insight magazine

How to Embed DEI Into Your Office Culture

By focusing on key objectives and metrics, you can ensure that DEI is an intrinsic part of your firm's culture. By Bill Bradshaw, CDP | Digital Exclusive - 2022

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The conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) should be at the forefront of all discussions within organizations to align with and create an innovative and sustainable future. Whether age, race, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation, a diverse and inclusive culture allows the synthesis of various lenses to work in unison to meet the organization’s strategic priorities. In professional service organizations, specifically accounting, defining and crafting DEI goals and initiatives is critical to fostering a diverse and inclusive culture.

Three Key Areas of a DEI Strategy

When you examine your DEI framework, it’s imperative that you focus on three specific areas to avoid unwanted pitfalls along your journey.

1. Assess your organization’s strategic priorities. This step sets the foundation for the framework of your DEI strategy—ask yourself what critical areas of your business you are looking to impact by implementing a DEI strategy (i.e., workforce, workplace, marketplace/community).

2. Engage your stakeholders. Accessing the groundswell from your current team members is imperative to gathering and implementing DEI initiatives. Buy-in from the top down and bottom up garners champions who will advocate and carry out these initiatives.

3. Define varying DEI definitions and language. Whether spoken or written, how you communicate should amplify your DEI priorities and embody an inclusive tone. Think of how this will shape internal outreach tools and communication around your organization’s DEI strategy.

As you move through your DEI journey, don’t forget to analyze internal workforce trends, such as recruitment, advancement, development, and retention. These themes will help shape objectives and metrics that support your workforce goals.

Establishing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

ERGs can assist by building cultural awareness, educating, and serving as a safe space for team members within your organization. They can also help leaders identify organizational policy and process gaps, creating opportunities to enhance company culture, benefits, and retention. Like creating an organization-wide DEI strategy, it is essential to develop a solid ERG approach. Identify leaders who are invested in the purpose and mission of your DEI strategy along with a cohort of individuals who are representative of your organization’s talent. They will be the ones who help lead your DEI initiatives at all levels. Remember, representation and allyship must be in lockstep when creating successful ERGs.

Ideally, not only should your organization’s DEI initiatives have an internal impact, but they should also reach the margins of your surrounding community. Think about how your organization engages with diverse clients and suppliers, utilizes benchmarking tools to measure being a “best place to work,” and supports and gives back to your local communities.

Measuring DEI Initiatives

Finally, define key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success and the effectiveness of your organization’s DEI initiatives. KPIs help identify what works, what needs tweaking, and how to continue moving the strategy forward.

People often refer to inclusion as being invited to dance. At Withum, we want all our team members to dance every day to their own music. We realize the true fabric of our culture is rooted in our people and the unique perspectives and experiences they bring to work daily. By embracing that perspective, we’re able to create immense opportunities for our people, clients, and communities.

Bill Bradshaw, CDP, is the director of inclusion and diversity at Withum. This article is reprinted with permission by the Massachusetts Society of CPAs.

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