In working with organizations and entrepreneurs in the areas of leadership, management, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), two of the most commonly stated questions and challenges are: 1) how do I learn what I do not know about DEI, and 2) how can I develop a plan to attract a diverse workforce? Below is a synopsis of the work plan that I developed and guide clients through to help them meet their personal and professional DEI goals. I call the components of this DEI workplan the 5 I’s: intention, impact, intellectual nutrition, internal processes, and investments.

Equity, for its own sake, is the best reason to seek an understanding of and an actionable work plan for DEI.

1. Intention: Setting and acting from an intention, that comes from both the head and heart, is critical in embarking on your DEI journey. What is your “why”? Educating yourself and others is noble, but what do you plan to do with your new knowledge? If you start with a stated intention, such as, learning what the unique experiences and challenges are of people who live and look different than you, particularly Black, people of Color, LGBTQ+, and women you will narrow your focus and energy effectively without going off track.

2. Impact: Think of impact as the desired change you want to create. Using our example of creating a diverse workforce, what is your “so what”? What will you gain by learning about the disparity others face, and what is within your control to combat these disparities in the workplace? While there are plenty of studies that will tell you that diverse companies are more adaptable and competitive, that really is not a suitable answer to “so what” when it comes to DEI.  Equity, for its own sake, is the best reason to seek an understanding and an actionable work plan for DEI. With this as your desired impact, you can begin to develop and enact a plan to attract and retain diverse talent with a measurable vision.

3. Intellectual Nutrition: Just like the saying, “we are what we eat”, we are very much the information we consume and can become deficient from lack of quality input. Much of what many of us know and learn in the United States is from a Eurocentric dominant culture perspective that pushes Black, people of Color, LGBTQ+, and women to the margins. A balanced intellectual diet includes consuming information from sources outside of your own echo chamber. Actively researching websites, social media affinity groups, and even simple word or phrase searches are the easiest and most direct source to diversify your intellectual nutrition as it relates to the demographics you want to learn about, attract, and retain in your workforce.

4. Internal Processes: I always ask clients, “does your workforce or team reflect the diversity of the clients and community you serve or would like to serve? If not, why is that?”. The most common answer is, “No, and I don’t know why that is”, and I don’t really expect them to know off the top of their heads. I do, however, expect clients to actively think about all of their internal processes that lead up to an actual hire that may be impeding their DEI goals: developing the job description, outreach and recruitment, screening applications, and interviewing. Including a brief description of an inclusive and equity-minded work culture in the job announcement, partnering with affinity groups to post your openings to their membership, compiling a diverse hiring panel for both screening and interviews with an objective candidate scoring sheet are internal processes that help facilitate casting a broader net for applicants and creating an equitable hiring process.

5. Investments: Plainly put, what resources are you willing to invest to your DEI goals? I recommend that clients commit a budget for all the above-mentioned components on an ongoing basis. DEI does not have to be a specific line item in your budget, it will be intertwined within various parts of your operations as you institutionalize it to be just a part of the way you do business.