Many companies, agencies, and marketing departments in the US are investing in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives after witnessing a series of high-profile acts of racial injustice in 2020 and 2021.
They want their company cultures to be more welcoming, and they want their teams to include different voices and perspectives.
That's where marketing organizations get stuck. They're often at a loss when making change happen; falling into old habits is too easy.
DEI isn't just a one-time training program or line item in a budget; it's an undertaking that involves altering behaviors and practices that fail to promote a safe and supportive environment.
Such efforts are also extremely beneficial to businesses. For one, DEI can improve an organization's fiscal health. Companies with executive teams in the top quartile for ethnic diversity are 36% more likely to be more profitable, according to a 2019 McKinsey report.
It might feel like a daunting task to step back and evaluate what needs work in your marketing agency or organization. The good news is that there are resources that can help you break down your goal into easier steps. A DEI expert can provide an outside perspective, highlight trouble spots, and push your team beyond its comfort level.
Think of DEI experts like fitness coaches. There's no single way to approach fitness because everyone has different needs. Paying someone to help you formulate a plan and hold you accountable can help your initiative go from point A to point B.
But bringing in an outside voice isn't the only way to pursue your DEI goals. Here are three other steps that can help you fully commit to your initiative and reap the benefits.
1. Learn from other companies
Your DEI journey might look different from other companies', but you can still receive guidance through inspiration and learning.
Consider the message published by Zoom CEO Eric S. Yuan. His willingness to approach a tricky subject and talk about future plans resonated with many people inside and outside the company. Yuan's frankness helped other business leaders find their own voices and start discussions.
To put it another way, you're not in this initiative alone. You shouldn't try to do it alone, even though it's tempting to put on a brave face and declare, "We're going to face this head-on." It's OK to admit you need help or additional education. Why risk having to double-back time and again?
Look for ideas, answers, and counsel beyond your own team to avoid unnecessary (and costly) oversights.
2. Establish a mission statement
Look at these two statements: "I want to be more fit" versus "I want to lose 15 pounds in six months." Which seems more achievable?
The second one is more specific, and it establishes guidelines for the goal. That's the power of setting a mission and attendant goals.
You need to set similar guidelines for your DEI initiative. What is your mission statement? Rather than being broad or vague, specify what you're trying to accomplish.
Need an example? Head over to look at Salesforce's equality data. The company's goal is for underrepresented groups to make up 50% of its workforce by 2023. Right now, those groups make up 47.4%. You can see at a glance how far the company has come and how close it is to reaching its goal.
Even if you don't publish your own DEI initiatives publicly, you need a mission statement that's shared among your team, and make sure everyone knows what the goal is.
3. Keep asking questions
At the heart of DEI lies a big, awkward word: change. The only way to spark change is to challenge the old ways of doing things. How do you do that? Ask questions.
Say you always choose the same vendor for an outsourced task. Why? Because you went to college and formed a relationship with that vendor's founder. Could you form a relationship with another vendor that could fulfill your DEI mission?
By asking more questions, you can break down unconscious bias and stop accepting things the way they are.
As you question, dig into your industry. For example, most marketing professionals are white women. You could accept that fact, or you could start digging deeper. Do underrepresented groups know about opportunities in the industry? Can you recruit more college students from diverse communities for internships? Is there a career fair designed for those communities that you could attend?
Your efforts in this area might start slow, but they could lead to significant outcomes over time.
Don't be afraid to ask questions, go against the status quo, and pursue outside-the-box solutions.
* * *
The biggest mistake you can make regarding DEI initiatives is thinking of them as one-off goals. If you attempt to do everything at once, your initiative will fail.
Instead, reach out for support, learn from others, establish guidelines, and challenge the status quo. You'll not only reap the benefits of a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace but also help the business world change for the better.
More Resources on DEI Initiatives
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