5 Steps to Kickstart your DEIA Journey

Picture of Lifeworks Diversity and Inclusion Director Muna Mohamed and text for the title of the blog: "5 Steps to Kickstart Your DEIA Journey". Story covers DEIA strategy.

When developing a DEIA strategy, you might need help determining where to begin. Of course, the goal is to create an equitable, diverse, inclusive, and accessible organization, but what does that mean, and how do you get there?

Here are 5 steps to kickstart your DEIA journey.

1. Define Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, or DEIA, mean many things to many people. Conversations and initiatives focused on workplace DEIA are becoming more common, and while the acronym is in everyday use, it is important to understand the distinction between each term. Below are the definitions we use at Lifeworks to support and guide our work.

Diversity: A diverse workplace employs people from various cultures and backgrounds. It also includes an equitable mix of race, ethnicity, age, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, education, socio-economic groups, abilities, and political associations.

Equity: There is a difference between equality and equity. Equality generally refers to equal opportunity and the same levels of support for all segments of society. Equity goes a step further and seeks to assess need and access and adjusts levels of support to achieve greater fairness of outcomes.

Inclusion: An inclusive workplace treats all employees with dignity and respect. Each person’s uniqueness is appreciated, and people feel free to share essential parts of their identity in the workplace. All individuals have equitable access to opportunities and resources and contribute fully to the organization’s success, regardless of an employee’s role, job title, or employment length.

Accessibility: An accessible workplace ensures that anyone can access facilities and resources at Lifeworks, regardless of ability. It means all people can participate. We are committed to removing barriers that exclude individuals from participating in employment, receiving services, or contributing as engaged stakeholders. Lifeworks also strives to make community and community spaces accessible for all people.

Identifying what DEIA means to your organization will better position you to develop your strategy.

2. Present the Business Case for DEIA

Establishing the business case or the rationale for DEIA is crucial because your strategy depends on employee buy-in. Think of DEIA as a change management effort that requires people to change. Humans naturally resist change, and we tend to change only when we are truly motivated to do so. Making the business case for DEIA will motivate people to champion this work and showcase why this is worth investing in.

3. Identify DEIA as a Strategic Priority

As a DEIA practitioner, you understand DEIA, but the leaders at your organization are the experts on their teams – so you need to work with them to weave DEIA into the fabric of your organization and make DEIA an organizational strategic priority. Only then can you move the needle forward.

At Lifeworks, we do this through our guiding compass, which supports our work and aligns our values, mission, and DEIA goals. Reference our DEIA guiding compass, as an example, down below.

  • Acknowledge that ignorance, discrimination, stigma, and prejudice exist.
  • Believe every person deserves dignity and respect from the people we serve to our employees, community partners, and beyond.
  • Commit to cultivating a culture that embraces difficult conversations and challenges barriers to an equitable and inclusive workplace.
  • Dedicate resources to increase our knowledge and awareness and to challenge ourselves to understand our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
  • Ensure that diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility are embedded into our policies and practices.

4. Establish Clear Goals

DEIA goals are aspirational outcomes you want to achieve. These goals turn the vagueness that often accompanies DEIA into specific and executable strategies. Successful DEIA goals are actionable, measurable, and transparent.
At Lifeworks we identified four priorities that have specific goals with key tactics that tell us when and how we will achieve each goal. Our four priorities are to: 1) Recruit and hire BIPOC staff to reflect the communities we live in, serve, and partner with; 2) Attract persons seeking services and support from BIPOC and rural communities; 3) Cultivate an employee culture centered on diversity, equity, inclusion, and access; and 4) Expand the awareness and knowledge of disability inclusion in the community.

5. Develop Metrics and Measure Results

How do you know if your strategy is working and your DEIA efforts are effective? Through developed metrics and that measure results. There are several DEIA metrics that you can use, from the number of diverse employees across the organization, to the participation and impact of DEIA trainings.

You can create a DEIA dashboard to track and measure progress, which should be shared with employees across your organization. The data you collect should help you create and reevaluate your strategic plan, and the feedback you collect from employees can also support learning plans and trainings. In addition, sharing DEIA data with employees creates a culture of transparency and lets employees know their voices are being heard.

A DEIA strategy will only take hold within an organization if leadership holds space and accountability for it. Once you’ve set goals and measured your DEIA results against them, hold the leadership team accountable to results – good or bad. -Laurie Minott

These 5 steps should help you kickstart your DEIA journey! If you have ideas or topics related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access that you are interested in learning about, please connect with me at contact@lifeworks.org.