Diversity and Inclusion Strategies that Actually Work

Your business strategy serves as the road map for your organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. It will be difficult to achieve meaningful change without a well-planned diversity and inclusion strategy.

According to a Heidrick & Struggles report, organizations are increasingly prioritizing DEI, with 93% of companies saying DEI is more important than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, more than half of respondents consider DEI to be a business imperative. Many organizations have struggled to translate their attention and intent into tangible results.

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Learn more about what diversity and inclusion mean in the workplace, how to create winning diversity and inclusion strategies, and the companies that are leading by 


Understanding Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are intertwined concepts that refer to the range of different individuals that comprise a group of people, as well as the environment that allows them to collaborate as equally valued contributors. Workplaces that prioritize diversity and inclusion initiatives have been shown statistically to be safer, happier, and more productive.

In its most basic form, diversity means being made up of different elements. The presence of employees of various races, gender identities, career backgrounds, skills, and so on is referred to as workplace diversity. It has been proven that diversity makes communities and workplaces more productive, tolerant, and welcoming.

Unfortunately, defining what makes a team diverse is not as straightforward.

There are undoubtedly more visible and invisible factors that distinguish individuals, but these broad categories can assist businesses in identifying diversity gaps. They also provide quantitative measures for companies to set goals and make coherent efforts to increase workplace diversity.

Although it is frequently used in conjunction with diversity, inclusion is a distinct concept in and of itself.

Inclusion is the method of ensuring equal access to opportunities and resources for all people. Workplace inclusion efforts help to give traditionally marginalized groups, such as those based on gender, race, or disability, a way to feel equal in the workplace. Employee resource groups and information sessions, for example, are examples of inclusive actions that make the workplace a safer and more respectful environment for all employees.

What factors influence workplace diversity and inclusion?

Many businesses have recognized the importance of diverse and inclusive workplaces in recent years. However, this does not imply that making meaningful, long-term changes is simple.

Executive sponsorship, agreement on metrics and accountability for achieving internal DEI goals, and a dedicated budget for driving change are all required for strategic DEI efforts.

DEI, on the other hand, is not always treated with the same organizational commitment or significance as other human resource work. Businesses must create D&I initiatives that have the full support of company leaders. HR leaders will have difficulty implementing D&I policies and programs without leadership buy-in due to a shortage of resources and incentives for employee participation.

How to improve workplace diversity and inclusion?

One of the factors in developing a D&I strategy is to put these values and ideals into action. These nine approaches can assist your organization in taking deliberate steps toward developing or improving workplace diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Make DEI one of your company’s core values

Increase the importance of DEI in your organization’s core values, demonstrating the importance of leadership in obtaining positive DEI results for the entire organization. These values can help you define the behaviors that your company values and rewards.

HR leaders can then integrate those behaviors into performance management processes and regular manager-employee feedback conversations. Making DEI a core company value from the start fosters a diverse and inclusive workplace culture.

Interrogate unconscious bias

Everyone has unconscious biases, but we can structure processes to reduce or eliminate them. Blocking out personally identifiable information and relying on objective assessment results, for example, can help eliminate bias in the hiring process.

Managers can also overcome unconscious bias by having structured, regular performance management conversations based on agreed-upon goals. When managers and employees understand each other’s perspectives, they build trust and reduce the influence of unconscious bias.

Encourage diverse thinking

Diversity is regularly cited through the lenses of gender, race, sexual orientation, or cultural diversity, but another viewpoint is gaining traction: diversity of thought.

Neurodiversity is one area where thought diversity is important. Embracing diversity in hiring and performance management can incorporate new ideas into your workplace and expand the available talent pool.

It is also critical to consider thought diversity in terms of different backgrounds and lived experiences. The more demographically diverse your workforce, the more likely there will be diversity of thought.

Create effective anti-discrimination policies

It is critical to encourage diversity and positive behavior. But so is establishing clear consequences for anti-inclusive behavior. These repercussions are frequently manifested as anti-discrimination policies. When developing these policies, many HR leaders adhere strictly to legal requirements. However, applicable laws and regulations serve as the foundation, not the capstone, of such efforts.

