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How to Kickstart Your DEI Program

Struggling with DEI and not sure where to begin? Start here.


Built In | March 4, 2021





The Built In article, "How to Kickstart Your DEI Program​," quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Tina Shah Paikeday on what companies should keep in mind when creating a DEI program to drive meaningful and effective change. The article is excerpted below.

To help organizations move beyond ad hoc, one-off gestures, Built In spoke with several DEI experts and consultants about how to build a foundation for real and lasting equity and inclusion. What follows is a very basic blueprint to kickstart that change. 
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1. Build the Mirror

“What gets measured gets done, and like any other business metric, you need to be able to find your baseline and figure out where you’re currently at,” said Tina Shah Paikeday, who leads diversity and inclusion advisory services for management consulting firm Russell Reynolds Associates. “Where are the gaps you need to close?”

This data analysis element of DEI work makes it bigger than the human resources prism we tend to view it through.
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​2. Set Targets and Make it Someone's Job to Hit Them...

In the early days, diversity in the workplace was centered around the work of the Equal Economic Opportunity Commision, a government agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. The result, Paikeday said, was that “we saw a lot of lawyers and legal backgrounds in the field.”

“Then the pendulum swung — the U.S. population is diversifying, our workforces are diversifying, this is becoming a workforce mandate,” Paikeday said. “So how do we recruit and retain a diverse workforce? So the pendulum drifted toward HR backgrounds.”

That pendulum is swinging again, with businesses now looking for diversity leaders who can act as business partners. Whether it’s a consumer-facing company trying to serve a more diverse population or a B2B organization with clients who expect it to show up with diverse teams, companies understand the competitive advantage that comes from fostering a truly diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace. 

“Companies are looking for someone with a relevant industry background to help weave a deep understanding of DEI into their go-to-market strategy,” Paikeday said. In her experience, companies that have successfully driven change take the view that a DEI strategy should be integrated with business strategy. 

“So why is this important for the business? We know that diversity leads to better outcomes. Once a leader can make that case, they’re able to take ownership of the topic in the same way they would any other business topic. They prioritize it because they understand how it will help drive business outcomes — which is why they’re there in the first place.”
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3. ​...But Also Make DEI Everyone's Job

​This recognition of the systemic bias built into many individual elements of an organization is what Paikeday called “the last frontier” for DEI work. In her view, it facilitates stripping institutional bias out of recruitment, retention and career development practices. 
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4. Recognize That There Are No Quick Fixes

Another all-too-frequent trap is to focus on one pillar of DEI at a time. For a long time, Paikeday said, companies focused on hiring a diverse workforce and then creating an inclusive space for them to work in later. Meanwhile, equity remained a major blind spot — until last summer. 

“Organizations used to pride themselves on being a meritocracy, and I think we’ve all now acknowledged that there is no such thing,” she said. “Now that everyone’s recognized the existence of inequity, equity has become the focus.”

While most organizations approach diversity, inclusion and equity sequentially (and in that order), Paikeday said it’s best to have all three working at once. 

“I would characterize it as three legs to a stool, and I would recommend having all three working in unison because you’re going to make the fastest progress that way.”

To read the full article, click here.






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How to Kickstart Your DEI Program