How to Create Your DEI Plan Part 1: Preparation

March 5, 2021
By Dwan Jones

​A Note from Nelson Connects


Nelson Connects is committed to a diverse and equitable workplace. Our company’s DEI charter specifies both internal and external-facing activities. The article series on How to Create Your DEI Plan is part of our effort to share with Nelson Connects' larger community both knowledge and best practices related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.


As an organization, we are continuing to build upon and implement our internal diversity strategy, including ideas suggested in this article and from other activities underway with clients and business partners. We acknowledge that we don’t know all the answers and understand that for most organizations, creating an effective and sustainable DEI culture is an ongoing work in progress.


We are excited and dedicated to continuing our work in this area. We hope you enjoy the article.​


How to Create Your DEI Plan: Part 1


If you're working to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within your organization, you may have already secured initial buy-in and committed resources. You may even be ready to launch (or enhance) your DEI initiative. But creating a specific DEI plan can be overwhelming. So, where do you begin? As with many endeavors, it’s important to prepare before taking action. The following steps will help you prepare to develop an effective plan.


Step 1: Assess where you are

“Start where you are …” —Arthur Ashe


Assess where your organization is now on the DEI spectrum by collecting both internal and external data to gain a 360-degree perspective of where you stand.

Internal data should include analyses of internal culture, attitudes, and systems. You can gain insights by reviewing internal company information related to:

  • employment data

  • affirmative action plans

  • EEO reporting

  • internal surveys

Organizational assessments are also a great way to examine your current status and gauge cultural competency.


You’ll also need to know how your company compares to other industry organizations. Labor market data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will help you understand industry and workforce demographics.


With the internal and external data in hand, you can identify key areas of concern and needs to define goals and strategies. Be sure to collect and analyze quantitative and qualitative data to get a clear sense of the numbers and narratives of stakeholders.


Step 2: Define the business case


Successful DEI initiatives and planning require the commitment, focus, and participation of those within each level of the organization, especially leadership. Their expressed passion to lead the charge sets the tone for the entire organization to follow.​


Getting leaders on board requires the ability to translate the benefits of DEI into a program that leaders want to fund. Enter the business case for diversity, which includes highlighting the business value, humanity, and equality-based benefits to transformative change.


Step 3: Engage the right stakeholders


Make sure the right people are in the room to make an impact, including both leaders and diverse staff from various levels within the organization.

  • Invite decision-makers who can approve activities and resources.

  • Include influencers whom decision-makers listen to and who know the organization’s pulse.

  • And don’t forget the skeptics. Although they may not buy in initially, their perspectives and your ability to sway their reservations will help to bolster transformation.

Step 4: Identify your “why” and goals


Before and throughout the planning process, continue to ask the question Why do we need diversity within our organization now? This simple question will help keep your efforts grounded and focused. And, be sure to tie the “why” to your company’s core mission, values, and priorities to help make DEI become part of your company’s DNA.


Because DEI initiatives are plentiful, it’s key to identify SMART goals aligned to the needs identified during the assessment process in Step 1.

Strive to set meaningful goals, including those that:

  • show early wins

  • help to expedite buy-in

  • look beyond quotas

  • show a commitment to changes in internal culture and systemic biases

SMART DEI Goal Example:


Within the next 12 months, implement a new recruitment system and process using clearly defined criteria, guidelines, and outreach methods targeted specifically to diverse candidates to increase diverse new hires from 10% to 30%.


Step 5: Garner broader feedback


Once you’ve drafted your SMART goals, the next step is to make sure they’re collaborative by garnering broader feedback from those outside of your DEI-focused group. Getting input from people in various organizational levels who are going to be the most impacted is a great start to inclusiveness and also ensures all voices are heard and valued. This feedback will be eye-opening and help to inform goals or clarify what you should prioritize.


There’s no better time than now to start or enhance your DEI journey. With the steps outlined above, you’ll be well-prepared to start developing your plan. 


Next Steps


Read How to Create Your DEI Plan Part 2: Writing the Plan, which explains how to write an effective document and implement/track your DEI initiative to ensure your efforts are positioned for ongoing success.



If you need assistance with employment services, contact Nelson Connects today.

Our staffing and recruiting experts are here to help.


Dwan Jones is the founder of Strategic Like a Boss, a strategy consultancy, and a contributor to the Nelson Connects blog and more. Connect with her about DEI, strategic planning, and multicultural communications on LinkedIn.

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