Clearly define what constitutes discrimination in various situations. This step is especially important for anyone who makes people’s decisions, from recruiters deciding which candidates to move down the funnel to managers deciding which candidates to recommend for promotion.

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Promote remote and hybrid team members

For many HR leaders, supporting remote or hybrid employees is a relatively new aspect of inclusion. Hybrid workforces can be especially difficult if managers favor employees in the same room as them while excluding remote teammates, a practice known as proximity bias.

Instead, HR executives can consider how to include employees regardless of location. To accommodate more diverse teams, this approach may necessitate a redesign of workplace norms, meeting and communication structures, and workplace technologies. Transparent processes can help everyone, including managers with all-remote or hybrid teams, understand how to be inclusive.

Pay attention to your employees

The workforce is the best source of inspiration for inclusive action. Survey your employees on a regular basis to gauge their feelings about inclusion, especially the employees most at risk of exclusion.

Betterworks Engage, an engagement survey platform, can assist you in gathering this information from employees (while ensuring their privacy and anonymity), then aggregating the data to determine your next steps in creating a diverse workplace.

It is critical to listen to your employees. Employee feedback can help HR leaders understand which parts of their initiatives are working and which are not.

Increase opportunities for connection

Creating an inclusive working environment requires cultivating a sense of connection among employees. When employees see each other as individuals, they can transcend stereotypes and preconceptions. You can strengthen these ties by hosting social gatherings and bonding activities.

However, you can also establish direct points of contact during the workday. Consider asking employees to publicly commend their team members for doing outstanding work or exemplifying company values. Employee bonding opportunities are enhanced when employees work together to achieve common goals.

Welcome cultural celebrations

The willingness to learn about other cultures and traditions is a necessary component of developing an inclusive workplace culture. Build that into your processes by emphasizing religious leave options.

Employees are encouraged to bring their celebrations to work. For example, your LGBTQ+ employee resource group may host Pride celebrations in June, or specific ethnic or religious groups may wish to incorporate their traditions into the workplace. If you have a hybrid or remote workforce, such recognition and celebration can also be done remotely. Notify employees about these activities at departmental and company-wide all-hands meetings to reinforce the importance of diversity.

Employ inclusive language

Since more people are working remotely as part of global workgroups, your workforce may speak a variety of languages. HR leaders should be aware of the languages spoken by their employees and make appropriate accommodations, such as with employee handbooks or other critical information.

Avoiding metaphors and idioms that non-native English speakers may not understand is an easy way to motivate all employees, including managers, to be inclusive in their daily work.

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Three excellent examples of workplace diversity and inclusion

When businesses implement excellent diversity and inclusion strategies, it is not long before the news spreads. These three companies show what is possible with leadership buy-in, the right resources, and an attitude that prioritizes D&I as a top organizational priority.


PwC CEO Tim Ryan has made enhancing diversity and inclusion a priority for himself and the firm. PwC has begun annual reporting on its inclusion efforts under his direction. The company is purposefully open about its current situation and what it is doing to address workplace inequities.


Adobe is also open and honest with its stakeholders about its DEI efforts. The company makes its diversity data public and has promised to maintain global gender pay parity. Adobe has committed to pay equity for underrepresented minorities in the United States.


Paycor has incorporated a “STEP” program to achieve DEI outcomes that are consistent with core principles such as “Do the Right Thing” and “Take Care of Each Other.” Through its Perspectives+ library, the company also provides partners with actionable resources to improve DEI at their workplaces.


DEI efforts have proven to benefit organizations by improving psychological safety, increasing employee engagement, and lowering turnover. It is also the moral thing to do.

However, DEI success does not happen by accident. To demonstrate that progress is a priority, you must have intention, vision, values, and dedicated resources.

Integrate diversity and inclusion strategies into your organization’s core values, which should be supported by leadership and lived out every day through well-designed processes. When D&I moves from idea to action, you can create long-term change that elevates your organization and improves employee productivity.

[To share your insights, please write to us at sghosh@martechseries.com]

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