Research suggests that a more diverse workforce means better problem-solving, more creativity, and increased profitability. But where should you start if you’re looking to build a diversity and inclusion strategy for your company?

More than ever, companies across the country—and the world—are reviewing and evaluating their diversity and inclusion strategies and practices. Organizations have come to realize that creating diverse and inclusive work environments can help them attract top talent and become more adaptable.

Consider this: A McKinsey Diversity Matters study found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity outperform their competitors by 15% and those in the top quartile for ethnic diversity outperform their competitors by 35%.

Whether you’re just getting started or looking to improve your diversity and inclusion strategy, these building blocks can help.

1. Analyze your data

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Before you can move forward with a comprehensive diversity and inclusion strategy, you’ll need to know the current state of your organization.

It’s important to consider quantitative data first. At a minimum, you’ll want to know your diversity levels across age, gender, race, disability, veteran status, and sexual orientation. And you’ll want to study those levels across your workforce as well as in management and leadership. (If you don’t have that data to mine, you’ll have to start by inviting employees to complete a diversity profile.)

For a more complete picture, you’ll also need to consider qualitative data. Through surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews, you can gather insight into your current culture. Is your environment welcoming? Is it safe? Are employees invited to share their unique perspectives? Are they respected for sharing dissenting opinions?

Studying your current diversity and inclusion stats and environment is a critical first step. Once you know where you’re at, you can set and track diversity targets. The targets should specifically address areas of concern – areas where your organization is far less diverse than expected. You’ll be amazed by how much more progress you’ll see when you’ve set real targets and invited people inside and outside your organization to hold you accountable to them.

2. Study success

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There are thousands of companies working hard on their diversity and inclusion strategies and practices. Many have been extremely successful at attracting and retaining a diverse employee population and have created safe, respectful, and welcoming environments for all employees. There’s a lot to learn from these companies and wherever you are on your diversity and inclusion journey, it can help to talk and share your challenges.

One good way to find companies to reach out to is the Great Place to Work® Best Workplaces for Diversity™ list, which includes companies like Cisco and AbbVie. If you’d like help getting in touch with other companies who have succeeded in this area, just let us know. PartnerComm can connect you with our contacts or put together a round table discussion for you with relevant companies.

Knowing that others have faced — and overcome — similar challenges can empower you to tackle your company’s diversity and inclusion strategy.

3. Make a plan

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Now that you know the lay of the land and you’ve got great ideas from other successful companies, it’s time to document your plan. Start with easy wins and then move to medium- and long-term objectives and tactics. You’ll want your plan to address any barriers that might keep diverse employees from joining or staying at your company. You can look at:

  • Hiring practices: Do your hiring policies support diverse hiring practices? Are your current employees referring diverse candidates? If you’ve been using the same recruiting approaches for a long time, it might be time to look at new ones — like advertising in online forums where diverse candidates spend time or offering internships to targeted groups. You may also want to scrutinize your hiring process and consider blind resumes and interviews.
  • Management practices: Are some of your departments or locations significantly less diverse or inclusive than others? It’s important to hold managers and leaders accountable for the environment they create for their individual teams and departments. Managers can play a huge role in creating and reinforcing diversity and inclusion by leading with sensitivity and by helping others appreciate the value of diverse teams. (If you’ve identified an issue and are looking for manager training ideas, PartnerComm can help.)
  • Cultural practices: If your culture has a clear preference for certain religious and/or political beliefs, it can deter some candidates and employees. It may be time to turn your annual Christmas party into a holiday party or make your PTO policies more flexible so they can accommodate religious and community events.

Once you’ve made a plan, don’t forget to estimate costs and set dollars aside. You may not be able to get all the funding you need in year one, but there is a strong business case for improving diversity and inclusion. State it clearly and build your stats and arguments over time. If your organization is truly committed to diversity and inclusion, you’ll need a budget to back your plan.

4. Make and state your commitment

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It’s important for employees across the organization (and prospective employees) to be aware of your commitment to diversity and inclusion. You’ll want to clearly outline your philosophy and objectives. You’ll also want to explain how diversity and inclusion tie into your overarching mission and vision.

Making your clearly stated philosophy on diversity and inclusion public can also attract new clients who are drawn to your mission.

PartnerComm has a lot of experience developing employer brands that emphasize diversity and inclusion. We can help you make it clear to prospects and employees that you value diversity and inclusion and invite all walks of life to contribute to your success.

5. Create employee resource groups

Many of our clients have powerful employee resource groups (ERGs) who help shape their environment and make diverse employees feel at home. These groups can be for employees who identify with the specific group as well as those who want to be a part of the discussions on related issues and show their support. ERGs help people with shared identities and experiences build a community.

You can support your employee resource groups by:

  • Giving them a safe space (online and in-person) to communicate and meet.
  • Helping them recruit new members. Make sure ERGs are discussed during onboarding and promoted by leadership.
  • Reaching out to them regularly to find out what workplace issues (if any) they’re concerned about.
  • Asking them for ideas that will help make your workplace more diverse and inclusive.

There’s no downside to better diversity and inclusion at your company, especially if you approach it strategically as we’ve laid out above. Your company will be strengthened and improved through a diverse set of voices and contributions, and your employees and clients will love you for it.