AltoPartners Guide to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Back to Basics

March 16, 2023 Share this article:

DE&I Back to Basics

Whether you’re starting out on this journey or simply under pressure from regulators, shareholders and investors to do better, here’s a checklist to kick start or re-invigorate a stalled DE&I plan.

  1. Be clear about the problem you are trying to fix: In our experience, DE&I initiatives based purely on a need to be compliant generally aren’t sustainable. People are motivated by big, purpose-driven ideas that inspire everyone to be and do better. The act of getting your key decision-makers and influencers around a (virtual) table to drill down to the why it is necessary to, for example, close the Black tech talent gap, or entice women back to work, creates a narrative and a purpose that serves as jet fuel for the how.

  2. Assess your current state: Analyse the current composition of your workforce, including the representation of different groups and their experiences within the organisation. If you have previously made DE&I hires only to have them poached by a competitor or leave, it’s worth examining the work environment for any cultural or structural barriers preventing people from fitting in. Employee resource groups and employee surveys can assist with this. Exit interviews are also a useful tool to uncover disconnects between intention and execution.

  3. Define your goals: Based on your assessment, identify the areas where your organisation needs to improve to attract the voices that are missing or under-represented. Set clear and measurable goals for DE&I, such as increasing the representation of underrepresented groups, reducing bias and discrimination, and promoting an inclusive culture.

  4. Develop strategies and tactics to achieve your goals: Consider increasing recruitment efforts in underrepresented communities; sensitising hiring managers, HR professionals and talent acquisition teams on managing hiring biases; creating diverse interview panels; implementing training programmes to reduce unconscious bias among co-workers; setting up employee resource groups to support marginalised communities; implementing returnship programmes (including upskilling) to encourage people who may have taken time off for caregiving responsibilities to pick up where they left off; and addressing issues identified through employee surveys and ERGs that make people feel alienated or excluded.

  5. Benchmark your salary and employee benefits: Top DE&I candidates are scarce and tend to be in demand. Offering a competitive package, especially if coupled with an inclusive and welcoming work environment, will help to attract and retain top DE&I talent. Consider too, the appeal of flexible hours, wellness programmes and hybrid working options.

  6. Assign responsibilities: Identify individuals or teams responsible for executing each initiative and establish timelines and metrics to monitor progress. But don’t give it to anyone who views it as a burden. When it comes to transformation, advises Liz Hilton Segel, McKinsey’s chief client officer and managing partner of global industry practices, “task someone who is energised by ideas and big aspirations.”

  7. Engage employees and stakeholders: Your comms team are your DE&I secret weapon and should be actively engaged in the execution of the DE&I strategy, alongside HR and legal. They play a key role in testing key messages, crafting compelling narratives and identifying platforms to reach target audiences, thereby creating buy-in and ownership among your workforce.

  8. Train: Battling bias in the workplace takes a commitment to conscious inclusion. Maureen Alphonse-Charles, Senior Vice President of Talent, Diversity and Equity, Diversified Search Group / Koya Partners, a member of AltoPartners, advises that all employees receive training on DE&I topics, including unconscious bias, cultural competency, and inclusive leadership.

  9. Monitor and measure progress: Schedule time to interrogate results, and don’t just look at the numbers as they won’t tell you why people are leaving or not accepting your offers.

  10. Hold managers accountable: Involve managers in setting diversity goals by framing it as a leadership challenge and an enabler of enhanced business performance, and then hold them accountable. This comes with a big caveat, however: Don’t set managers up for failure. If you haven’t done the hard work and created an enabling environment, chances are all you’re going to get are excuses.

Maureen Alphonse-Charles
Managing Director, Executive Search AltoPartners Boston
Related Practice

Leadership Consulting