Many companies who are committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are a little stuck on how to go about it in practical terms. A recurrent problem is finding the time and resources that would allow the organization to make real progress. One solution is to set up a DEI working group or taskforce.
What are DEI Working Groups?
The names used for these groups vary from company to company, but what they tend to have in common is that they are:
- groups of individuals from different areas of the company
- who are volunteering their time to advance DEI,
- And have often chosen to do so based on personal motivations and interests
Another common feature that DEI working groups have is that members feel somewhat overwhelmed with the complexity and size of their DEI agenda, and struggle to know where to start. Finding motivated colleagues to join in on your company’s DEI efforts is a great starting point, but ensuring that the group is supported in their work is crucial in ensuring sustainable DEI change.
We have gathered our top tips to help you set your DEI working group up for success from the very beginning.
Start with eliminating the barriers to success
Before inviting colleagues to join your DEI working group, make sure you:
Have enough data available about your organization’s current state of diversity, equity and inclusion. Data related to employee experience, recruitment and employee retention will be crucial in enabling your group to base their DEI work on data rather than assumptions.This will also help to identify the areas where action is most needed. If your organization has limited DEI data, consider first running a diversity & inclusion survey.
Have active leadership support for the working group. Advancing DEI topics is complex and is likely to require changes to be made across the whole organization. Leadership backing is central in ensuring your working group has the platform and resources needed to take the agenda forward. Leaders should ensure the membership of the working group is diverse, represents the company’s core functions, and that colleagues from across the organization are able to take part, should they wish to.
Have appropriate levels of resources available for your DEI work. Your working group will not get far if they are expected to make changes without any budget. Allocating financial resources to your DEI work signals your organization’s serious commitment to the agenda.
5 things to remember when setting up your DEI working group
1. Ensure your working group has a clear shared understanding of where to begin and what their priorities are. As a first step, the group should create an action plan to align on their goals. Data-based planning is important, and it is worth taking the time to fully understand where your organization is starting from. It’s also important to ensure that the action plan is objective and not motivated by group members’ personal interests. Otherwise, your group might overlook important aspects of DEI that need to be addressed in your organization.
2. That being said, don’t try to do too many things at once. There are likely to be many things your working group could do to get started, and they may feel overwhelmed and pulled in many different directions at once. Spreading your group’s attention too thin will make it hard to achieve real progress on any front. Unrealistic expectations can result in people feeling drained. It’s better to focus on 2-3 key areas at first. The feeling that you are achieving change will be highly motivating to your group members, and will make the working group more sustainable in the long term.
3. Set specific targets for all your actions, and monitor your progress. It’s important to know whether the DEI actions you are taking are achieving the intended goals. If they aren’t, you can use this information to course correct or change your approach to maximize your impact. Setting clear key performance indicators (KPIs) as part of your action plan and collecting data for regular tracking will also help your working group hold their colleagues accountable for their DEI commitments.
4. Ensure your working group members receive formal recognition for their efforts. Your group members are likely to be volunteering their time to support the DEI agenda, alongside their formal role responsibilities. It is important to make sure they are able to take the time out of their working week to take on additional tasks, and that this extra workload is recognized by their team leads. Small acts of recognition such as public thank yous from leadership or features in internal communications can go a long way in making your group feel appreciated. Including DEI work into performance evaluations or providing financial recognition are also recommended as these help members continue their involvement and make the DEI group’s work more sustainable. Group members are also likely to have a personal interest in learning more about DEI topics and how to create organizational change. Offering targeted coaching and training will ensure individuals feel supported and have a clear sense that being involved directly contributes to their own development.
5. Remember to take others along for the journey. Openly share the progress your DEI group is making, and seek feedback from colleagues. Your working group will be limited to a small number of people, who may not represent your whole organization. It’s important to ensure any blind spots your group might have do not prevent them from identifying areas where changes are needed. Other colleagues are likely to have insightful ideas for how to best advance DEI, and might even be willing to take lead on specific actions or projects. Being open to suggestions and feedback will help your group assess whether they are on the right track, and will motivate them to continue their efforts.
Everyone benefits from an effective DEI working group
Setting up a DEI working group or taskforce is an excellent way to engage more colleagues in this work, divide the workload and spread accountability for DEI change among your team. In an ideal scenario both the individuals involved and the company as a whole benefit. Individuals feel motivated to contribute to the change, and the organization will see direct progress and results.
As with any other change agenda, it is worth taking the time to ensure the work is well planned and supported. When managed well, these groups can become fantastic networks and learning opportunities for everyone involved.
If your organization would benefit from support in launching your DEI activities, our team at Inklusiiv can help you in the form of sparring, consulting, training or workshops. Contact us for more details.