Part 3: Setting Diversity and Inclusion Goals

*Editor’s note: Download our full Diversity and Inclusion Handbook for more than 70 pages of tangible strategies to help you cultivate diversity and inclusion on your team, including diversity goals and objectives.

We believe passionately that diverse and inclusive companies make for more innovative, engaged, and happy teams, and we speak with forward-thinking talent leaders all the time who feel the same. We’re writing this series on how to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace because people are ready for the next level of discourse around diversity and inclusion; one aimed at actual solutions. In it, you’ll find tactical advice, beneficial resources, and examples of what companies are doing today to make real progress in diversity and inclusion. Read our series introduction to see what we cover throughout the series. 

Understanding what diversity means at your company is a hard task; taking that one step further by creating diversity goals can feel impossible. Without goals, your company could be floating around in the nebulous cloud of “needs improvement” without a real idea of what needs to change. Creating specific goals for diversity and inclusion can mean a variety of things – they can be a demographic that you are looking to increase or a change in process. Or these D&I goals can mean a complete overhaul of your values or a change in hiring strategies.  

Diversity and Inclusion Goals

Needless to say, there are many directions  you can go, but in the last few years, we’ve seen large tech companies focus on hard numbers when it comes diversity goal setting. Several companies have committed  to releasing their diversity stats in an effort to keep their demographics and efforts transparent. What follows, however,  is lot of pressure to focus on percentages, as well as disappointment when progress is slower (or less effective) than you’d hoped.

With the work I’ve done at Lever and with the progress I’ve seen at other companies, it’s not about the percentages. The key to driving results in workplace diversity lies in uncovering your employees’ passion points, channeling initial efforts toward those, and setting attainable diversity goals to match.

Take inspiration from the circumstances unique to your org. What is most relevant to your team may vary depending on your company size and industry, and factors that inflect diversity – like specific departments, seniority (individual contributors vs. management), and type of diversity (gender, ethnicity, background, disabilities and more).

With that in mind, here are five steps to get you started with diversity and inclusion goal setting.

Identify passion points for diversity goal setting

There’s no better way to find out what’s on your workforce’s minds than by asking them directly.  Our very first diversity and inclusion goals came straight from the ideas and experiences – both inspirational and horrifying – of our employees. One of our early diversity goals focused on interviewer calibration to ensure that there were no limitations to opportunities at Lever based on education. We quickly stopped adding an education requirement to our job postings are started focusing on what tangible skills we needed to see in new Leveroos. Another goal early on was to ensure that Lever was a place that women felt like they could thrive in. We focused intensely on ensuring that all office chores were equal and that it wasn’t always the women at Lever taking notes in meetings or cleaning up messes.

In the early days, it was easy. Now that we’re larger, we run surveys to preserve the direct influence of employees on our corporate diversity goals and initiatives. We want to ensure that we’re constantly working on things that our employees care about and are investing in, thus keeping them an integral part of our diversity journey. We use CultureIQ to administer our surveys but really any software (CultureAmp, SurveyMonkey) will do. You want to be sure to add questions that you actually want answers to. If you’re looking for self-identified demographics, be sure to add them early in your survey and be mindful of the language that you use. It can be very easy to offend someone if you don’t accurately represent the groups that you’re looking to discover. If you’re looking specifically for employee engagement, ask open ended questions and read the answers thoroughly. For example asking an open ended question like “I believe that my company is a safe and inclusive place to work for me” — can give you an idea of the environment that you’ve created and how your employees feel about it. It can also flag whether or not there are resources that you might be missing in the workplace.

For more guidance, download our example survey for setting your diversity and inclusion goals.

If there are barriers to doing a company-wide survey, start small. Add a few diversity-specific questions to a broader employee engagement survey that is already planned to go out, find relevant internal email groups to send it to, or work with a single department or team. You can even set up a shortlink or QR code to the survey and advertise – with flyers or signs – the option to participate wherever people at your company congregate, like your break tables or cafeteria. If you’re worried about perception, make your survey anonymous. Give your employees the freedom to express themselves without fear of judgement.

