DEI Steering Committee – Part 3: Futureproofing the Work of Your DEI Steering Committee

In Blog, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion by Erika Powell

In this final installment of this DEI Committee series, we’re diving into how to begin to look at wider support structures and measurements of success of the work of the committee. In this three part series, we will be focusing on:

  1. 3 Steps to Forming an Effective DEI Steering Committee
  2. Sustaining Your Efforts
  3. Futureproofing the Work of Your DEI Steering Committee

Engage the System 

The work of a DEI Committee is most effective and accelerated when there is system-level buy-in, support, and executive engagement. These factors are needed to create sustained systems-level change. Four ways you can engage the system and ensure that your committee/council’s initiatives are impactful and sustained over time include:

  1. Gain Executive Support: Gaining buy-in from the executive tier of your organization is essential to your long-term success and sustaining your efforts. Their presence and involvement sends a message to the wider organization that your committee’s efforts are important and elevates your work as a priority. Additionally, within an organization, these are the individuals that have the most amount of power and authority to drive and champion. Without them, you are unlikely to gain traction in your initiatives, achieve the goals that you envision, have critical champions within the organization to move roadblocks, or foster the accountability needed to create positive changes within your organization. 
  2. Secure a budget: Claiming that DEI work is important but not providing resources to make change happen is a recipe for frustration and leads to false starts as well as stagnated efforts. Committees should work with executives to secure funds and budget for activities such as training, consultants, virtual resources, conferences fees, technologies, and even guest speakers that will enhance their work, offer vital perspectives, challenge the status quo, and benefit the wider organization. 
  3. Partner with ERGs: Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are a vital resource for a DEI Committee to tap into and to collaborate with. For example, the committee can be a great place for ERGs to ensure their voices are heard at the organizational level and to elevate issues and needs that their constituency finds important. ERGs can also be a good source to vet ideas and/or decisions as well as a vital channel to communicate upcoming initiatives through. Don’t overlook exploring ways in which strategic partnerships can be forged and further enhance the work of your committee over time. 
  4. Tie into Performance Reviews: To maximize the work of a DEI Committee/Council, it’s important that organizations recognize the contributions and value that each member offers by choosing to do this work. The work of a DEI Committee member must shift from being viewed as volunteer work, service, or a side hustle that is peripheral to an organization to being seen as core work. This core work helps improve your organization’s culture around diversity, equity, and inclusion and, when effective and successful, helps eradicate systemic racism and inequity in the workplace. It is merit-worthy and should be treated as such. Work with HR leaders to include the work on the committee as a section in performance reviews so that individuals are recognized, promoted, and paid for their contributions. In doing so, emphasize not just the accomplishments but also whether the work was done in an equitable way and how it helped the company further its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Set Goals

To sustain your committee/council’s efforts, it will be necessary to:

  • Set short-term and long-term goals
  • Track and assess progress towards those goals
  • Set deadlines for achieving those goals
  • Stay focused on impact 

The goals that the committee outlines should drive change for the organization, strengthen the integration and connection between DEI efforts and critical business functions, and ultimately aim to increase equity and inclusion for individuals in your organization. 

At some point in your Committee/Council’s journey, you all may feel overwhelmed or daunted by the idea of setting goals or knowing which one to tackle next. Indeed, there are an infinite number of directions that your DEI goals can go in. With a range of options to choose from in onboarding, recruiting, hiring, employee experience, vendor relationships & management, etc., it’s often hard to know where to start. Examples of goals can be increasing a certain demographic, holding a certain amount or type of events, running a company-wide inclusion survey to obtain initial benchmarks, partnering with specific vendors, changing or implementing a process, policy, or practice, or creating more inclusive programs or supports for your employee base to feel supported or to advance professionally

When you find yourself in this position, be strategic about setting goals that are (a) actionable, measurable, relevant, and that (b) speak to issues that your employees are passionate about. Set both short-term and long-term goals to help move your organization forward and that either align with the business strategy or that take it to a whole new level entirely. While the committee does not replace or take the place of any formal responsibilities that a particular department or team member may have, the goals that it sets can greatly influence how DEI initiatives are implemented and ensure that DEI continues to stay top of mind for the organization.

Celebrate Progress

It may take a while before your DEI work begins to yield results. This is especially true when your goals require coordination between various departments or simply need time to come to fruition. 

Nevertheless, as your committee embarks on its work, stay committed to celebrating your progress. Whether it be celebrating quantitative (i.e. numerical data points) or qualitative (i.e. descriptive or observational data points) or a combination of the two, even the smallest wins count. Celebrate these wins in committee meetings and also communicate them out to the wider organization in formal gatherings such as All Hands or team and department meetings. In doing so, remember to show how each little win connects back to the bigger picture of fostering inclusion and equity at your organization. 

Build in Feedback

One of the best things that your DEI Committee can do to sustain momentum towards its efforts is to garner feedback from individuals in the organization that it intends to serve. Feedback will help your team understand what’s working/not working, the tweaks they might consider making, and any roadblocks that impede progress or hinder efforts. It can also help the committee gain insight into how their efforts are being received by the individuals that they want to have a positive impact on. Develop ways for employees to submit and provide feedback to your committee so that you can gauge how your efforts are impacting the wider organization. Some ways to collect this feedback include:

  • Setting up an email inbox that allows the sender of the message to provide anonymous feedback
  • Dedicating time in company-wide meetings to get feedback via polls or open discussions
  • Administering periodic surveys and/or pulse checks on key initiatives 

Whether you receive positive or negative feedback, leverage it to identify additional opportunities for your committee to make an impact, tweak your approach, take additional actions, and spark discussions amongst committee members. 

Are you ready to find out more about bringing our impactful workshops and facilitators to your workplace? Learn more about our workshops and how we can help support your DEI Committee.