Three Things to Consider When You're Building Your ED&I Strategy
By Brandon Bell, Diversity and Inclusion Lead, Syngenta (January 24, 2023)
The start of each year typically brings a renewed sense of commitment and opportunity as the organization takes stock of the previous year and begins to sketch out the road map to success for the year ahead. Among the conversations around sales targets, marketing strategy, supply chain contingency plans, and ensuring premier customer service, increasingly, organizations are seeking to incorporate meaningful equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) metrics into nearly all parts of their business’ functions. As you embark on this meaningful task, here are a few things to consider to advance the ED&I work at your organization.
Build Your ED&I Approach Around Data
For many, trying to identify a clear north star for ED&I can be quite a challenge among the constellation of acronyms, training programs, and opportunities to host guest speakers. While all the aforementioned things are extremely important, let the data serve as your compass as you outline the goals you plan to accomplish year-over-year.
Quantitative data about the demographics in your talent funnel, retention rates of employees across key identity markers, and your engagement with historically under-represented customer groups will provide rich data lakes that will likely highlight bright spots in your function in addition to helping quickly identify priority areas of focus moving forward.
In addition to the insights generated from the crunching of the numbers, be sure to add additional narrative and texture by collecting qualitative data from your employees, leadership teams, and other external stakeholders. Hosting things like focus groups, stay interviews, and town halls may help better elucidate the “why” behind some of your empirical findings and further normalize the process of having transparent conversations with your workforce around this critical topic.
Ensure Business Relevancy and Accountability
With a more comprehensive set of data as a foundation to the ED&I plan you’re creating, you’re ready to share your draft plan with the various functions across your organization. Sharing the draft of your ED&I goals and action plans serves several key functions. First, it reinforces the behavior of having clear and consistent discussions which fosters the feeling that the work is being done with them as opposed to being dictated to them. Secondly, it creates space for the business to understand the relevancy of ED&I to their particular functions’ objectives, and lastly, it creates the conduit to encourage shared accountability across the enterprise. As you further this dialogue consider the following:
-- Connect advancement in ED&I back to business goals – be sure to outline how you see ED&I initiatives growing the bottom and top lines, better understanding and growing your customer bases, and strengthening the innovation within and productivity of the work force. Ask them if they see other ‘win/win/win’ outcomes of connecting ED&I to the business.
-- Plainly communicate the interdependencies for success – As you present the priorities and tactics of your ED&I plan, highlight where key initiatives can have positive impacts across multiple functions in your organization. Encourage teams across the enterprise to stack hands on those high-impact activities to ensure they have the momentum needed to be properly executed.
-- Make concise asks to the business regarding their support – As you revise your plans as a result of the dialogue you’re having with the business, do not hesitate to request their time and expertise to deliver this plan now and throughout the year. More often than not, the business will be happy to help deliver this meaningful message and work, and this in turn, creates the opportunity to generate more champions for ED&I within your company.
Delineate Between the Strategic and the Tactical
Now, with your data and endorsement from the business, you are approaching the last big piece of work to finalize your ED&I plan for the year – PRIORITIZATION.
It is not uncommon for there to be overwhelming excitement coming from various pockets of your organization with very specific ideas as you where you should start first. To manage that, highlight the major strategic outcomes of the plan first before identifying the tactics that will allow you to meet your goals.
Oftentimes, we confuse tactical interactions (trainings, external conferences, social media messaging) as the strategic goal itself as opposed to understanding that those tactical exchanges are in support of a larger strategic aim such as creating a more fair and inclusive culture or attracting, retaining, and developing historically under-represented talent.
Once you place the tactics and actions to the appropriate strategic goals, it helps create a timeline for delivery, distinguish those activities that do not have the highest ROI, and help manage expectations from your various stakeholders.
In closing, setting the business strategy, identifying KPI’s, and establishing yearly priorities is a key process that is a concerted effort for every organization. Infusing ED&I into all business plans is a great way to successfully incorporate ED&I into the culture of your organization and align this work to benefit of all involved.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brandon Bell is Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) lead for Syngenta North America. He is responsible for leading the region’s strategic efforts in ED&I, managing the organizations strategic relationships with various industry partners, and supporting the growth and impact of the portfolio of employee resource groups. In his spare time, Bell enjoys diving into a variety of sci-fi universes, creating and listening to music, hanging out with friends, and enjoying an ultra-hoppy IPA.