It’s never too early: D&I… but where do I start?

As Candi Castleberry Singleton, VP of Inclusion, Culture, & Diversity @twitter says, “This work belongs to all of us.

That means you too start-up with 40 employees and high-growth plans. Don’t believe the online rhetoric that seems to imply diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives are for the googles of the world. You do not need a head of D&I to do this work. You just need commitment to grow mindfully. It’s important to remember: a lack of diversity impacts everyone whether you work at a company with 1,000 employees, 15,000 or just 50.

Taking what we’ve learned from our experience working with larger, more established companies and brands, we’ve gleaned some tips for you on how to get started and avoid being discouraged.

Start by looking inward. You do not have to jump to improving demographic numbers and recruitment stats. In fact, we’d highly advise not doing that as it often leads to unrealistic goals and internal frustration. Rather, look first at the policies, processes, and programs you have in place.

Questions you can ask:

  • Does my company openly discuss diversity and inclusion?
  • Is feedback encouraged at my company and do people feel comfortable sharing their views and concerns?
  • Were the last 5 individuals to be promoted at my company similar in more than one way? What about the new hires?
  • And, who were the last five people to leave? Was there a trend?

Answering these questions objectively will help you get your bearings on where your company is in its need to cultivate inclusion.

After reflecting on the state of diversity and inclusion at your company, it is time to start leveraging influencers. Who else is interested in proactively creating a more inclusive workplace? From the junior staff to the leadership team, reach out to people and start answering these questions together. Collaboration and shared accountability are cornerstones to any diversity and inclusion efforts.

Once you have a coalition, start formalizing your efforts. To get you there, we’ve created a short DIY checklist below. Building a workplace where everyone can thrive is never easy, but you have to start somewhere — you got this!

Tap into the larger D&I community. You’re not alone in your struggle to navigate a sticky landscape and create real, tangible change. Learning from other practitioners and fellow D&I advocates should not be underestimated. Sharing failures and wins can help you avoid pitfalls and ultimately find the right path for your company’s needs.

Finally, don’t hesitate to reach out. Whether it is helping you map influencers, source resources or just to talk through challenges, we are here for you!

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DIY Diversity and Inclusion Starter Checklist

  1. Create an employee-organized diversity and inclusion committee.
  2. Establish regular check-ins for your committee with individual-owned initiatives and designated communication channels. Especially early on, you’ll want to stay accountable to your progress.
  3. Gather baseline data. Conduct an initial survey with all your colleagues to gain a better sense of company culture and belonging. We have templates you can use to get started!
  4. Using your survey results, decide on your priority areas to guide your actions going forward. Will they focus on recruiting, benefits, employee resource groups, etc.?
  5. Then test, test and test. Once you have a focus area create a plan of action. How will you activate change in your organization? What other resources or support do you need? (Odds are you may not achieve your goal in the exact timeline you set, but like the great start-up you are, embrace failure and keep learning. Across industries, we are all still figuring this out!)