Creating diversity and inclusion initiatives that work for all

Avoid these five pitfalls to ensure your DE&I efforts are supported and effective in 2022—and beyond.


In the face of growing scrutiny of their diversity and inclusion efforts, organizations face challenges in trying to create a more welcoming and equitable workplace.

Three-quarters of professionals said their companies had enhanced diversity and inclusion efforts during the last year, according to a 2021 survey by recruiting firm Korn Ferry. But only 19% said those efforts had been “very effective.”

Research continues to prove the value of well-crafted DE&I initiatives. For organizations wanting to tackle diversity and inclusion in the new year, here are five pitfalls to avoid.

1. Assuming diversity and inclusion are one and the same.

There is a common misconception that diversity is synonymous with inclusiveness. Having one does not necessarily mean having the other, consultant Michael Couch writes in Forbes.

Diversity focuses on creating a workforce with a valuable mix of races, genders, backgrounds, experiences, ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses. Inclusion aims to create a welcoming environment, where employees of all races and backgrounds feel supported and able to succeed.

Employee perceptions play a major role. By understanding the separate goals of diversity and inclusion, organizations can develop a better understanding of what matters most to their employees, and then design strategies and tactics to address each.

2. Ignoring company culture.

Culture comprises goals, values and practices, and it must be effectively transmitted for employees to understand and act upon it.

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion is a culture, not a program,” says Kim Sullivan, global chief people officer for Concentrix, which specializes in customer engagement.

That means that DE&I initiatives can fail if the company culture does not meaningfully support them. By fostering a workplace culture that values diversity and inclusion—and demands accountability—organizations will create programs that not only raise awareness on key issues but also achieve their goals.

3. Failing to seek employee feedback.

Many leaders overlook the value of employee feedback when creating a DE&I strategy. However, workers’ comments and questions are fundamental to building a diverse and inclusive company culture.

“Consider getting employees’ feedback first-hand,” says Keith Keating, senior vice-president with mortgage tech firm Archwell.

Leaders and employees need a safe space where honest feedback can be exchanged, especially when it comes to sensitive topics. Organizations can also do this by requesting anonymous comments regarding DE&I topics.

Simply asking employees for guidance can be difficult for some leaders but is an effective way to cultivate a feeling of inclusiveness.

4. Lacking a strategy or plan.

There is no single solution to achieving a more diverse and inclusive workplace. It takes time and effort.

Instead of aiming for momentary feel-good moments, organizations should create long-term strategies with benchmarks to reach along the way. Organizations should shift their focus from why they need DE&I to how they can achieve it. Strategy plays a crucial role in this process, according to Human Resource Executive.

It is essential that every strategy includes the steps needed to achieve the goals. Attempting to create strategic DE&I programs without a clearly defined plan is a costly mistake. Leaders should ask the following questions: How will we measure the value of our efforts? And how will we track our progress?

5. Initiating diversity and inclusion efforts that aren’t championed by leaders.

Those responsible for managing DE&I efforts should explore ways to help all employees embrace the concept and be inspired by it.

“Those who will eventually implement the plan must have the backing and active involvement of the organization’s leadership, including the CEO, board of directors, executive team,” the Society for Human Resource Management says in its “Guide to Developing a Strategic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan.”

To advance diversity and inclusion, organizations must hold everyone accountable, including executives and managers. Leadership and management must also be equipped to drive discussion and strategy. DE&I efforts promoted by leaders can improve perceptions about their accountability and transparency.

Cierra Selby is a contributing writer at Ragan Consulting Group. Her work has also been featured by The Communications Network, Nonprofit Hub and Nonprofit New York. Schedule a call with Kristin Hart to learn how we can help you improve your communications. Follow RCG on LinkedIn here and subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.


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