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Guide to Setting DEI Goals and Measuring Success

Companies who want to thrive for the long term understand the importance and benefits of making diversity, equity, and inclusion a priority. Several research reports have shown positive correlations between DEI initiatives and better financial performance and innovation.


Why are DEI Goals Important?

Unfortunately, companies neglect to make DEI a strategic priority, leading to very little (or extremely slow) progress and improvements. For example, a McKinsey report showed that women have made modest gains in representation at the upper rungs of organizational leadership but continue to be underrepresented in corporate America.

The lack of progress hurts both companies and employees. Lack of inclusion stifles productivity, hampers cohesiveness, and ultimately makes a company less competitive. Companies need to set specific goals and make a concrete plan to reap the benefits of DEI.

In this article, we’ll cover the concrete steps that companies need to take to give themselves the best possible chance of success.


What are DEI goals?

DEI goals are goals that move a company forward when it comes to diversity, inclusion, or equity. It’s important to note that while DEI is often referred to as a catch-all phrase, they are slightly different concepts.

Diversity refers to the makeup and demographic of a company. While gender and ethnic diversity get a lot of attention, other forms of diversity, such as physical/mental disability status, age, and socioeconomic status, are just as important.

Inclusion is about creating an environment where employees feel like they can be themselves without having to ‘code switch.’ An inclusive workplace is one where employees can act in a way that’s true to their personality and values.

Equity is about ensuring that workers, regardless of background, have access to the same opportunities for advancements, rewards, and success.


What are DEI Goal Examples?

When setting DEI goals, what might be appropriate for one’s company reality and focus might make very little sense for another.

One DEI goal example may be a company with very little diversity in employee demographics wants to focus on reimagining its recruitment efforts to encourage candidates from various backgrounds.

On the other hand, another DEI goal example might be a company that is already diverse wants to emphasize equity or inclusion. For example, women are under-represented at the leadership level in industries like media and entertainment, and financial services. An appropriate DEI goal example could be encouraging more women to apply for leadership positions through a mentoring or sponsorship program.


How to Set DEI Goals

Assessing the current state of diversity, equity, and inclusion

Companies first need to start by identifying where they are regarding DEI. Are their employees demographically diverse? If so, does that hold at all levels and positions of the organizations? Are specific demographics under-represented at the top level?

Assessing equity and inclusion requires a company to be honest about its culture. What are the company’s retention rates like, and does that vary among different demographics? Do their employees enjoy coming to work? How engaged are their employees? Asking these questions allows companies to get an honest picture of their position.

Identifying areas for improvement

Once a company has honestly assessed their DEI reality, it’s time to identify which areas they would like to improve.

Developing specific and measurable goals (SMART Framework)

The next step involves setting goals related to those focus areas. The SMART framework is a reliable guideline for setting effective goals. SMART goals should be:

  • Specific—the goals should outline clear outcomes that the company wants to achieve
  • Measurable—incorporating a metric will make it clear how close the company is to achieving success
  • Attainable—the goal should be challenging but not impossible
  • Relevant—connecting it to the company’s greater purpose can inspire commitment
  • Time-bound—instituting a constraint, like time, helps keep companies accountable and encourages them to make changes if they’re not on the right track

Get buy-in from leadership

Any initiatives are unlikely to succeed without leadership buy-in, so securing the leadership is one of the first steps to making DEI progress. Support from the top can help with resource allocation and demonstrates a company’s commitment to DEI.

Form a DEI Committee

Once you get leadership buy-in, it’s time to delegate the work. Forming a DEI committee ensures that there is a group of people who can keep the company accountable. Make sure to recruit employees from various backgrounds, as this increases the company’s chance of success in their DEI progress.


How to Measure the Success of DEI Goals

Determining the right metrics to measure success is integral to DEI initiatives. It allows them to track their progress as they go and can go a long way in securing ongoing organizational support.

Establishing key performance indicators (KPIs)

After setting DEI goals using the SMART framework, it’s time to establish the appropriate key performance indicators (KPI). KPIs should specify measures of success and may include the following:

  • Percentage of under-represented employees at a specific level
  • Retention rate
  • Number of internal promotions in a specific year
  • Employee satisfaction scores

Collecting relevant data and metrics

Once the company has decided on appropriate KPIs, it’s time to collect the right data and DEI metrics to determine where the company is at currently.

Utilizing surveys, assessments, and other measurement tools

Companies must ensure that their data is as accurate as possible. They might want to utilize tools such as employee satisfaction surveys and retention calculators to do this.

Analyzing and interpreting data effectively

After gathering the relevant information and data, it’s time to assess them. Are they seeing an increase or decrease in the metrics for the past few years? Are there specific periods where there are dramatic movements up or down? Analyzing the relevant data can help the company determine their next steps.


Strategies and Best Practices to Achieve DEI Goals

Of course, it’s important to note that achieving DEI goals require more than just data analysis. Implementing the following practices can help organizations make progress on their DEI goals.

Creating an inclusive culture

An inclusive culture is the bedrock of achieving any ambitious organizational goals. Employees are more likely to be accepting and inclusive of others who don’t share the same background as them if they feel comfortable being themselves.

