The Role Of The Leadership Team In Advancing DEI

24th Jul 2023

Leaders inspire their teams, create a shared sense of purpose, and drive meaningful change which encourages others to follow suit. So there’s no questioning why leadership plays one of the biggest roles in advancing DEI. 

Leaders are the ones who set the clear vision and commitment to create an inclusive culture, recruit and retain diverse talent, and create equitable policies. They measure progress, and collaborate with stakeholders to make sure that inclusivity is top of the list when it comes to hiring and recruitment. 

But DEI is a topic that leaders have a sense of fear towards, why? They don’t want to get it wrong. 

So we’re here to simplify it in an easy to follow six step process; with this knowledge you’ll be able to confidently take that leap towards being a more inclusive workplace. 

1) Set your vision 

A clear vision is key - leaders need to align their vision with the company's values and long-term objectives. It should not only include the representation of diverse individuals but also the promotion of an inclusive culture where all employees feel valued, respected, and have equal opportunities for growth and success. 

Communicate your commitment to DEI - leadership must consistently and transparently communicate their commitment to DEI. This involves sharing the rationale behind your vision, emphasising its importance, and clearly stating the expected behaviours and actions that align with it. 

Create measurable goals - leaders must translate the DEI vision into measurable goals and objectives. Set specific, achievable, and time-bound targets. These goals can include improving representation at different levels of the business, implementing bias-free hiring practices, supporting diversity though your supply chain, or promoting inclusive leadership behaviours. 

2) Build an inclusive culture

An inclusive culture starts from the top down - it all begins with leaders actively demonstrating their commitment to DEI through their actions, decisions, and interactions. You must lead by example, treating all individuals with respect and providing equal opportunities for growth and development. 

Promote open communication - whether it's through meetings, forums, or focus groups dedicated to DEI discussions. leaders should encourage open dialogue around DEI topics. Create safe spaces where employees can openly discuss their experiences, perspectives, and concerns without fear of negative consequences or judgement. 

Implement training and development - this might include diversity awareness workshops or unconscious bias training. These initiatives have the power to help employees recognise and challenge their biases, gain a deeper understanding of diverse experiences, and build empathy towards others. 

3) Recruit and retain diverse talent

Develop diverse hiring strategies -  this could include reaching out to diverse professional networks, attending diversity-focused career fairs, and utilising tools like Flexa to tap into underrepresented talent pools, just like Amplifi did to boost the diversity of their pipeline by 65%.

Implement unbiased hiring practices - this starts with removing unconscious bias from standardised assessment criteria and structured interviews. Leaders can also train hiring managers and interviewers to recognise and mitigate biases during the selection process. They can also look to actively promote diversity by encouraging the consideration of candidates from underrepresented backgrounds, leveraging diverse interview panels, blind CV screening and valuing diverse experiences and qualifications in candidate evaluation.

Create an inclusive onboarding process - once diverse talent is hired, it doesn’t end there, inclusivity follows into the onboarding process of new hires. This can involve assigning mentors or building out buddy systems to provide guidance and support, offering diversity and inclusion training during onboarding and providing networking opportunities with colleagues from diverse backgrounds. 

4) Support and develop employees

Provide equal opportunities for growth and advancement - leaders must make sure that all employees have access to opportunities for growth and advancement, regardless of background or identity. Create transparent and inclusive performance evaluation processes where promotions and career development opportunities are based on performance and potential. 

Offer mentorship for underrepresented employees - mentors provide guidance, support, and valuable insights to help employees navigate their career paths. Pairing underrepresented employees with mentors who are able to offer guidance, connect them with opportunities, and provide meaningful feedback to bridge the gap.

5) Address equity in policies and practices

Carry out regular audits of policies and practices - leaders should proactively carry out regular audits of existing policies and practices to identify any biases that may exist—taking a look into recruitment and hiring processes, performance evaluation systems, promotion criteria, and employee advancement initiatives. Reviewing these areas will allow leaders to identify biases that may contribute to inequitable outcomes. 

Promote fair compensation practices - carrying out salary analysis checks will allow leaders to identify and rectify any pay gaps that may exist based on gender, race, or other protected characteristics. A transparent and objective criteria for assessing compensation ensures that salary is based on factors such as job responsibilities, qualifications, and performance. Find out more on how to create a fair compensation package

Implement flexible work arrangements - leaders should prioritise the implementation of flexible work arrangements to support work-life balance and accommodate diverse needs. This can include options such as remote work, flexible schedules, and job sharing. And leaders should role model these behaviours by taking up the opportunity to work in ways that differ from the traditional 9-5 office environment.

6) Hold leaders accountable

Establish KPIs and measure progress - leadership teams should collaborate with stakeholders to establish clear metrics and KPIs that measure DEI progress. These metrics may include representation of underrepresented groups at different levels, employee engagement scores, diversity in leadership positions, and equitable pay ratios. 

👉 You can make use of our free handy tools to get you started, simply click below and get them sent straight to your inbox:

Accountability is a must for advancing DEI  - leaders must be held accountable for achieving DEI goals and driving change. They should be expected to provide updates on their efforts, address any challenges or barriers, and develop action plans to stay on track. 

Recognise and reward leaders who champion DEI efforts - don't forget to give kudos, everyone wants to feel valued for their hard work and progress. It also encourages other leaders to follow suit and reinforces the importance of advancing DEI as a core value and strategic priority. There are various ways you can do this, whether it be through public acknowledgement, entering awards like our own Industry Awards and the Flexa100, or a token of appreciation. 

By following the six-step process we've outlined, leaders can really make a difference in advancing DEI initiatives. Creating an inclusive culture to attract and retain top talent, tackle unfairness in policies and practices, support their awesome employees, and hold themselves accountable for progress. 

Together, these efforts will transform the workplace into a space where employees feel they belong.