For many, the summer of 2020 cast a spotlight on diversity and inclusion in a new way. Whether diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I) has been a focus for your organization for a while, or it’s a new conversation, we can all agree incorporating more DE&I practices into our respective businesses is a positive step forward. I believe DE&I progresses when we’re all participating in the conversation, which is why I’m here today. While I’m not a DE&I expert, these are some principles I’ve observed and hope you come away from this article with even just one takeaway for your DE&I strategies.

The first step is often the hardest, but, truthfully, the only wrong first step is standing still.

Across the board, people are looking for more: more diversity spend capture, more inclusive company cultures and hiring practices, more diverse workforces, etc. I’ve seen our own diverse-owned company try different DE&I strategies internally as well as strategies to support our customers and partners with theirs. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I can offer observations with the intent of removing some of the mystery from the DE&I world.

1. Authenticity is KEY. Nothing is more important than being true to yourself, especially with DE&I strategies. Review your company mission and vision statements from the DE&I lens; what does your brand represent? Brainstorm ideas and initiatives that are authentic to your brand vision and mission. It might help to determine different categories you want to impact; for example, you might have separate goals to further DE&I for your internal workforce, your community and/or your external partners/customers.

2. Set clear goals.. Once you have some ideas for DE&I initiatives, determine what a great result looks like. How will you know your program is trending in the right direction? How will you know when to adjust the strategy? Setting benchmarks and timelines helps keep you on track and evaluate what works and can be replicated. Set up an ongoing review rhythm to ensure your initiatives are continuing to meet the goals of your program.

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3. Invest in your DE&I pr ogram. The best intentions fall flat without proper investment & dedication. At a minimum, a dedicated DE&I director or council are crucial to keep the momentum going and program on track. Investing in training for your employees and allocating budget and resources to programming also shows dedication to the program and increase your impact.

4. Start in your own backyard. Investing in DE&I starts at home, with your internal ecosystem and local community. An authentic and successful program addresses the needs of your people and community. Start by declaring your intentions to your workforce. Survey your employees; involve them in the process. Work with your ecosystem to develop employee resource groups to support diverse groups within your organization. Host forums to address the relevant topics within DE&I, even if they’re difficult, to help educate and encourage empathy among your employees.

5. Ask for help! We can’t do this alone. Share your experiences, and when you get stuck, reach out to others and ask for advice and share best practices and lessons learned. Seek out and leverage expert organizations in the DE&I space that can partner with you to help bring your impact and influence further. Ask your employees if they have any local contacts or organizations you could partner with.

6. Keep going! The most important aspect of a successful DE&I program strategy is to keep going and avoid complacency. Don’t get discouraged and give up if an initiative isn’t as successful as you wanted. DE&I is ever-evolving; keep looking for new and innovative strategies. What works now won’t necessarily work in the future and there will certainly be new challenges to address.

For DE&I efforts across this industry to be successful, we must all come together, share our best practices, our successes and failures, with the goal to improve together for the greater good. So, I’d love to hear what your programs are doing to help drive initiatives forward and how we can continue to share best practices to grow together to a more diverse, equitable and inclusive future.

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