As well-intentioned as most diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs are, there’s a tendency among organizations today to create and execute them separately from their other programs and policies. When created in response to some singular event or held out at arm’s length, the benefits of DEI often don’t make it to where it matters most — into the actual fabric and day-to-day operations of your organization.
As the Vice President of People at Lever, a leading talent acquisition suite that has taken DEI seriously since day one, I can tell you that candidates today want to work for employers that are making real commitments to DEI that will outlive the current news cycle.
Today, I want to challenge us all to think differently about the way we approach DEI, and share a 3-pronged approach to DEI that can help you create an impactful strategy:
- Leveraging data and setting clear goals
- Infusing DEI throughout existing programs and processes
- Finding opportunities to promote DEI in “everyday” moments
Rally note: Annie shares her DEI strategies and learnings on the RallyFwd Virtual Conference On Demand. You can register to watch for free today!
1. Leveraging data and setting clear goals
It’s so important to treat DEI like you would for any other business need. You’ll need data, concrete targets and the ability to track progress. Business leaders are used to embracing this mindset for other parts of the business, but often lack in this area when it comes to DEI.
Before developing any sort of DEI strategy or program, you first have to know where you currently stand. It’s important to start with collecting high-quality data first. If you don’t have data, that is probably the best way to start setting goals for yourself — through tracking data. Once you’ve gathered meaningful data points, ask yourself relevant questions from the data about your “state of the union.” Some of these questions can be:
- What percentage of candidates do I have high-quality information about?
- What is the distribution by gender, race, etc. among candidates at different stages within the interview process?
- Overall, how are different demographic groups represented at each level of the company?
- How does the above compare with where we’d like to go?
- Where are we succeeding and where are there “hot spots?”
Once you’ve done these steps, you can begin to identify your company’s strengths and gaps and develop goals based on your existing state, and where you’d like them to be. Having that level of insight will allow you to set goals that are a strong balance of being ambitious with being realistic. For example, if only 5% of your candidates at a specific interview stage have historically been people of color, then it might be impractical to set a goal next quarter of 50%. But you should absolutely push yourself to make incremental progress.
As an example, last year I sat down with our recruiting manager to review Lever’s current state of DEI. We quickly realized we needed more trustworthy, representative data. So one of the first actions we took was to encourage more candidates to (optionally and confidentially) fill out our Diversity Insights Survey (a tool within our own product, Lever, that we leverage to collect DEI-related data that respects the sensitivity of this type of information). Once we got our data to a better place, we were able to get a more accurate picture of where we were strong and where there were gaps.
From there, we looked deeply at the data and set concrete goals to make progress in what we saw as the most impactful areas. For example, this year, we have a company OKR (as well as team OKRs) related to the percent of candidates from underrepresented backgrounds at the panel stage (a late-round interview stage). We track progress weekly. To make sure we stay on track, we’ve revisited many parts of our existing recruiting processes.
2. Infusing DEI throughout existing programs and processes
With data and informed goals in place, the next step is to build DEI into existing programs and processes — and I don’t mean one-off DEI efforts like hosting one-off training or a guest speaker event. For more of a sustained impact, you need to bake DEI into every program and process until it becomes a part of the company’s core way of doing business. One way to achieve this is to always keep DEI top of mind.
At Lever, we do this by partnering with leaders across the company to align on the approach and desired outcomes. We hold regular meetings with hiring managers, quarterly meetings with each department’s leadership team, and conversations with our execs during our biannual performance and compensation reviews, all to make sure we’re looking at DEI-related data and acting on gaps throughout the candidate and employee journey.
For example, we’ve taken a critical eye toward our interview processes and built-in ways to check for diversity when putting together interview panels, and modified our interview feedback collection process to minimize “group-think” and bias.
The recruiting and HR teams also partner closely together at the offer stage to make sure our compensation decision-making process is based on objective data (we use third-party benchmarks to inform all internal and external comp and equity decisions) and check for peer parity. That way, equity is built-in right from the gate. The takeaway here is that you should be thinking about DEI at every stage of the employee process, and not as an isolated set of initiatives divorced from how the business “really” runs.
3. Finding opportunities to promote DEI in “everyday” moments
While a successful DEI strategy informs structure and systemic change, at its core, DEI is also very personal and emotional, so it’s important to combine your bigger programmatic work, with an intentional focus on the small moments. The small, daily moments are often what people will remember the most.
An example of this at Lever, is we encourage our employees to include their preferred pronouns on Slack and in their email signatures, and we invite candidates to share their preferred pronouns with us if they so choose. This is a small but powerful step in showing that our workplace is welcoming to people of all gender identities.
And don’t forget about emotional moments that happen around you either! It’s been a tough year — and I believe companies have the opportunity and the mandate to acknowledge and support their teams, and it’s also a great way to demonstrate your values in action.
For example, during the 2020 Election season in the U.S., we knew our teams (like much of the world) felt a ton of anxiety. Instead of pretending like it’s not happening, we reiterated our values as a company (it’s important to note that our emphasis is on our values, not political or partisan leanings) encouraged our employees to vote (in fact we made Election Day a company holiday!), shared mental health resources, and even held an open discussion that our CEO facilitated as a safe space for people to share without partisanship. Afterward, we heard from many people that they really appreciated it.
I’m proud to say that as of January of this year, Lever’s team consists of 51% women and 51% racial minorities. At every step along the way leading up to this achievement, our goal has simply been to make DEI operational and integrate it where it matters most. We certainly have a ways to go still, but we’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish so far.
If our success at Lever is any indication when looking at improving DEI in your own organization, I would encourage you not to approach it as a separate program, but instead, put as much focus on data and goal-setting as you would any other business need. Pair that with building DEI into existing programs and processes, and finding opportunities to promote DEI in “everyday” moments and you have a recipe for a strategy that will actually move the needle.
For even more insights into the state of DEI in the workforce, be sure to stay tuned for Lever’s State of DEI report, coming in June! Until then, you can catch me speaking at the RallyFwd Virtual Conference now On Demand alongside an incredible roster of other TA, HR and Recruitment Marketing practitioners. Don’t miss out, you can register for free today!