Companies are following these principles to improve DEI initiatives


It has been nearly a year since the tragic killing of George Floyd sent the United States into a racial reckoning that forced companies to be held accountable for their low diversity rates. Conversations about systemic racism and lack of access were being discussed head on and with transparency. 

With the advertising industry already employing teams that are less than 26% diverse — according to a recent report by the 4As — and with most of those diverse employees associating with non-management, administrative or entry level positions, the calls for inclusion of BIPOC talent at leadership levels have been heard throughout the industry.

With increased pressure from stakeholders, companies acted quickly. They appointed diversity, equity and inclusion leads, created new programming focused on inclusive and safe spaces for employees, organized employee resource groups, worked with external partners to recruit diverse talent and more. But, approximately one year later, how are companies accurately measuring the impact that these changes have made?

Putting a lens on organizations at Fortune 500 companies — from nonprofits to startups — there are identifiable strategies at work, and they’re designed to help recruit and retain diverse talent. What follows are three DEI principles companies have implemented over the past year that have impacted and propelled their internal initiatives. 

Successful DEI practices start with listening to teams 

It is important for organizations to start with an internal assessment that analyzes the sense of belonging that current employees feel. Without that, companies could essentially be bringing new BIPOC employees into environments where they stand to fail. 

By listening to their teams, companies can take accountability for their shortcomings, ensure everyone from leadership to entry level are on the same page about their goals and work to create internal environments that advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Partner with external experts to lead initiatives and trainings 

While it’s easy for companies to appoint an internal employee as the leader of their DEI initiatives, it often means adding additional work to that individual’s day-to-day tasks, typically without additional compensation. This approach often leads to burnout — there may be high initial interest in getting things done, but eventually that interest and execution trails off as other business-related tasks and deadlines emerge. 

By bringing in external experts, however, companies are creating safer spaces by allowing third-party guidance to lead more intimate conversations. This potentially eliminates an employee’s fear of persecution for speaking up about their real-life experiences or those witnessed within the company. And it removes the burden of a DEI training on a member of the team who is not adequately trained to manage those conversations.

Drive successful DEI programs with data

Without measuring where a company stands, how can it know where to go?

Companies that are turning to data and making accurate assessments about where their DEI practices stand are able to further define partnerships that lead to an increase in overall diversity. They are measuring diversity across the entire recruitment process and employment levels, then adjusting based on the insights that emerge. 

For those companies that do not see enough BIPOC talent applying for the roles, they can then partner with diversity-focused job boards to increase brand awareness. For those that don’t see BIPOC employees advancing internally, the opportunity arises to work with organizations on issues of unconscious bias and development training — all geared toward developing and advancing diverse talent. 

If companies are struggling to assess how far they have come over the past year, it is never too late to pause and revamp strategies, starting with these three principles. Auditing in this way is crucial to success: Companies that have a stronger understanding of where they are on the DEI path will be the ones that reach their goals faster.

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