How to Start a Diversity and Inclusion Program

How to Start a Diversity and Inclusion Program

Diversity and inclusion programs are a way for businesses to build a more inclusive environment that attracts top talent. Many companies have diversity and inclusion programs. Still, they’re often limited in scope or poorly executed. With this blog post, we provide you with the steps necessary to start your own successful diversity and inclusion program.

How Does a Diversity and Inclusion Program Benefit Your Company?

A more diverse and inclusive workforce leads to a better company. A McKinsey study found that companies that include a diversity calendar in their business strategy outperform those that don’t cross every measure of performance, including revenue growth and return on equity. This is because having employees from different backgrounds makes your organization more creative. It also ensures you have the best talent for any given role without bias or discrimination—an obviously important factor when creating an effective work culture.

What Should You Include in Your Diversity Program?

There are many different ways to incorporate diversity and inclusion into your company, so it’s important that you include those elements which mean the most to your organization. Some examples of types of diversity programs could be:

  1. Mentorship Programs for Newcomers
  2. Interpreter Services or Foreign Language Training
  3. Maternity Leave Policy Additions
  4. Employee Assistance Program Development

We recommend starting with a small pilot program before going all out on an initiative, but remember—you’re under no obligation to do anything. Many companies may have started off as smaller operations that were able to build up their company from scratch without any outside help. If you keep at it, there’s nothing stopping you from making this work.

How Can You Shape Your Diversity and Inclusion Program?

Now that you know what to include in your diversity and inclusion program let’s look at how it can be shaped. One of the best ways to get buy-in from employees is to use an equity scorecard or a dashboard designed by McKinsey & Company. This will allow you and your team to set specific goals each year for which you’ll be held accountable. These could entail everything from increasing representation rates among underrepresented populations within two years—a key step towards fostering greater workplace equality.

How Can You Measure Your Diversity and Inclusion Program Successes?

Finally, we should talk about evaluating whether or not your initiatives are successful and identifying areas where improvement is needed. Many companies use the Inclusion & Diversity Index, which is a survey that gauges how employees feel about workplace issues such as inclusion and diversity. This can be taken multiple times throughout the year, so you have an accurate understanding of where your organization stands on these matters at all times.

Do You Have Any Tips for Running a Successful Diversity and Inclusion Program?

Being proactive is the most important thing to remember when starting any program, especially one dedicated to improving inclusivity within your company culture. It’s not enough to simply say “we support inclusion” without holding yourself accountable—action speaks louder than words. Also, keep this in mind: if it isn’t making employees happy or doesn’t fit your organizational goals, don’t do it.

It’s important to keep employees in mind when designing these programs. You need to be sure that they’re actually beneficial for your workforce, which is why it’s critical you regularly evaluate whether or not initiatives are meeting their intended goals.

How to Get Started with a Diversity and Inclusion Program:

Identify Your Company’s Values

People don’t always know what they stand for at their company, but they want to be part of something meaningful. They also want to believe that they’re in an ethical workplace where employees are treated fairly. Defining your values before you start the program makes it easier to create initiatives aligned with those values. Once identified, make sure all new hires learn these core beliefs when starting employment with your company. This is important from a brand perspective and reinforces why diversity hiring matters in the first place. Doing this will spark ideas on how best practices can help define or refocus existing diversity goals.

Create a Road Map

A roadmap helps you decide which initiatives to pursue first. It’s important that the roadmap is flexible and can be adjusted based on resource availability and other external factors (like changes in leadership). Keep in mind, not all diversity and inclusion programs need to cost a lot of money — this isn’t always possible for smaller businesses or organizations with limited resources.

Implement Your Diversity and Inclusion Program

Every company has its own organizational structure, but it’s best if your program starts at (or near) the top. This serves two purposes:

  1. The CEO will set expectations from both an operational perspective and provide overall guidance for employees who may have questions about what’s allowed under these guidelines.
  2. Communication goes up when there is a strong leader.

Keep Your Diversity and Inclusion Program Alive

The easiest way to make sure your program is successful in the long run is by making it part of everyone’s job description at some level. Everyone should feel like they have ownership over these initiatives; this helps create an inclusive culture where employees don’t always need to wait for special events or meetings on diversity and inclusion issues — their platform becomes something that just exists as a normal function within the business. This then creates everyday opportunities for employees to become allies who speak up when someone makes an offensive comment or jokes about another employee’s background, leading to more productive dialogue instead of awkward silences during those situations.

For example: if you’re having lunch with a colleague and they use a derogatory term, it’s important to speak up. This is an opportunity for you — as well as the other person at the table — to learn more about proper terms and how inclusive language can make your business stronger by building trust among employees from different backgrounds.

Educate Employees on Your Diversity & Inclusion Initiative

Because everyone in some capacity should own this initiative, all employees must know why these initiatives matter. When someone sees something wrong happening within their own company (and doesn’t say anything), those values become meaningless.

Join Networks of Other Businesses with Similar Initiatives

Networking within the same industry or profession isn’t just good practice because networking never hurts; it’s also important because there may be other organizations you can learn from. While every business has its unique challenges, if they’ve already found solutions to some of the problems you’re facing.

Make Sure Employees Feel Included

You should always ask your employees what they want or need when developing initiatives for inclusion and diversity programs; asking them where they would like to see growth is an easy way to start these conversations. When creating inclusive events (like networking happy hours), encourage employees who are passionate about this initiative to volunteer. It will give others a chance to participate and provide more opportunities than just once per year during National Employee Diversity & Inclusion Month in November.


The important thing to remember about your diversity and inclusion initiative is that it’s a process, not an event. This means you should always be open to feedback from employees as well as those who attend events. The best way to start this program at your business or organization? By asking questions now instead of waiting until the problem becomes worse down the road (and isn’t easy to fix). That’s why we’ve created our guide on how to develop a diversity and inclusion strategy.