Because culture starts at the top, the first thing that organizations should do—if they don’t already do so— is provide DEI training and emphasize its importance. Leadership should also share what initiatives the company has already made towards DEI so that employees are aware that it’s something everyone at the company is committed to (and taking seriously).

It’s also crucial for those training sessions not to be a one-way affair. Leaders should welcome difficult conversations and provide space for employees to give feedback and have an honest and open dialogue. One of the ways they can do this is by forming (or encouraging) Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), where employees can get together to discuss their experiences, challenges, and thoughts around a common interest, identity or issue.

Implementing unbiased recruitment and hiring practices

To attract a diverse range of talent, organizations must ensure that their recruitment practices reflect that. That starts with developing diverse candidate pipelines. One way to do this, especially at the junior level, is to widen the colleges (and majors) the company recruits from.

Another important consideration is to mitigate any unconscious bias during the hiring process. For example, it’s best to avoid gender-charged words when writing the best job descriptions. Terms like ‘competitive’ and ‘rockstar’ have masculine connotations, while terms like ‘nurturing’ and ‘loyal’ are more feminine in tone. Look closely at promotional materials and who will be interviewing the candidates. Do they reflect your company’s commitment to hiring a diverse range of candidates? If not, it’s time to change that.

Ensuring equitable policies and practices

Beyond promotional materials, companies also need to assess and evaluate their policies. Does your current compensation and benefit structures provide a level playing field for all employees, or are they structured in a way where they tend to employees of a certain background or disadvantage an employee of another? For example, rewarding employees who are most ‘visible’ can disadvantage high performing employees who are quieter and introverted, or work in a hybrid or remote setting.

Flexible work is also crucial in building an equitable and inclusive workplace. A 2022 survey found that 70% of employees considered the ability to work remotely or in the office an “important” benefit.

Supporting career development and advancement

An inclusive and equitable workplace allows its employees to grow and advance in their careers. As an organization, you must have a system to provide access to learning and growth opportunities to employees of all levels in their careers.

Mentoring and sponsorship programs are great tools to do just that. They provide a support system, allow senior management to identify future leaders and managers, and can be an avenue for junior employees to discover internal opportunities outside of their immediate team.


Overcoming Challenges and Roadblocks

Improving DEI is not a small endeavor, and the road toward any major undertaking will be full of challenges and roadblocks.

It’s an organizational leader’s role to identify what those possible roadblocks or challenges could be and have a tentative plan in place should they eventuate. Leaders should also develop strategies to address any resistance or pushback toward DEI initiatives. Making changes to company culture, practices, and policies can cause inconveniences, conflict, and growing pains, and there needs to be a plan to support employees through those while standing firm in the company’s commitment.

Of course, planning for every scenario is impossible, and tentative plans can fall apart or not provide the desired results. This is why organizations need to build room for error and experimentation. Sometimes the best way to figure out what works best is to eliminate what doesn’t work.

Remember to include employees in the process. Be transparent with where the company is at, and solicit feedback through confidential surveys. Not only does this provide the company with an honest assessment of where they’re at from the employee’s point of view, but it can also be a great source of ideas and solutions.

Monitoring and Evaluating Progress

As companies implement various initiatives, they must keep a record so they can monitor and evaluate whether or not those programs are having the intended impact. One framework that works especially well for measuring learning and training-centric DEI programs is the Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model, which has the following levels:

  • Reaction—What the participants think about the program when it initially launched
  • Learning—The extent of which participants obtained additional knowledge and information
  • Behavior—How the knowledge gained through the program impacted their actions and behaviors
  • Results—How the program impacted the organization at a business level

Make sure to include as many stakeholders as possible in the assessment process. And if the results show a misalignment to the company’s overall DEI objectives, don’t be afraid to make the necessary adjustments to existing goals and strategies.

Celebrating Success and Sustaining DEI Efforts

A company will be more likely to see sustainable success when their employees are also invested in its success. Recognizing and rewarding DEI-related achievements can encourage employees to feel a sense of ownership and put more effort towards the company’s DEI goals, whether tying executive compensation to diversity targets or sharing success stories and lessons to inspire people.

DEI is a continual process, and companies should expect (and plan) to continue this work for years to come. Embedding DEI as an ongoing organizational priority ensures that DEI stays top of mind when allocating resources.


DEI progress will not happen overnight, but companies willing to do the work can look forward to many rewards—such as greater financial returns and more access to talent than their less diverse peers.

DEI should be part of a company’s long-term business strategy. And as we’ve covered earlier in the article, mentoring is a powerful tool to encourage continuous progress in DEI. It’s a practice that benefits employees and employers and goes a long way in building a diverse, inclusive, and equitable company culture.

Here at Chronus, we see mentoring as a solution to build an equitable workplace. And our software can provide the assistance your organization needs to implement and maintain a successful mentoring program. From matching the right mentees to the right mentors using our AI-powered tool to calculating mentoring’s ROI, we can help set your organization for success in achieving your most ambitious DEI goals, whatever they may be.

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