By Linda Devonish – Mills, CAE, CPA, CMA, MBA, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Consultant
Strategic planning is a process where organizations define its strategy, direction and its decisions with a long-term view of where it wants to be. Strategic planning is the job of the senior management of any organization.
Can Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs be successfully implemented if they are not aligned with a strategic plan? It’s possible but the outcomes would be equivalent to a cruise liner ship sailing at sea without a roadmap or itinerary. Some organizations make the mistake of not developing a strategic plan for DEI programs, thinking that an overall plan for the organization is sufficient. However, it is important to drill down and create specific plans for programs.
Successful implementation of DEI programs without alignment to a strategic plan would be short – term if an organization does not follow the steps of development, research, planning, and execution of ideas. Strategic plans for DEI programs can be created and presented as part of an organization’s overall strategic plan. Presentation of a separate plan can provide a perception among an organization’s stakeholders that the development of DEI programs are priorities to the organization.
Strategic planning involves many steps. It includes setting the goals for the organization, finalizing the action points that need to be done to achieve those goals and mobilizing the resources required to complete the actions. Therefore, strategic planning involves both formulation of the strategy and defining its implementation. Strategic planning helps a company in articulating its goals and prepare a roadmap for achieving the goals. It outlines specific and measurable goals for the company. This is its main purpose.
The most difficult aspect of developing a DEI strategic plan is to determine how many goals an organization wants to achieve within a 1 – 5 – year plan. It probably is best to focus on no more than 3 – 5 goals to ensure success with achievement. Most organizations don’t have long – term histories with successful implementation of DEI programs. As a result, the best approach for organizations to take are baby steps, achieving goals that are in alignment with the number of resources available to execute DEI programs.
Why is it important to conduct research prior to developing DEI strategic plans? Similar to overarching plans, it’s best for organizations to conduct research to identify barriers that may exist that would prevent an organization to move forward with a DEI strategic plan.
The first research step that senior leaders responsible for developing DEI strategic plans should take is connecting with internal and external stakeholders that would be impacted by DEI programs. Internal stakeholders are usually staff while external stakeholders are usually Board Directors and vendors. Non – profit membership organizations have to connect with its membership base as stakeholders as programs should be developed to cater to their needs.
Connections with stakeholders can be done through surveys and/or focus groups. The importance of connecting with stakeholders is to ensure that DEI programs developed would meet their needs General inquiries to stakeholders about what DEI means to them would be insightful on what direction an organization should go with DEI programs.
What is the purpose of an environmental scan? It is another source of identifying global barriers that would prevent an organization from implementing successful DEI programs. An essential component of an environmental scan is a STEEP analysis that identifies barriers in the areas of socio – cultural, technology, economics, environment and politics.
The next logical step for senior leaders at organizations to take once a strategic plan is created and approved by its Board of Directors is to revise or create documents that should refer to DEI language. Documents that should include such language are mission, vision, and commitment statements. They are the documents that should be in alignment with goals and objectives outlined in a strategic plan. A great example of a commitment statement issued by an organization is from Stanley Black and Decker:
To be engaged, you must feel included and valued. We strive to build and nurture a culture where inclusiveness is a reflex, not an initiative. Where there is a deep sense of pride, passion and belonging that transcends any role, business unit, language or country and is unified in our shared commitment to excellence, innovation and social responsibility.
We know through experience that different ideas, perspectives and backgrounds create a stronger and more creative work environment that delivers better results. To support an inclusive environment where employees feel empowered to share their experiences and ideas, we’ve encouraged the creation of a variety of Employee Resource Groups, including groups for Women, Veterans, LGTBQ (Pride & Allies), African Ancestry, Developing Professionals and more.
Organizations can move forward with successful implementation of DEI initiatives once strategic plans are approved and pertinent documents to support a strategy have been created. DEI initiatives should be purposeful, competent, and advanced.
Initiatives that are considered to be responsive to concepts of DEI and realize its impact on an organization’s mission are considered to be purposeful. Common initiatives include leadership buy-in and training, increased DEI skills-based employee training, policy examination, increased strategic communication, increased engagement opportunity for staff, and beginning steps to effectively include diversity in business processes.
Initiatives that integrate DEI concepts into business operations to increase the return on investment are considered as competent. Common initiatives include increased DEI planning, human resources management and evaluation, examination of informal work processes and policies, identification and removal of barriers to DEI, information technology integration, formalized engagement for staff, and formalizing prioritization of diversity into business processes.
Initiatives that fully incorporate DEI concepts into an organization’s business practices and mission are considered to be advanced. Common initiatives include demonstration of measurable success for return on investment in both products and human capital, incorporation of DEI in communication and informal policy, and continued development and measurement of strategic DEI initiatives for future growth and improvement.
Should there be a specific timeline for implementation of DEI initiatives? Yes, but under a continuum for initiatives to be presented as reoccurring.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for DEI initiatives should be attainable. It is best to use the SMART goal approach to determine relevant KPIs:
Refine your KPIs to give you the best information about your progress.
KPIs should be measured frequently enough to help you stay on track. “Frequently” for measuring DEI initiatives is probably 3 – 6 months since it takes longer to progress with such initiatives.
The senior leader of an organization that oversees DEI initiatives, usually a Chief Diversity Officer, is responsible for utilizing KPIs to measure progress.
Rather than being relevant to your “why”, KPIs should be directly connected to goals. This should be easy if goals are sufficiently specific.
In addition to deadlines, organizations should build milestones into KPIs to stay on track.
When smart goals are paired with smart KPIs, it provides direction and the tools to keep organizations on the path to success with execution of DEI initiatives.
DEI initiatives are usually broken down into three categories; workforce, workplace, and supplier diversity. Questions should be raised by the Chief Diversity Officer of an organization using the SMART goal approach to determine what KPIs should be used as benchmarks to determine progress and success in each area.
Initiatives in this area relate to talent acquisition strategies that should result in a diverse leadership pipeline. Questions to ask to determine KPIs in this area include:
Initiatives in this area usually relate to organizations’ attempts to establish inclusive environments in the workplace. Questions to ask to determine KPIs in this area include:
The most important question that should be addressed in this area is if an organization’s DEI initiative is extended to supplier diversity. In this area, it is important to identify the steps taken to measure progress. Here are examples of steps that should be taken to measure progress with supplier diversity:
Overall, DEI strategic plans should be developed and executed as seriously and carefully as organizations’ general strategic plans. A periodic review of DEI strategic plan should be done periodically to determine relevancy. Any changes in DEI strategic plans should be shared with an organization’s stakeholders such as its Board of Directors and staff.
Our hands-on diversity recruiters have deep experience working with private, public, pre-IPO, and non-profit organizations. Clients are typically $50 million in revenue to Fortune 1000’s or have assets between $500 million to $15 billion. Successful placements span the entire C-Suite – CEO, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, and include vice president, general counsel, and other director-level leadership roles.
Discover more about executive diversity search — and find out why Cowen Partners is a leader among the nation’s best diversity and inclusion executive search firms in New York City, Anchorage, Miami, Boston, Denver, Chicago, St. Louis, Las Vegas, Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego, and beyond: