If you are a C-level executive, and leaders in your organization have made the decision to pursue diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts to drive necessary cultural changes in your workplace environment, know that success in these efforts will ultimately be determined by whether these companies have “buy-in” from employees at every level, especially C-level executives like you. Here are five ways that CEOs, CIOs, COOs, CHROs, and CFOs—in fact, the entire C-suite—can help “steer the ship” as their organizations navigate the waters of DEI.
1) Be “The Face” of an Organization’s DEI Efforts
When communicating any new initiatives, C-level executives are in a unique position to set the tone for the whole company. Communications delivered directly from a CEO—versus impersonal reports from Human Resources—will therefore hold much more weight and meaning. For example, including information about the DEI efforts in your monthly email letters to employees and shareholders, and sharing your enthusiasm and passion for these initiatives at company meetings, can go a long way toward encouraging everyone to get involved.
2) Make the Business Case for DEI
Depending on the size of your organization, C-level executives may not be involved in the hiring process. You can show those who do the hiring the overwhelming evidence that businesses who prioritize DEI see returns in the form of increased productivity, profits, employee engagement, and employee retention. You could also make the business case for DEI to shareholders, who will not only see the ROI in their assets, but in the security of knowing that your organization is taking critical steps to strengthen and maintain its reputation in the eyes of the public.
3) Engage with DEI on Every Level
Another crucial component in attaining buy-in from everyone in your organization is to participate in DEI-focused conversations—and receive feedback—from every level of employee, from interns to leaders. This “ground floor” engagement is vital because it shows employees that you are personally invested in DEI efforts. It also demonstrates that you are willing to listen and make necessary changes to support an inclusive workplace for all.
4) Share Your Personal Connection with DEI
Sharing personal experiences with DEI can prove invaluable, both in creating a connection between you and others in your organization and in emphasizing your commitment to championing DEI efforts. Perhaps you or your loved ones have been affected by discrimination. Where it is appropriate, don’t be afraid to share your story. Even if you have not personally experienced discrimination, create a “safe space” for others in your organization to share their experiences.
5) Show Potential Candidates that DEI in the Workplace Starts at the Top
As a part of diversity talent acquisition efforts, C-level executives can show candidates that DEI is a priority in the highest levels of the company. One idea: create a “welcome” video for your organization’s website career page where you talk about the DEI initiatives you have underway and your passion for creating an inclusive company culture. If you are in a smaller company and directly involved in the hiring process, this might involve direct conversations with potential candidates about your company’s commitment to DEI and the ways in which they impact the workplace environment. You can also ensure new employees hear your DEI message directly from you by making it a part of the welcoming message during the onboarding process.
These are just five ways for C-level executives to champion DEI in their organizations. As you can see, in one way or another these methods involve leading by example. Be ready and willing to have the difficult conversations, listen closely, and share the data where necessary. In doing these things, you will help ensure the long-term success of your company’s DEI efforts.
I’m Dr. Sangeeta Gupta, and I founded Gupta Consulting Group to help CDOs and HR leaders create and implement DEI programs that meet their organization’s unique needs.
Schedule a conversation with me today to learn more about our DEI solutions.