How to Set Diversity and Inclusion Goals

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Many businesses have embraced the value of having a diverse and inclusive workplace. In fact, recent research published in the Harvard Business Review found that 96% to 98% of larger companies with more than 1,000 employees have a diversity program.

But putting diversity and inclusion ideas into practice can be difficult. Goal setting is critical to organizations that want to build welcoming and representative environments.

If you’re starting up a new company, you can set diversity and inclusion goals from day one. This approach can help you build best practices into your organizational culture. 

However, if you work for an established business, you may need to redirect some long-entrenched practices. Although this can seem overwhelming at first, you can break it down into manageable steps to see success.

Assess Your Current Situation

Before you set any diversity and inclusion targets, take a thoughtful look at your current environment. You need to know which groups are well-represented in your organization. And you need to identify any under-represented groups.

Be sure to examine the composition of your organization through different lenses. Look at entry-level, mid-career, and senior management. And identify groups—including backgrounds, beliefs and ideas—to which employees belong. Conducting an organization-wide employee survey can yield important insights. You can learn about how employees identify themselves, what aspects of the culture are most important to them, and what barriers they may encounter at work.

Perhaps you’ll find adequate representation and support for newer hires—but you may find less diversity among managers and senior leaders. Also, make sure to look at diversity across skillsets. Do certain departments or roles have broad representation while others are more homogenous?

You also need to ask tough questions like these: 

  • What does a diverse and inclusive organization look like to us? 
  • Which groups of people are less present in our organization—and how can we reach them? 
  • What can we do to remove career roadblocks for our diverse team members? 

This reflection will help you craft meaningful diversity goals.

Know Your Benchmarks and Set Targets

After you understand where your organization is today, you can envision your desired future. For example, you may find that 3% of your current workforce is African American and 1% is Latinx. You can set a target of having each group reach a certain threshold—say 10%—by a certain time, such as in one year. And you can establish longer-range three-year and five-year targets and work steadily towards them.

Consider data and goals that have meaning for your organization. You may focus on more hires from specific ethnic groups or increasing the numbers of women or LGBTQ+ in leadership positions. Every goal should be specific, measurable, and have a clear deadline.

However, take caution when using industry-standard benchmarks in your goal setting. As an article in Fast Company notes, certain populations are under-represented in industries or occupations requiring more education due to historical inequalities. 

Why is this an issue? Your representation may surpass industry benchmarks, but that may not be a signal that you have succeeded. Your practices may not help shift the status quo and improve inclusion and opportunity for diverse individuals in your field. 

To address this, Fast Company suggests taking a longer-range view. Get involved with organizations that work to help ethnically diverse individuals access the education and opportunities they need for success. 

Pursue Quick Wins

You may have a long-range goal, such as having a technical team comprised of 50% women. That goal can be a big stretch from where you are today. And it may take years to achieve. 

But don’t stay focused on those far-away goals and overlook the meaningful progress you make every day. Instead, pursue some quick wins to build momentum and rally around accomplishments.

For example, instead of focusing solely on diverse hires, track the numbers of diverse interview candidates in your pipeline. Set targets for diversity training courses held and the number of employees who attend. You can also set goals for blog articles published on your diversity and inclusion initiatives.

More attainable goals can help you establish a trajectory of success early on. You can communicate these wins to employees to gain buy-in—and to executives to secure support. 

Prepare Today for a More Diverse Tomorrow

Reshaping your organization’s culture and practices takes time. Know that evolving your recruiting, promotion and retention practices to support diversity is a slow process. But creating a diverse organization is critical for lasting success.

Keep in mind that the future workforce will be more diverse. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), people of color will make up the majority of the US workforce by 2032. And the post-millennial generation is likely to be the most diverse and highest educated in history.

Now is the time to prepare for this reality. Every step you take to enhance diversity and inclusion positions you for the future. Take time to assess your current environment and establish diversity and inclusion benchmarks. Set measurable goals and deadlines—but include some near-term quick wins to build momentum. Communicate often with employees and executives to keep diversity and inclusion top-of-mind.

Clear diversity and inclusion goals help you stay focused on what matters most to your businesses. No two organizations are alike, and cultures and compositions are going to differ. 

But diverse organizations do have one thing in common: a high potential for financial success. Research published in Forbes affirmed that companies with diverse leadership teams achieved 19% higher revenues due to greater innovation. Your company can achieve results like these—but you need to start today by setting tangible diversity goals.

Photo by Adeolu Eletu