How To Launch (or Fix) A DEI Council: 7 Actions You Must Take by Charlotte F Hughes

What a DEI Council or Committee Does

One of the components of a comprehensive DEI strategy that I enjoy working on most for clients is helping an organization form its DEI council!

Organizations create DEI councils or committees to prioritize a diverse, equitable, and inclusive working environment, identify systemic inequities and ultimately improve the organization’s workplace culture.

What does a DEI council do? That depends on an organization’s specific DEI vision. Common DEI council responsibilities include:

  • Assessing current inclusion metrics in the workplace as a benchmark
  • Developing strategies to improve workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
  • Developing inclusive leaders who value diversity and collaboration
  • Creating proposals outlining best practices for recruiting, retaining, and promoting staff
  • Developing and promoting diversity initiatives
  • Reviewing workplace policies and making recommendations for changes to those policies

As task forces to advance DEI within an organization, DEI councils may adopt any of number of different goals and practices depending on their organization’s needs and current workplace environment. For example, organizations that have never had a DEI council before may need a certified DEI consultant experienced with identifying potential DEI committee members. Other organizations with established but underperforming DEI initiatives may need to revisit their DEI council goals or reprioritize their objectives to make the greatest impact.

  1. Understand Your Company’s Business Case for DEI as a Business Strategy                                                                      Before creating a DEI strategic plan and DEI council to govern it, explore the existing challenges your organization is experiencing in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Each organization has a unique business case for diversity and definition of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) success. If this Vision of Success is not clearly defined up front, the DEI initiative will be perceived as a “feel good” effort rather than a business imperative. A clearly defined, well-articulated Vision of Success, which is strongly supported by top executives must exist to guide the DEI council’s charter.
  2. How to Select DEI Council Members

    So, what is needed to make this group a killer council? There are five influential stakeholders you need to onboard to create a powerhouse DEI council. Here they are in order of importance:
  • CEO or President
  • At least two to three middle level managers who serve as formal or informal leaders of other managers
  • Human Resource Officer
  • One employee who has vocalized displeasure with DEI as a company business strategy
  • A cross section of staff from each organizational unit and diverse representative of demographic groups
  1. Transparency

Once the membership has been set, the DEI Council must operate with complete internal and external transparency. Transparency is crucial for any effort combating racism, sexism, and other forms of marginalization and DEI Councils are no exception to this rule. In fact, transparency is especially crucial for DEI Councils precisely because they represent multiple constituencies of an organization, each with different relationships to one another which come with various power imbalances.  At a minimum, DEI Councils should publish their meeting minutes, provide regular progress reports, and procure community input (e.g. periodic open meetings, town halls, etc.).

  1. Establish a Framework and Charter

Create a plan for how your diversity and inclusion program will take shape, including the formation of your D&I council. If you already have a thriving D&I program, consider how your council will integrate into and benefit your existing program. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Define the roles and responsibilities of your DEI council
  • Identify partners for key initiatives
  • Establish accurate representation
  • Determine membership expectations
  • Define meeting cadence
  • Track and communicate progress
  • Determine how to recruit new members for the council 
  1. Define Clear, Actionable Goals

A crucial first step for a DEI council is to define and establish the group’s mission. The council can begin by drafting a mission statement, explaining the group’s purpose and intent. Then, it can define both short- and long-term measurable goals to focus the council’s efforts.

For organizations that have never had a DEI council before, identifying current DEI metrics and benchmarks may be an immediate goal of the new DEI council. After establishing DEI metrics, DEI leaders will be better equipped to make an argument for resources and policy changes.

  1. Create Organizational Buy-In for DEI Efforts

A DEI council does a great service to the organization. As such, DEI initiatives such as Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and training a development plans may be sustained longer when council participation counts toward employees’ workplace accomplishments during performance reviews. 

  1. DEI Councils Must Be Treated as a Long-Term Initiative

To make sure these broader culture shifts are actualized and that the climate continues to be critically evaluated, think long-term. It is problematic when the organization leadership sets up the DEI Council with a fixed lifetime (even if it is on the order of years) or makes comments about hoping to one day not need a DEI Council, because such statements reflect a deep misconception that these problems can be completely “solved” or that we will eventually exhaust the ways to make the workplace “inclusive and productive enough.”. A council must be held accountable not only to make strong commitments but also to see them through and to measure the change they result in, which may take three or more years. The DEI Council must be structured to exist indefinitely, and each commitment must be continually backed with the necessary resources to execute them with the promised rigor and speed.

Interested in learning more about developing a DEI Strategic Plan and DEI Council at your organization? Visit our Strategy Development Services and let’s have a 30-minute virtual coffee and talk about it.

Are you ready to explore executing a DEI strategic plan to meet your business goals?  Contact Us.

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