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Setting Diversity Goals:  A Key To EDI Success

Setting Diversity Goals: A Key to EDI Success

Organizations across every industry – including private businesses, non-profits, educational institutions and government agencies – are actively creating Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) plans. Creating an EDI plan means demonstrating your organization’s diversity values through achievement of targeted goals that align with business practices. Though creating a meaningful EDI plan is a rigorous undertaking, there are some things that you can do to get started. Among the first is setting diversity goals. This post will explain why diversity goals matter and how to set those goals.

Why Diversity Goals Matter

Diversity goals help an organization improve in several ways. First, setting goals makes diversity a priority. No organization would go into a new year or quarter without a clear plan to increase profits, penetrate new markets, or other key metrics. Making diversity a part of your plan lets leaders, your employees, your shareholders and your customers know that your organization values diversity as much as other goals.

Second, setting goals forces an organization to move from talk to action. As French novelist Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Similarly, an organization that talks about diversity but doesn’t set clear goals is simply wishing for change to happen without taking steps to make change happen. More importantly, leaders that talk about diversity without taking steps toward meaningful implementation are often described as “all talk and no action” or “not walking their talk.” Sentiments like these are a sure indicator of current or near future setbacks in morale, engagement, and retention of some of your talented employees from nondominant groups.

Finally, setting goals makes leaders and organizations accountable for their actions. Simply talking about diversity does not ensure accountability; and if there is one thing that is being demanded in 2019, it’s accountability. Publicizing diversity goals puts leaders and other stakeholders on notice that specific and measurable behaviors associated with advancing diversity goals are expected.

How to Set Diversity Goals

Some leaders understand the importance of setting goals in other areas but find it difficult to set goals for diversity. While there are many ways to craft solid goals, following a few key points can simplify the process.

First, leaders should communicate their diversity goals in a clear manner. Setting a vague goal is nearly as bad as setting no goal at all. Crafting broad, unclear goals (e.g., “increase applicant diversity”) creates confusion. Moreover, broad and unclear goals are either not demonstrable and measurable or are nearly impossible to meet, which can lower morale or create a backlash. So, setting clear goals is important.

Second, count the right things. Your team should be able to reach the goal by a date certain. Many goals are doomed from the start because they are too ambitious. To create achievable goals, leaders must do their research. For instance, leaders who wish to broaden their applicant pool should research the composition of the applicant pool. To get a realistic idea of what is possible, leaders should also research their competitors – especially those recognized for their EDI efforts. Doing so will help you understand if your organization is ahead of the curve, in the middle of the pack, or lagging behind. Understanding the lay of the land at the start will help leaders set goals that their teams can complete by the stated deadline.

Finally, align with organizational systems that will ensure managers and leaders have the tools needed to pursue diversity goals, including performance incentives and accountability to non-performance.

As Deloitte reported, many major corporations give managers diversity goals. Their performance reviews examine their ability to meet these goals. Other companies give bonuses to managers who excel at diversity. Making management accountable gives everyone a stake in the enterprise.

Avoiding Pitfalls

Setting clear, achievable goals with clear deadlines is an important start. However, leaders must beware of the following potential pitfalls.

  • Focusing on inputs rather than outputs and outcomes.  An example of a vague and input-focused goal is “Interview at five HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) campuses/non-PWI (predominantly white institutions) to widen applicant pool.”
  • Failing to add numeric goals and timeline.  Leaders often leaders avoid adding specific goals because they don’t feel they have enough baseline data upon which to make an accurate estimate of future performance. In the absence of baseline data, guess. It’s better to aim for “80% of all job descriptions will be reviewed and revised with an equity lens by December 31, 2019” than to have no goal at all.
  • Evaluate, share and adjust.  Often leaders are hesitant to share particularly when performance falls short of the goal. Actually, performance toward goals should be shared broadly so that internal and external constituents know what efforts are being made as well as adjustments that are needed to get to the desired goal. It is more important to demonstrate commitment to an ongoing process than to hitting all numeric goals on the first try.
  • Include inclusion.   Diversity is often more quantifiable than inclusion, and therefore easier to measure. But diversity and inclusion must go hand-in-hand for organizations to thrive. Think of it like this: diversity is about representation, inclusion is about organizational climate and health. Set inclusion goals for managers that are tied to other managerial practices like coaching, feedback, mentoring, performance evaluations, and building and managing effective teams. Give managers the tools they need to understand the difference between traditional management and managing for inclusion.
  • Reevaluate constantly. Companies, industries, and markets change constantly. Good diversity goals do too. Resist the temptation to stand pat.
  • Be Flexible. The Harvard Business Review recently posted an article that highlights the importance of maintaining flexibility while setting goals. In 2016, Pinterest hired a new head of Inclusion and Diversity. The new hire promptly set a goal to make women 30 percent of Pinterest’s new engineering hires. As time passed, the team saw that they could meet the goal easily by hiring younger women. However, doing so would have created a work environment where junior women worked at a company without senior women to mentor them. Faced with this reality, Pinterest reworked its goal. Though Pinterest didn’t hit the thirty percent mark, they significantly increased the number of the women on the team in senior and junior positions while also creating a foundation for women to thrive in the company’s future.
  • Get “buy-in.” – Goals work best when everyone commits to them. Leaders should help their team find reasons to support their diversity goals. Diversity brings many benefits. Identify what your team responds to and use that to motivate them.
  • Celebrate your wins! – EDI work is difficult. Take every opportunity to remind your team of the importance of their work and praise them for their successes.

Setting diversity goals gives leaders and organizations structure and accountability as they move toward equity, diversity, and inclusion. If your organization wants to learn more about putting the concepts of equity, diversity, and inclusion into practice, consider enrolling in The Equity Toolkit. To provide your managers with the specific skills needed to contribute to an inclusive workplace, enroll them in The Inclusive Manager’s Communication Toolkit. This course will launch in Summer 2019.

DeEtta Jones

DeEtta Jones is an invited speaker, equity, diversity and inclusion strategy consultant and author with more than twenty years of experience working with people from around the world to on personal effectiveness and building workforce capacity.

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