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Six Steps to Deploy Your DE&I Initiative With Funds You Already Have

Six Steps to Deploy Your DE&I Initiative With Funds You Already Have

If there is one thing that we know right now, it is that we are on the brink of a renaissance. Our global business community will emerge from this moment with a seismic shift in how we work, interact, and grow. I don’t need to tell you that how you approach diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) will set the stage for the next generation and the legacy of your business.

I specialize in business transformation - working with leaders to pivot their businesses fast, by finding and unlocking cost savings to fund and deliver new priorities. After successfully transforming several organizations, I can tell you that there are a few fundamental principles that will swiftly help to get your business from where you are now to where you want to be.

First and foremost, let me remind you that as a leader, every interaction you have is an opportunity to advance the DE&I agenda. Change happens through the big and small.

Yes, we’re seeing grand gestures - some firms dedicating millions toward advancing DE&I in their enterprises - but just as impactful are the small, everyday micro actions that bring employees along, create momentum, shape culture, and create an exponential change impact when sparked by leaders across the business to fundamentally steer your ship in a new direction.

[Related: A Conversation About Inclusion and Diversity: Breaking Down Barriers]

1) Kick start with clear directive from the executive team.

Every person in your company must be crystal clear that DE&I is a business priority. It should be presented front and center in your company’s strategy, and communicated over and over at every opportunity. It should be discussed in your board and executive meetings, employee updates, Town Hall meetings, and conferences - present and visible where all can see.

Be clear on the WHY - how DE&I will help your mission and performance - as well the HOW - what you will do to make these critical DE&I goals a reality in your business. DE&I is proven to increase business performance and translate to results. Help your employees understand that.

2) Build clear, specific, and tangible outcomes and metrics into your performance commitments.

Treat DE&I as you would any other imperative.

It deserves SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, and Timebound) - e.g. a percent of employees and/or leaders are DE&I or targeting a certain percent of minority-owned vendors.

3) Reframe your existing spend.

The great news is that a lot of DE&I resources already exist in your current operating budget, and just need to be reframed or refined to focus on it.

Look at what you’re already spending time and money on every day - conferences, trade association memberships, consulting, talent plans, recruiting efforts, learning and development, employee surveys, vendor sourcing, supplier sourcing, etc.

How can you recast them as a platform to embed DE&I? Shift to more minority-owned suppliers? Focus on recruiting diverse candidates?

Ask your managers and employees how to make DE&I come to life in your organization through existing routines, processes, and platforms - they will have great ideas and more skin in the game when executing them.

[Related: Are You Greenwashing Your Diversity Programs?]

4) Redirect funding from other areas to create a “seed” investment for DE&I.

Leveraging Zero Based Budgeting principles, funding can be reprioritized and reallocated to DE&I without adding incremental costs to the running of the business.

It is easy to get into a debate about priorities - all initiatives are important. However, if you’re going to move the needle, you need to force rank them and fund what’s most important right now to deliver on your strategy.

Your people are traveling less and working from home more, resulting in reduced travel budgets, streamlined real estate footprints, and reduced facilities costs - capture those savings and redirect them. Just because an initiative was funded last year, doesn’t require it to have the same allocation this year - look your entire cost base from the bottom up, and cut what is less essential.

You will be pleasantly surprised at what savings you can find by taking a close look and reprioritizing your cost base.

5) Hold yourself to account using your existing tracking, measuring, and reporting routines.

Progress tracking on your strategic, operational, and cultural DE&I goals need to be part of your existing business performance discussions in order to make the right decisions and interventions to keep on track.

Progress and actions should be communicated far and wide within the organization.

6) Build DE&I into your performance management and reward system.

This last one is really important. Team leaders need to be measured on delivering the clear, tangible DE&I outcomes that have been built into your strategic and annual plans. If you are going to move the needle, DE&I needs to be measured and rewarded like the priority that it is.

The key overriding message here is that if you build DE&I into the day-to-day fabric of your business, you will not only get faster results and bring your employees along on the journey, but also make change more impactful and sustainable.

[Related: Three Things You Must Do To Get Diversity Right]

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Lauren Spagnola-Robins is a business transformation and change executive, and the founder and CEO of reFRAME Transformation. She works with leaders to quickly unlock value and implement game-changing strategies to respond to new opportunities and business disruption. Starting out her career as a strategy and technology consultant, she has led multiple organizations and programs across global drinks leader Diageo, and most recently directed a transformation program which unlocked >$700M in savings and value while creating sustainable strategic, operational, and cultural change. Contact her for a strategy session at lauren@reframetransformation.com.


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