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As the old saying goes, “what is measured is done.” Historically, the challenge with diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) has been that it is seen as a “nice to have” versus a “must-have” with few concrete goals to measure progress. In reality, McKinsey research found that organizations often overburden those marginalized groups to lead DEI work without additional compensation.
That trend is changing as more companies link compensation to DEI work. According to the Association for Human Resource Management, between September 2017-18, 51 companies in the S&P 500 have included a diversity metric in their rewards program. Between February 2020-21, that number had nearly doubled to 99 companies.
By rewarding DEI’s work, these organizations achieve results. When people know it’s related to their pay and performance goals, people see it as a part of their job rather than a hobby outside of work hours. With goals, employees are more likely to prioritize time spent on education and activities to drive awareness and systemic change.
Related: 5 Reasons Why Leaders Fail to Turn DEI Rhetoric into Action
Why set DEI goals?
Goals are essential for human motivation. The Psychological bulletin found that 90% of studies showed that more challenging goals lead to higher performance. Research has shown that people are two to three times more likely to stick to their goals if they create a specific plan for when, where, and how they will perform the behavior. The human brain is wired for purpose.
Goals don’t work without accountability. It is essential to set DEI goals that are as important as any other goal setting process in business, but there can be setbacks initially, as is often the case with organizational change. Watch out for these opportunities to advocate for DEI goal setting:
- DEI is not a zero sum game. By focusing on diversity goals, we increase opportunities for innovation and decision-making in business outcomes.
- The majority group is part of the solution, not the problem. Decision makers should prioritize DEI for their decisions to support diversity.
- DEI is not political. These are human problems that affect people in the workplace.
The initial pushback can create drama. The more the leadership team emphasizes the importance of diversity and inclusion and how it aligns with the overall strategy of the organization, the more people are committed. People often need a starting point for goal setting.
Related: 4 Trackable Stats to Move the Needle on Diversity & Inclusion Goals
How to set DEI goals
You may think this sounds difficult. Decades of inequality in the workplace will not be solved overnight. But with specific goals, people understand expectations and adjust their behavior to be more inclusive. Goal setting requires specificity, numerical measurements, ambition, relevance and a deadline.
- Specifically: It should be easy to know when the goal has been reached.
- Measurable: A number or percentage is associated with the target.
- Ambitious: By definition, targets are not met today, it should be a challenge based on the current state.
- Relevant: The individual can influence the outcome of the goal.
- Time-bound: Without a deadline, things don’t get done.
Making DEI goals SMART helps employees understand expectations and are held accountable. Without goals or with vague goals, employees are left wondering why it’s important or how they can show progress. Set DEI goals often with pushback (as with any change).
Here are some startup goals to consider:
- Number of hours of diversity education and training
- Participation in Employee Resource Group (ERG) activities
- Activities to support the elimination of bias in hiring, hiring, promotion, compensation and performance decisions
- Include team member behavior 360 data
- Leadership roles in DEI and ERG teams
- Participation in community events for DEI
- Lesson time with others about DEI
- Recognition from others of alliance
Related: Want Your Employees to Stay? Be responsible for your DEI goals
As with any goal, it makes it easier to think about how it fits into what people are already doing. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits sums it up best: “You don’t rise to the level of your goals. You descend to the level of your systems.”
The bottom line: Weave DEI into everyday tasks and embed it in how people already live personally and professionally. Break the daunting goal into small steps with incremental activities throughout the year to support it.
Here are some themes to keep in mind to prepare your organization for DEI goals:
- It’s a journey, not a destinationn: Set reasonable goals and targets to close the gaps in talent, salary, and education.
- Make it part of the show: Set KPIs for employees to work on DEI, otherwise it’s just a “nice to have” versus a “must have”.
- Engage senior leadership in a consistent, deliberate set of actions throughout the year: This should be a part of every employee meeting and core activity.
- Measuring progress: Look beyond representation figures and dig into attitudes/perceptions holistically.
- Take education to the next level: Move beyond awareness to tangible activities that employees can take action on, such as addressing system bias and accountability.
DEI targets should be part of a bigger DEI picture. Providing tools and systems to help people hold themselves accountable is critical. By focusing on DEI goals, organizations increase their chances of long-term success with DEI – and by investing and prioritizing now, they remain relevant to future customers and employees.