How to Build, Launch, and Foster a Successful Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Strategy in Five Simple Steps
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is not a new concept, yet due to heightened awareness and sensitivity of issues impacting people and communities of color in recent years, many companies have started to more deeply appreciate and understand its importance. DEI is a key ingredient to build a thriving business and achieve long-term success. Companies have learned that DEI needs to be and remain a priority throughout the business in order to have a competitive advantage and reap the benefits that a diverse workforce yields such as more productive teams, reduced turnover, and greater customer satisfaction. This is also true when it comes to recruiting and retaining the best talent. In fact, inclusive culture has become one of the top concerns by employees resulting in 41% of the U.S. population avoiding employers who do not take a stand against racism or recognize the importance of DEI in the workplace.
While a vast majority of industries have implemented formal DEI strategies, something the title and escrow industry has been slower to adopt, several organizations have built a foundation from which others can learn. These companies understand that the housing market is becoming more diverse and recognize the benefit to their business when their workforce is representative of the customers and communities they serve.
For organizations just starting their DEI journeys and not sure where to begin, there are five simple steps to follow to build a successful DEI strategy:
- Understand the why
- Assess current state
- Gain buy-in
- Launch the strategy
- Ensure accountability
Step One – Understand the Why: Prioritize DEI as Good for Business
Before jumping in, it’s important for all stakeholders to align on why DEI is critical not only to the culture, but to the business as well. This step is essential. Building a DEI strategy should not just be an aspirational goal or a checklist. Instead, it should be ingrained in a company’s overall business objectives and strategy. By establishing a strong business case that can always be used as a reference and a justification for this critical work, skeptics will have no merit to dispute the adoption and execution of the strategy.
It’s no secret that a diverse workforce yields greater business success. For example, according to a McKinsey study, companies that were in the top quartile of gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above average profitability compared to the companies in the bottom quartile. The same can be said for cultural diversity — the top quartile companies outperformed non-diverse companies by up to 36%. But it’s more than just a diverse workforce that will help you build that business case — it’s understanding how a diverse workforce will better serve the end customer.
Over the past 20 years, the buying power of consumers has become more diverse, and smart companies need to ensure their workforces reflect this same diversity to gain consumers’ trust and business. For example, Blacks (258%), Asian Americans (467%) and the Hispanic market (393%) saw increased buying power from 2000 to 2020 by substantial amounts, further indicating the need for title and escrow companies, or any growing organization, to prioritize DEI. The bottom line is that DEI is not a nice to have; it is a business imperative that will help foster continued growth for the future.
Step Two – Assess Current State: Gather the Data
The second step is to figure out where to begin. You can’t successfully move ahead without first knowing the road you’ve traveled and your current location. This means fully understanding the current state of the business. How do you do this? Here’s a quick rundown of steps to gather and assess all available information:
- Ask questions of your leaders and employees and listen attentively to their feedback
- Collect as much data as possible on your current workforce demographics
- Research and understand existing company policies and procedures
Gathering all available assets allows you to identify gaps as well as areas of opportunity and growth. For instance, is there a need to target recruitment outreach to a more diverse group of people? Do current employees feel valued with opportunities for growth? Is your organization building a culture of inclusion? Once you understand the current state, you will be well informed and best positioned to create a dynamic DEI strategy with a strong foundation that is based in research. This foundation will also help capture more buy-in as the initiative grows.
Step Three – Gain Buy-in: Strength in Numbers
As the saying goes, it takes a village. To successfully move a DEI strategy forward, you need support from people who understand its importance and the positive change it can deliver. The more who believe that DEI will have a lasting impact on the company’s success, the more likely it is to succeed. This means you need to:
- Identify key stakeholders
- Educate stakeholders by sharing the business case and current state of the organization
- Get stakeholders excited about the future state and possibilities
Having a cross-functional core team is essential. This core team helps educate, communicate, motivate, and share information across their specific functions and serve as champions across the organization, paving the way for greater understanding, buy-in, and excitement about DEI and its purpose.
Last, but certainly not least, Ieadership support is an absolute must because they should ultimately be responsible for ensuring the strategic alignment of DEI initiatives with company-wide business objectives. For the work of DEI to be impactful and sustainable, leadership should serve as a critical driver in fostering organizational change, setting the tone for the rest of the organization, and modeling the behavior expected of others.
Step Four – Launch: It’s Time to Get Started
Now that the business case is made, there is a solid understanding of the current state of the organization, and there is buy-in from key stakeholders, putting pen to paper begins. The primary thing to remember here is that you must crawl before you can walk so it is better to focus on quality over quantity and determine where you can make the biggest impact. You don’t have to carry out 50 initiatives. Do a few things well and consider where there may be low hanging fruit that can afford some quick wins. Then tout those wins.
It also may make sense for your organization to start with one or two solid initiatives as a pilot program which provides room to assess, adjust, and be intentional about your strategy and implementation while creating momentum. Remember the famous quote from Lao Tzu: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Step Five – Ensure Accountability: Measurement is Key
The work is never done. Once the strategy is launched, leadership is on board, execution begins, and your DEI work is rolled out and communicated to stakeholders, it is important to be very deliberate and to never lose track of the end goal of integrating DEI into all aspects of the business. Tracking, monitoring, and ongoing reporting enables you to stay focused and create space for transparency by preserving the ability to continuously learn, adjust, grow, and strengthen.
These five steps to create a DEI strategy are not complex but are important to build the blueprint for this critical work. A DEI strategy can only succeed if it becomes part of the core business and aligns with a company’s vision. A commitment must be made to create a strong DEI framework that will drive the execution of strategy and make a lasting impact on the culture and, ultimately, the business.