5 strategies for creating an inclusive workplace

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (commonly referred to as DEI) is a hot topic in many circles and industries. However, if the interest in DEI does not translate to actual action, it has little value. As diversity and inclusion initiatives increase, it has become increasingly important to evaluate whether companies are actually turning those ideas into actions. 

As part of its 2022 DEI Intentions vs. Actions report, Salary.com surveyed 629 human resources professionals in US organizations across 21 different industries to understand how companies are working to create a diverse and inclusive workplace. The report found a -5.8% gap between what companies intend to do when it comes to addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion and what they are actually doing in order to improve their DEI efforts in the workplace. This gap has decreased from -7% in 2021, which means that companies are making progress. However, that does not necessarily mean that companies are providing the full initiatives they need in order to address common issues related to diversity. In this post, we’ll look at five strategies outlined in the report for creating an inclusive workplace. 

Diversity and inclusion efforts in the workplace are improving, but more can be done  

Many companies are increasing their efforts to improve DEI as they realize just how much it matters. However, there are still concerns that must be addressed before reaching effective goals and truly demonstrating that essential commitment to diversity and inclusion across the organization. Even though 65% of respondents said they have proactive initiatives in place that demonstrate diversity is a strategic mission for their organization, that still leaves 35% who do not have programs in place. Furthermore, 90% want to promote a culture where employees feel supported and can speak up when needed, a little less than three-quarters of those respondents either agree or strongly agree that those employees are actually able to feel confident in expressing themselves. 

Less than half of respondents (49%) indicated that they have a specific individual within their organizations to lead DEI initiatives, up from 43% in 2021. In addition, more than half of organizations (51%) provide that individual with access to senior leadership and the financial resources needed to achieve those critical goals. 

How to create a diverse and inclusive workplace   

HR respondents identified five strategies for creating an inclusive workplace, each tacking areas that their organizations need to improve in order to make their DEI initiatives more meaningful. 

Leadership diversity in the boardroom  

Boardrooms and executive teams, now more than ever, need to diversify their leaders. While about 46% of those who answered the survey said they had a diverse executive team—compared to 40% of those who answered the survey in 2021—only one-third stated having a diverse board of directors. That lack of diversity can feed into the workplace, making many people feel as though they are underrepresented or not appreciated. Furthermore, a lack of diversity on the board of directors may make it seem as though the organization is not fully dedicated to diversity and inclusion. By committing to placing diverse individuals, including women and BIPOC, in positions of power, it's possible to better showcase the organization's commitment to diversity and inclusion and reap the benefits of those initiatives at a higher level.  

Recruiting and hiring from a diverse talent pool 

43 organizations that responded to the survey stated that improving their hiring and recruitment process was a top priority. They also felt that deliberately hiring with a focus on diversity and inclusion was a gateway to removing any other barriers to their DEI strategies and goals. In most cases, that starts with expanding the candidate pool, with a focus on representation for women and BIPOC employees. In addition, they want to pay careful attention to moving those individuals into management and executive leadership positions as they evaluate their diversity and inclusion programs in the workplace. 

DEI training and education 

Around 14% of organizations surveyed noted that they needed to improve their overall communication efforts. In order for diversity and inclusion initiatives to spread throughout the organization, it's important to ensure that those DEI goals are communicated effectively. That may mean: 

  • Formalized practices and DEI requirements
  • Ongoing DEI training options that are available to all members of the organization, including managers and senior leaders 
  • Clear policies and procedures

Data tracking diversity and inclusion initiatives 

Reaching DEI goals requires establishing and tracking metrics to see how the organization continues to perform over time. A small but growing number of respondents (10%) said they want to develop metrics for progress and accountability, including: 

  • Creating DEI committees 
  • Building DEI data dashboards 
  • Establishing DEI policy review cycles  

Most respondents noted that they did not have much, if anything, already in place to monitor their progress in diversity, ethics, and inclusion.  

Prioritizing diversity and inclusion program ideas 

If diversity and inclusion is truly important to an organization, it needs to be prioritized throughout its culture and operations. Having a dedicated Diversity Leader is still seen as a priority among respondents for moving the needle on diversity and inclusion program ideas. Organizations also spoke about improving the investment of time, resources, and budget to DEI goals and initiatives in the workplace. 

Top DEI goals for 2022 and beyond  

HR respondents shared that having tangible goals around DEI is a priority. These goals include:   

  • Creating a DEI committee/advisory board  
  • Increasing DEI knowledge, education, and understanding through clear policies, procedures, trainings, mentorship programs, etc.  
  • Assessing pay equity  

 While it sounds great to say that DEI is a priority, laying out tangible goals can help organizations better position themselves to manage their diversity and inclusion initiatives.  

The key takeaway  

If your organization is wondering how to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, you need to start with a DEI strategy that goes beyond the basics—a program that sustains a conversation beyond one-time training.  LRN's DEI curriculum (which you can access for free here) is just one part of a comprehensive and inspiring DEI program to help create more empathy at work. It includes a sample one-year learning timeline featuring crucial DEI topics, examples of how to incorporate multi-modal campaign assets into your learning plan, and an overview of campaign assets outside of training to incorporate into your DEI program.