underrepresented groups. 

While representation is undoubtedly important (there’s a ‘D’ in DEI for a reason), it should not and cannot be the only metric that your company tracks this year

Representation isn’t something that gets fixed overnight, or even over the course of a year. We’ve spoken to several employers that have expressed their frustrations over the marginal increases in numbers of diverse applicants or in their retention numbers for diverse employees, and we always remind them that DEI, and especially representation, is a marathon and not a sprint. 

One of the benefits of measuring metrics other than representation is that it helps incorporate the entire company into your DEI strategy. Every business function has a part to play in making the company more inclusive for your employees and your customers. Think about how your product team can test the newest feature set with a more diverse set of potential customers, or how your marketing team can produce content that appeals to a more diverse audience. Neither of these examples is tied to internal representation numbers, but both would definitely contribute to your company’s DEI progress. 

Lastly, if the only metric that your company tracks is representation, and your representation numbers don’t improve or improve very slowly, then it’s like that your team morale will start to decline. If, however, you have additional metrics and goals, then you can report on progress of those metrics and keep the team engaged. 

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Let’s look on the bright side: after a year like 2020, it really seems like we have nowhere to go but up!

In all seriousness, we want companies to look for ways to make 2021 the year of growth in their inclusion practices. Let this year be the year that your company begins to do diversity, equity, and inclusion with intention, and not just to check a box. 

Toby Egbuna
Toby Egbuna is a Co-Founder and CEO of Chezie. He is also an aspiring movie buff, an Ed Sheeran stan, and a mediocre cook.

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