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April 4, 2024

A comprehensive guide to DEI initiatives in the workplace

Implement DEI initiatives in your workplace with these tips and best practices.


  • What is DEI, and why is it vital for business?
  • Challenges employers face
  • Creating DEI initiatives and strategies

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are essential to creating a better working environment for all employees. Addressing discrimination and biases in the workplace can help employees feel valued and more productive.

Let’s take a comprehensive look at DEI strategies and how to create them within your organization.

What is DEI, and why is it vital for business?

DEI involves establishing equal access, opportunities, and a sense of belonging for all people. Addressing and eliminating discriminatory practices helps employees feel like equal members of the workforce. Here’s a breakdown of what each section of DEI brings to the table:

  • Diversity
    This encompasses all the ways people are different. It includes demographic characteristics like age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Diversity also encompasses people’s range of ideas, perspectives, and values.

  • Equity
    This value ensures equal treatment, access, and advancement for all employees in a workplace. It attempts to identify and rid businesses of barriers that hold some groups back. It also allows workers to participate in society, jobs, and industries.

  • Inclusion
    This helps build a work culture where everyone feels welcome, respected, and allowed to contribute to the company’s success. An inclusive workplace supports and embraces differences. It also thrives by learning from people with different backgrounds and opinions.

Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns than those that don’t, per McKinsey and Company. DEI is beneficial for business, building teams that work well together toward common goals. It also creates mutual respect among co-workers, making sharing their opinions and ideas easier.

Diverse companies with inclusion initiatives in place have more capacity for creativity and new ideas. With different frameworks for thinking, people are more likely to come up with original concepts. Business leaders can listen to varying viewpoints and stay competitive.

Challenges employers face

While DEI is crucial for a successful business, change doesn’t happen overnight. Improving the work environment and hiring practices takes time, effort, and intention.

There are several top problems companies must solve, including:

Hiring biases

Unfortunately, all people have conscious and unconscious biases. These thoughts can impact how employers hire, even without them knowing it. Further, biased job descriptions can prevent qualified, diverse candidates from getting a job. Prejudiced interview questions also keep employers from considering a wide audience.

Some job postings never reach underrepresented groups. This prevents the creation of a truly diverse talent pool of eligible candidates. For example, biases can arise if an organization only targets a few locations.

Nondiverse talent pools

Organizations without a history of diverse employees can struggle with inclusive hiring. In some cases, this is caused by a lack of access to education or resources and systematic inequalities.

Employee retention

Managers may subconsciously put employees into one group. This can foster feelings of isolation or being held back while peers advance. As a result, companies can have trouble retaining diverse talent. Employers will lose good people without proper support systems and opportunities for advancement.


While hiring diversity is positive, there’s a risk for employers to focus solely on meeting diversity quotas. If employees feel hiring is more about hitting a target than merit, they may not feel valued. The result is an environment where employees feel marginalized or not taken seriously.

It’s also vital employers know the difference between a cultural fit and a cultural addition. A cultural fit is a person who only fits the criteria the employer believes is the company culture. Instead, businesses should focus on cultural addition. This is where diverse perspectives enrich the existing culture—not conform to it.

Creating DEI initiatives and strategies

To create successful DEI initiatives, everyone on a team must play a part. This spreads the responsibility throughout the company, building a stronger

There are multiple ways for organizations to implement diversity initiatives, such as:

Inclusion and diversity training

Educational events and DEI program options can provide groups with helpful insights. Training can cover unconscious biases, microaggressions, and other forms of discrimination. It gives employees the information necessary to become more respectful and aware of their actions.

DEI training sessions should be engaging and interactive. Workers must have opportunities to talk about their experiences and share their thoughts. Employees can also provide examples of beneficial actions and speech within the workplace.

Additionally, inclusion must start from the top and trickle down. All C-suite executives and leaders must be active participants in the conversation. They can share why it's so crucial and what they’re doing to make positive change.

DEI committee

Yes, all team members are responsible for upholding inclusive practices. However, creating a DEI committee made up of passionate members can make monitoring goals and results easier. According to Glassdoor, younger employees are more likely to feel strongly about DEI. However, there must be a balance between different generations in such a committee to ensure various perspectives.

This group can develop action plans to make the company more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. They can also hold employers accountable by ensuring they do what they promised.

Employee resource group

Without a support system, team members can become isolated from their co-workers or consider quitting. Companies can potentially prevent such actions by creating an employee resource group. This allows employees to come together, support one another, and promote DEI best practices.

Employees can show up for one another with a specific group in place. They can listen to each other’s struggles and have one another’s backs. For employers, such groups present opportunities to hear from their workforce about concerns and successes.

Sponsorship programs can also be a positive action for diverse workers. They can provide opportunities and growth to minorities and marginalized groups. These programs may often be the only chance to learn specific skills and topics that interest them.

Recruitment and hiring practices

To prevent qualified individuals from underrepresented groups from being passed over, companies must promote fair and equitable recruitment and hiring methods, including:

  • Inclusive job descriptions and advertising 
    Employers must write a job description that appeals to all people. The marketing for open roles should target diverse areas and use inclusive language.

  • Recruiting underrepresented groups
    Companies should assess what groups aren’t represented within their teams. They should then work to attract these groups with strategic hiring and benefits plans.

  • Implementing blind resume review processes
    Unconscious biases can creep in when reading applicants' names and seeing their pictures. To avoid this, human resource professionals should only look at skills, experience, and merit.

  • Following structured hiring processes
    Employers should have one set hiring process. They should then use that method for every job candidate.
DEI goals and targets

It’s not enough for companies to strive to be more diverse. To create real change, employers must create SMART goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

This seems to be where many companies fall short. Only 49% of companies have an actual strategic diversity plan, per Human Resource Director.

These goals could be to hire a specific number of diverse employees. Or it could include hiring more women or people of a particular age group. Companies should ensure the goals are concrete, actionable, and quantifiable. Also, employers can integrate these goals into the larger business strategy and culture.

Customized strategy

It’s easy to find helpful tips for inclusion initiatives online, but every organization is different. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to diversity. While looking to other companies can serve as inspiration, employers need to build a personalized strategy. This plan should focus on the specific DEI goals a business sets. For this step, keeping weaknesses and strengths in mind is crucial.

To get started, business leaders need to assess the state of their company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion. What is going well? Where are there opportunities to improve?

Then, employers should talk to their employees. This could include surveys, questionnaires, or face-to-face communication. Speaking to team members is a chance for employers to learn what problems employees see and how they think they can be better.

Finally, the focus is on the diversity of new hires and hiring practices. Employers can assess where current problems exist and ways to reach marginalized candidates.

Boost diversity and inclusion within your organization with the help of Marsh McLennan Agency

Does your HR department need help building meaningful DEI initiatives? Our HR consultants can help. We bring a deep understanding of the industry and compliance requirements and can aid your organization in navigating DEI in the workplace.

By partnering with Marsh McLennan Agency, you can receive:

  • Compliance assistance
    Our team keeps up to date with current regulations. This can help reduce legal and financial risk.

  • Cost savings
    We’ll shoulder the burden of several HR tasks so you can focus on other pressing business matters.

  • Enhanced recruitment
    Find the right candidates using our best practices and tips. We’ll help allocate your available resources.

  • Focused specialization
    Our team has deep HR knowledge and can help you with unique challenges.

  • Scalability
    We can help grow your business and enter new markets.

  • Strategy
    Our team will align your business objectives with a human capital strategy.

Want to use our experience and strategic services to improve your HR operations and create successful DEI initiatives? Reach out to a Marsh McLennan Agency HR specialist today.