We are in an age of stakeholder and employee activism. Increasingly, employees seek meaning and purpose through their work, and they want their employers’ values to align with their own.
Your corporate equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) statement clarifies your organization’s values and priorities for stakeholders, helps initiate change, and facilitates ongoing conversations about this crucial work among community members. It can also function as a roadmap for your organization as you embark on a larger scale culture change initiative with the aim to build a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive workspace for all employees.
When considering your organization’s own public statements on EDI to date, recognize that motivation matters. Of the more than 200 corporate EDI statements that researchers at the Center for Creative Leadership analyzed in a recent study, 96% of those public statements lacked key details to hold organizations accountable for long-term culture change and take concrete actions in support of their professed values.
Advice for Organizational Leaders on Crafting Meaningful Corporate Statements About EDI Sustaining organizational commitments to equity, diversity, and inclusion requires a willingness to innovate, view change as a journey, and overcome challenges that will not be overcome by publishing statements alone. Here’s how to move your organization forward.
1. Remember that EDI is everyone’s issue.
Make it clear that creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment isn’t the work of a small group of individuals. Everyone in your organization plays an important part in creating the culture.
Don’t address Black people or other marginalized groups with more frequency than White people. This frames systemic racism as largely “someone else’s problem,” creates social distance between racial groups, centralizes White people and their perspectives, and assigns responsibility for dismantling systemic racism to systematically excluded people. Instead, start with these actions:
- Create community and assign responsibility for action to individuals at all levels of the organization by using words such as “together,” “we,” and “all of us.”
- Show a willingness to take responsibility for current and future states of the organizational culture by using phrases like “anti-racism,” “pro-Black,” “journey,” “partner,” and “people who are marginalized.”
2. Lead with a “listen-first” approach.
Gather important information by listening closely to your internal and external stakeholders like employees, clients, and vendors. Learn their perspectives about historic and current problems, progress, conditions, and requirements, as well as the capabilities and limitations of resources, and how those impact their professional and personal lives. Don’t just go to the groups you always talk to and work with; expand the circle by implementing these strategies:
- Deploy culture surveys that allow stakeholders to anonymously submit feedback in various of formats (digital, paper, etc.) to ensure that sharing candidly is accessible to all.
- Examine employee reviews on websites like Glassdoor for specific issues employees are encountering, from recruitment and retention, to promotion and exit.
- Avoid adding additional burdens on systematically excluded people by expecting them to provide education, unpaid labor, or mentoring to the rest of the organization.
3. Match your message with metrics.
Demonstrate that data-informed decisions have been made to elevate equity and assign human and financial resources to provide tangible support for reaching organizational EDI goals. Get specific about the actions your organization is committing to—including internally, externally, and publicly. Hold the organization and individual leaders accountable for change by setting goals that lend themselves to measurable short-, medium-, and long-term progress, such as:
- Internal operations
o Implement equitable and proactive recruitment and hiring processes. o Set targets for increasing representation of systemically excluded groups.
o Allocate budget for EDI training and development for all leaders.
o Conduct pay equity audits.
o Establish goals for diversifying vendors.
o Define organizational and financial support for Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).
- External Philanthropy
o Establish an employee matching gifts program.o Provide paid time off for volunteer work.
o Incentivize the support of minority-owned businesses.
o Consider providing in-kind support, scholarships, and endowments.
Actions Speak Louder
Organizational culture change takes time. While your corporate EDI statement is a great starting point for enacting change and establishing organizational accountability, it’s imperative to go beyond words about EDI and commit to actions that start the journey towards progress.
*You may hear references to both the terms DEI and EDI when discussing diversity initiatives. While both of these acronyms describe the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion, at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL)®, we prefer to use the term EDI because it places equity before diversity and inclusion.