Analyze performance of workplace diversity objectives

When you get the results back, look for trends. Which areas are receiving a lot of attention, what are some specific gripes or praises? What’s missing altogether that you expected to see? These results are going to be your north star, treat them as such. Use the data to guide you in the direction you think your diversity efforts need to go.

Are you hearing a lot about a lack of resources? Are your employees hungry for more ways to help but aren’t sure how? That could be an opportunity for education, more employee resource groups or sensitivity trainings. The idea is to take these results and turn them into actionable next steps visible to your leaders and employees.

Set goals and deadlines

Fewer things are more slow to boil than hiring, so you don’t have to go for “hiring for more diversity” immediately. Instead, you might want to start with diversity goals that have faster turnaround times. Goals that show impact and early wins can help you increase support and buy-in. And no matter what other companies are doing or bloggers are talking about, don’t work on a problem that your people don’t have a connection to.

“Go where the energy is”
– Lisa Lee, Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Giving at  Pandora
(in talking about taking ideas from your employees about diversity and inclusion)

Once you set your diversity and inclusion goals, share them with your employees and make them known; this will make you accountable but will also keep your team looped in to what you are working on and what is top of mind. It will also give them the chance to weigh in or lend a hand to help where they think that they can. This will make your wins their wins, too.

Most importantly, set a deadline for your diversity goals. If you’re endlessly plugging away at a single, seemingly unreachable goal – i.e. reaching 50 percent women on your engineering team – then you may miss the chance to actually reflect and assess how you’ve done, whether you had the right strategy, and whether you had the right goal to begin with. Set a deadline with every goal to make sure you ask yourself these questions.

Here are other diversity goal examples:

  • Percentage of employees to submit responses in an initial benchmark survey
  • Number of internal events/trainings with a target number of attendees
  • Number of diverse candidates in your pipeline, or interviewed for a role
  • Number of blog posts about your culture written by current employees
  • Number of job descriptions overhauled for inclusive language

Understand diversity goal performance

Lots of demographic goals are hard to measure, especially if you’re starting from scratch.  Many people over-focalize on the lack of infrastructure – like methodical surveys, EEO collection on your job applications, surveying of candidates, access to dashboards and reporting from your ATS or HRIS – and get stuck as a result. But if you want to go with goals that focus on the makeup of your company, make sure you know where you stand today, so you can point to the delta. It might be a great initial goal to actually get the benchmark in place first!

Diversity goals that require less existing infrastructure are always an option. Create a regular dialogue on a variety of diversity and inclusion topics. Spark debates on the more controversial issues at hand. Host “lightning talks” giving employees the room to share their own passions in the space. There are ways to make these more measurable and concrete, such as to commit to a certain number of meetings in a quarter or aim for a particular number of attendees.  One nice thing about setting a goal around creating a real-world event: it’s easy to know if you’ve done it!

Speak to your wins and your opportunities

Once you know where you stand with your goals share a post-mortem. Tell your team what your big wins were, share things you found that surprised you and celebrate with them.  On the other side, own when you fall short or took the wrong direction. Just as important as it is to celebrate the wins it’s important to understand the opportunities or missteps. While intimidating, owning a failure and explaining in detail what you would have done differently or where you think there were gaps will show real vulnerability. This work is human, it’s not meant to be flawless or perfect and requires constant trial and error and iteration.

Conclusion: Diversity and Inclusion Goals

As your workplace diversity program matures, you’ll probably want to set some goals around the demographics of your company, but remember to keep them attainable. If you’re not ready for demographic goals yet, your goals can hinge upon any of your efforts to make your company culture more inclusive, because ultimately, your inclusive foundations are what will enable you to achieve success with diversity hiring. For more goals inspiration, check out our blog post with 50+ ideas on fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace.

For more, read our next post on getting company-wide buy-in, and download our Diversity & Inclusion Handbook for hundreds of impactful tactics like the ones above.