At this point, you have your top leadership’s blessing to work on DEI and the necessary insights into your organization’s “as is” situation. It is time to use your knowledge to create a strategic DEI plan.
THE NEED FOR STRATEGY
Working on DEI in a structured way, with a short- and long-term plan, will help you avoid three pitfalls:
Set up one-off DEI actions that do not initiate sustainable change.
Allow DEI work to only focus on specific target groups in response to diversity-related issues instead of proactively working on an inclusive culture for all.
Consider DEI a nice-to-have and not approach it as any other top business priority.
When it comes to DEI work, expectations are often high. Many people believe creating awareness is all we need to make a change. They do not expect a long-term process to change individual behavior and organizational culture.
That is why one-off actions will initially receive good feedback and support. When it becomes clear more is needed, DEI loses momentum as fatigue and resistance grow.
Be honest about the organization’s readiness to start DEI work. If your organization is not there yet, be transparent about what is needed before you can go into action. Keep employees informed about doing a DEI scan and building your strategy and why it is essential not to rush these processes. Ask leaders to amplify these messages.
The strategic plan will guide you to work on DEI in the upcoming years.
STRATEGIC PLAN ELEMENTS
A strategic plan is a written document in which you explain the changes you want to initiate regarding DEI, why those changes are necessary, what you want to achieve and how you aim to achieve them.
It contains five elements that you need to reflect on, work out and write down as clearly as possible:
Mission and vision.
Goals and objectives.
If your organization has other strategic documents and uses a set framework, use that to build your DEI strategic plan.
To create sustainable change towards a culture of inclusion, you want DEI to become a business priority that gets the same attention, respect, and sense of urgency as other business areas. A strategy with solid content and a recognizable look and feel will support your strategic approach.
Mission & Vision
After defining why DEI is essential, reflect on how it can contribute to your mission and vision.
A mission drives the organization. It describes what kind of business
the organization does or what it is. What is the core of your business? What does your organization do? Whom do you serve? How do you help them?
A vision sets out what the organization wishes to be like in the future. It is a description of its ambition for itself.
Start by writing a separate DEI vision and mission statement. Afterward, connect it to your organization’s broad vision and mission so, over time, the two can merge. That is a strong statement of your organization’s and leadership’s long-lasting commitment to inclusion.
Purpose is motivational. It is not about where the organization is heading or what it does, but why it does it. A purpose is an enduring motivation that does not have an obvious endpoint.
List the main reasons why diversity and equity are essential to your organization and why you want to build a more inclusive culture.
Define your “why” or purpose. That will help you keep your focus throughout the strategy process. Whenever you feel lost or going too much into detail, reread your purpose to get back on track.
Welcome different voices to the conversation. Allow people from various departments, levels, experiences, and points of view to contribute when you list the reasons why DEI matters,
Everyone will bring unique experiences to the table. They might point out a reason you had not thought of before.
Do not forget to invite critical voices. The best way to prepare for change and reduce resistance is to listen instead of excluding this input from the start.
After you are familiar with your organization’s DEI red flags and growth areas from the quantitative and qualitative scan, you can start dreaming!
Brainstorm with your team and leadership:
Which DEI dreams do you have?
Which dreams tie best into your company’s values and future developments?
Which ambition will your organization commit to in the next 3-5 years?
Communicating your bold ambition is excellent to spark enthusiasm amongst employees. Keep it short and simple so that everyone understands what you want to achieve.
“(Our organization) commits to (ambition) in the next (number) years. With the support of our diversity, equity, and inclusion team, we will make this happen.”
Goals & Objectives
Starting from your bold ambition and the priorities that came out of the quantitative and qualitative scan, define and structure your goals and objectives.
Goals refer to the overarching aspirations you have.
Objectives are more specific realizations that will help you accomplish your goal.
Make your goals and objectives SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely).
Validate your strategy. Prioritize goals and define the period during which you will work to accomplish each goal. You can work on multiple goals simultaneously. If your goals are long-term, establish how and when you will measure intermediate progress.
Leadership and employees often have high expectations for a DEI strategy. More often than not, they want it to have goals for every possible topic.
Limit the number of goals and objectives to keep your strategy manageable and realistic.
There are endless possible actions that you can undertake to reach your DEI goals, from awareness sessions and training to starting communities and setting up campaigns.
Once you have captured all elements you need to build your strategy, the last thing to do is write everything down in a plan.
Keep in mind who will read the text. Keep language accessible and be mindful of terminology. Explain concepts where necessary, using the glossary. Do not hesitate to have someone with no DEI knowledge read the text and indicate any unclarities before you finalize.
“If you are not consciously including, you might be unconsciously excluding.” Therefore, checking the language you use in your Strategic Plan is vital. Make sure it is not only accessible but also gender-sensitive and inclusive.
You can find a comprehensive guide to writing in a gender-sensitive way and on inclusive visual language here.
The last step is to create an executive summary or slide deck to present your Strategic Plan to your senior leadership and get their validation to execute the strategy.
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