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Elevate your DEI strategy: The importance of effective diversity management

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In 2021, there’s a spotlight on corporations when it comes to driving change on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. And while businesses have taken swift action to do their part, many still struggle to hone in on a DEI strategy that drives both social impact and measurable business outcomes.

Making progress on DEI is a marathon, not a sprint — and it’s one which requires consistent upkeep and management to work to the benefit of all the stakeholders involved. Although you may already have systems in place to manage your efforts, it’s important to continuously improve upon them to ensure you’re on track to reach the desired outcome.

Let’s discuss what effective diversity management looks like in practice and how you can evolve your DEI strategy to better serve the needs of both your people and business.


What is the meaning of diversity management?

Diversity in the workplace doesn’t just happen on its own. Without upkeep, it can be all too easy for a problematic status quo to overtake progress, create an uncomfortable work environment and slow the growth of your business as a whole. Many organizations struggle to move the needle on DEI goals because their overarching strategies don’t account for this ongoing need.

Putting specific policies and practices into place to further diversity is just one small piece of the puzzle. The businesses with successful DEI programs are the ones that do more than just point to a program and say they checked a box. Instead, growing diversity becomes integral to the core values of the organization and its people. 


What does impactful diversity management look like?

As with many other business practices, an effective workplace diversity strategy starts with people – particularly those in management. 

Management is largely responsible for driving culture within an organization. In a Glassdoor survey, 45 percent of employees surveyed reported that they believe people in leadership, especially hiring managers, are in the best position to influence diversity outcomes.

The behavior and personal management styles of your people can either be the primary proponent of DEI, or one of its greatest obstacles. This means leveraging leadership to employ a management strategy to actively cultivate, train and maintain a diverse employee and managerial base which facilitates a culture of equity and inclusion at all levels of the business.

Additionally, effective diversity management means putting words into action. As more is revealed about the shifting social climate, it’s important to constantly re-examine and re-evaluate what is needed to support and uplift historically underserved individuals in your employee base. This requires a dynamic and intentional stance on DEI that is observed in all facets of the business — from hiring to internal promotion practices.




How to manage diversity in the workplace more effectively

Here are a few best practices to employ that will help you better manage diversity, equity and inclusion within your organization: 


  • Leverage data when setting DEI goals
    Setting goals is a given — but are these goals tied to measurable, data-driven outcomes?  For example, let’s say a priority for the talent acquisition team in the upcoming year is to grow the number of diverse hires. This goal is adequate, but it could be more specific. Instead, look at local or industry-specific demographics and other relevant recruitment data to determine the exact percentage of diverse candidates the team should set out to hire. This helps to hold the organization accountable for reaching tangible targets, rather than aiming for vague objectives that don’t move the needle.


  • Make it a job
    According to Forbes, around 50 percent of all managers say they are “too busy” to consider DEI in an actionable way. The solution? If you have the available resources, consider creating one or multiple positions within your organization which focus exclusively on DEI.


  • Use learning and development (L&D) to support diversity
    This can include training programs for addressing unconscious bias, mentorship programs to encourage cross-level information sharing and development or employer-sponsored education to provide your marginalized employees with life-changing access to education.

    For example, take a look at Aramark, the global leader in food services and facilities management. Despite already having a corporate tuition assistance program, Aramark expanded its workforce education offering to better serve its diverse frontline employees, a majority of whom identify as women and/or people of color. In 2019, the company launched its “Frontline Education Program to provide further access to education to its employees.


  • Integrate DEI as part of the brand
    Organizations leading the charge on DEI are the ones that incorporate it into their brand identity — and have the processes in place to back it up. This shows both current and prospective employees that your commitment to DEI is more than just a vanity initiative, but rather something that’s a genuine priority for your company.


  • Hold leadership accountable for DEI
    Most executives understand the need for workplace diversity, but are they being held accountable to DEI goals in the same way they’re held to other business goals? While it’s true that diversity, equity and inclusion is the responsibility of everyone in the organization, it’s on the executive team to lead by example.


Like every other aspect of a business, making progress on diversity, equity and inclusion requires ongoing strategy and maintenance to thrive. With these tactics in mind, your organization is on the path towards creating meaningful change on workplace DEI, benefiting both your team members and the organization as a whole.

Ready to unlock more DEI resources? Download this infographic to learn how workforce education can help to promote a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace.