5 Ways to Engage Your Workforce in DEI

Creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace is a multifaceted journey that demands engagement from all levels of an organization.  

DEI is not merely a corporate initiative; it is a methodical journey towards cultural evolution.  A workplace that is diverse, equitable and inclusive fosters innovation, resilience and sustained growth through the deliberate integration of diverse perspectives, backgrounds and experiences. 

AESC’s latest report highlights how organizations can create a competitive advantage through fairness, inclusion and belonging. A key component to a successful DEI strategy includes fostering engagement from the entire workforce--including leaders, teams and individual employees. Organizations with a fully engaged workforce are better positioned to build lasting sustainable change.  

This article explores five key strategies organizations can employ to engage their workforce in DEI efforts. 

1. Foster a Safe & Inclusive Environment: 

Building a safe and inclusive environment for everyone is foundational to any successful DEI initiative. This involves creating a workplace where all employees feel valued, respected and heard. Employers can implement policies that prohibit discrimination, harassment and bias, while also promoting open communication.  

Town hall meetings can be instrumental in increasing awareness of the lived experiences of underrepresented groups, fostering a sense of understanding among employees, and helping everyone – including those from underrepresented groups – feel like they belong. 

2. Communicate the Importance of DEI: 

Transparent communication about the significance of DEI is crucial in engaging the workforce. Leaders should articulate a clear vision for diversity and inclusion, emphasizing how these principles align with the organization's values. Executive engagement and communication play a pivotal role in driving home the message that DEI is not just a box to tick but a core value integral to the company's identity and success. 

A central message must be “inclusion means everyone.” DEI is undermined when intentional or unintentional cues suggest one cohort is more important than another.  

3. Leadership Demonstrates Public Commitment: 

True engagement begins at the top. Leadership must demonstrate a public commitment to DEI, not just through words but through tangible actions. This includes setting policies that promote diversity, equity and inclusion and actively working to shape the organizational culture.  

Leadership commitment trickles down, influencing employees at all levels and fostering a culture where DEI is not just encouraged but celebrated. 

4. Employee-Led Activities Celebrate Diversity: 

Empowering employees to take an active role in DEI efforts is essential. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) provide a platform for individuals with shared experiences or backgrounds to come together.  

Cultural celebrations and discussions organized by these groups can educate and enlighten the broader employee population, promoting understanding and appreciation for different experiences and cultures. 

5. Conduct Unconscious Bias Training: 

Unconscious bias can inadvertently affect decision-making processes within an organization. Conducting unconscious bias training is a proactive step towards eliminating these biases. Such training equips employees and leaders with the tools to recognize and address their implicit biases, fostering a fair and inclusive work environment. 

Finding Leaders Who Demonstrate DEI as a Core Value: 

Identifying and cultivating leaders who embody DEI as a core value is essential for the success of any diversity initiative. Executive search firms can play a vital role in helping organizations find leaders who not only talk the talk but also walk the walk. By prioritizing inclusive leadership, companies can set the tone for a diverse and inclusive workplace culture and realize the gains that an inclusive culture provides. 

Engaging the workforce in DEI is a continuous and evolving process, demanding persistent commitment and adaptability. It is about fostering a workplace culture where diversity is not a challenge to overcome but an asset to leverage, equity is not a goal to reach but a standard to uphold and inclusion is not a program to implement but a way of life.  

Through the implementation of the outlined strategies, organizations embark on a journey towards a workplace that allows top talent from all backgrounds and experiences to contribute fully, fostering a profound sense of belonging among all employees and ultimately securing a future marked by innovation, collaboration and success. 

Download AESC’s 2023 DEI Report: Creating Competitive Advantage Through Fairness, Inclusion and Belonging to learn more about our findings.