How to Make Diversity Goals Fit Your Organization

June 17, 2021
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Author: Lisa Bascom

If your organization is one of the many that care deeply about actively improving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), you may have worked on setting goals or are ready to take that step. Perhaps you have a goal to grow the percentage of your Black employee base to 12% or to increase the number of women on your management team by 5% next year. How do you best establish and assess these goals?

Carefully consider the ethnic mix of your local population and workforce when setting DEI goals.

Guidelines for Setting “Good” Diversity Goals

These steps provide essential guidance, whether you are establishing diversity goals for your organization for the first time or are re-evaluating existing DEI goals.

Step 1: Assess EEOC & Local Compliance

The U.S. standard for diversity is set by laws which make it illegal to discriminate against employees and applicants. All employers must legally provide equal pay for equal work. The familiar list of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age and reporting requirements begins to apply when an organization has as few as 15 employees.

These laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and set the bare minimum for all U.S. businesses. State and local laws may also apply. So, what, if anything, is your business doing to comply with current regulations? Once you've established that your company is in compliance, you’re ready to focus on increasing diversity initiatives.

Step 2: Document Employees by EEOC Categories

If you haven’t already, document your current employees as it relates to the various anti-discrimination EEOC categories. This point-in-time representation sets a critical data baseline, upon which you will be able to successfully build reasonable, attainable, data-based DEI goals that work for your organization.

Step 3: Research Local Labor Market Diversity

The next step is to identify the labor market’s diversity makeup in your local area. When you have a single location, this is straightforward. For example, in Akron, Ohio, the ethnic makeup of the population is 3% Asian, 13% Black, 2% Hispanic, and 80% White. Women make up just over half of the population at 51%, consistent with national figures.

In Akron, about 68% of men and 59% of women participated in the labor force in 2020, and women earned only 45% to 69% of what men earned with the same education level.

Forecasted trends for the Akron labor force predict a decline in unemployment for men and women and future workforce growth will come from international migration versus internal U.S. migration or organic growth.

Complexity arises when your organization has multiple locations or when your workforce is primarily remote. Let’s assume your organization has three locations in the U.S.: Akron, Dallas and San Antonio.

Population by Ethnicity for Diversity Initiatives

Step 4: Compare Employees to Local Diversity

Now you have the data to objectively see how your company represents your community’s ethnic distribution, gender participation and age population. Of course, there are many other angles to diversity; the point of this step is to compare those that can be objectively measured. Matching the local community within your employee set represents equal opportunity and diversity – it leaves no group behind. Look for and document any gaps between your employees and location statistics.

Step 5: Making the “Good” Decision

Focus your efforts on these representation gaps to improve diversity based on solid data that can be easily understood and defended.

• If you have a single location, set goals to bring your organization closer to the makeup of your local population.

• If you have multiple locations and/or many remote employees, study your situation carefully before deciding whether your goals will be made on a per-location basis, a broader organizational basis or even a national basis. As you can see from the Akron-Dallas-San Antonio model, diversity can vary significantly across cities, affecting the talent pool available to meet your goals.

• In all cases, you must take into account that DEI is not just a hiring quota effort. Once you onboard any employee, creating an inclusive and welcoming environment and providing equitable pay, skills development and advancement opportunities will be essential to maintaining a diverse and equitable organization and for retaining talent. Now is the time to address goals related to these aspects of employment; requesting employee and manager input can be very helpful in understanding specific concerns and generating employee buy-in.

Base your goals on solid, timely data, rather than relying on a generic formula that may not consider your local workforce. To this end, a reliable talent intelligence tool like LaborIQ could turn an otherwise onerous project into quick work by consolidating labor force data and labor market forecasting and for staying on top of employment conditions and workforce shifts over time.

Step 6: Rinse and Repeat

You now have established guidelines for setting diversity goals that reflect your local workforce. Set a regular timeframe to repeat steps one through five, to maintain awareness of changes in the law that could affect your legal compliance, to track changes in your workforce and community and to adjust your DEI goals accordingly. Be sure to celebrate each incremental success!

Are You Ready to Diversify Your Recruitment Strategy?

However you choose to do the important work of setting DEI goals, the business need for diversity won't go away. Incorporating “good” diversity into your talent strategy can help create a workforce that positively impacts a company’s bottom line.

Help your organization hire fairly, employ and reflect your community, and your organization will thrive from a variety of perspectives and experiences that increase productivity and innovation.

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Is Your Recruiting Strategy Biased?