Raising the Bar: How to Set Real Goals for Workplace Inclusion

In recent years, more and more companies have begun pledging a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). And it’s easy to see why. Companies that embrace DEI show, 30% higher economic profit margins, 83% increases in innovation and improved talent recruitment & retention. It’s not just the ‘right thing to do’, it helps to create a competitive advantage for any business. 

We’re seeing more companies prioritizing DEI for these clear and research-backed reasons. But generalized statements won’t do much to tie DEI strategies to business priorities. In today’s landscape that’s awash with different legal, political and financial challenges, pointing to the benefits of DEI and hoping it’ll incite action will do little to drive real results.

Instead, companies must make a strong business case for DEI. In this blog, we explore how to do exactly that.

The Evolving Landscape of DEI in Business 

While the corporate world is seeing a growing emphasis on DEI, there’s a familiar pattern of ebb and flow that DEI work has seen over the decades. Economic uncertainty and organizational changes can see dedication to DEI suffer from budget cuts and less attention from business leaders. The companies that can stay committed to DEI in our current landscape, are those who can demonstrate they’re reaching concrete business objectives. 

When DEI efforts have stronger ties to corporate benefits and strategies, companies can connect this to improved financial performance, stronger culture and leadership, and more engaged employees.

Redefining the Role of Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Leaders 

When considering how we can best tie DEI initiatives with business objectives, we need to start with D&I leadership. D&I Leaders hold a crucial role at a critical time as we strive for workplace inclusion.

The need to recruit positions that are dedicated to DEI is a simple fact, but what’s more complex is how we position these roles in our organization. 

Chief diversity officers need to go beyond being just advocates for diversity. Instead, they must position themselves as integral business leaders who can make real changes in the company fabric. The shift from being seen as a supporting role, to becoming a driving force in business strategy is crucial. 

Integrating DEI into broader business objectives can then transform it into everyone’s responsibility, from employees to leadership roles. In an inclusive workplace, fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace is part of everyone’s role. 

Bridging the Gap: From Abstract to Action

As discussed, DEI initiatives need to be rooted in action and measurable outcomes, rather than just words and promises. Generalized assertions about neurodiversity and disability inclusion will fall short if they’re just for a DEI checkbox, or if they don’t align with high-priority business objectives. So how exactly can we turn abstract statements into an inclusive workplace culture that delivers the consequent benefits? 

Starting with DEI leaders, this role must take a proactive stance in clearly outlining the link between an inclusive workplace and business objectives. Data and metrics should be used to show how inclusion in the workplace leads to key performance indicators, like improved employee engagement, expanding market reach or driving innovation.

Data can be circulated throughout company communications, or summarized in the form of concrete success stories. These tangible benefits of diversity must also be communicated with leadership. 

Seven Steps Toward Meaningful Change in DEI

According to Caroline Casey, Founder, The Valuable 500

In our recent Festival of Workplace Inclusion, Gus Schmedlen, Chief Revenue Officer at Texthelp met with Caroline Casey, Founder of The Valuable 500 to discuss how to best set achievable goals around workplace inclusion.

We’ve summed up Caroline’s insights on how to set real goals that’ll drive a big impact for disability inclusion:

  1. Work collectively and engage with the wider team: Speak to your team to understand their experience and perspectives. Create an open dialogue within the organization to foster inclusivity. Employee resource groups (ERGs) are a great way to do this. For example, here at Texthelp, our Disability & Neurodiversity ERG, Enable, focuses on providing valuable support and resources for employees with and without disabilities, as well as raising awareness. This plays a key role in making sure that Texthelp is a welcoming, inclusive and accessible place for all employees.
  2. Connect ERGs with leadership: When an ERG brings together like-minded people and allies for marginalized forces, it can be extremely powerful within a company. But an ERG won’t lead to business growth if it’s not connected to leadership. ERGs must have an executive sponsor from the top of the business with the right resources and budgeting to ensure all their needs are met. Texthelp CTO, Ryan Graham, emphasized this in the session: Scaling Up Allyship: The Role of ERGs and Beyond, at the Festival of Workplace Inclusion, highlighting the pivotal role of an Executive Sponsor in optimizing ERGs. 
  3. Don’t reinvent the wheel: Take existing organizations, networks, communities and initiatives and learn from them. There’s little point in spending time and energy recreating the wheel. Instead, use that time to learn from the experiences of others.
  4. Be curious and open to mistakes: One of the greatest things a leader can say is “I don’t know how to do this,” because where there is accountability, there is ambition and a genuine desire to learn.  
  5. Talk business in a way that appeals to the heart and mind: It’s crucial to communicate the data that proves how DEI can have a monumental effect on a company’s bottom line. When it comes to sharing these tangible outcomes with the people at the top of a business, we need to appeal to both the rational and emotional aspects of leaders. Use a data-driven approach alongside storytelling to make a powerful case for inclusion.
  6. Be accountable: Goals must have clear accountability to drive meaningful change. Deadlines are also crucial to inject drive and momentum into our initiatives. These goals also need to avoid tokenism and symbolic actions, but instead require authentic efforts that drive results. This also requires the CEO to be accountable, as if leadership isn’t on board with working collectively to drive change, change won’t happen. 
  7. Don’t let fear get in the way: For many, the fear of getting it wrong gets in the way of driving meaningful change. Instead, embrace discomfort, be radically curious and encourage your team to join this learning journey. 

“If we want to really drive systemic change and to end global disability exclusion, it is absolutely not possible unless we have business meaningfully at the table. I fundamentally believe that business is one of the most powerful forces on our planet. What business includes and value, society will include in value.”

DEI Strategies That Work

As highlighted in Caroline’s keynote session, it’s crucial to draw inspiration and learn from companies that have been able to integrate DEI into their business fabric. 

At Texthelp, we’ve witnessed these success stories, and played a pivotal role. Here’s how. 

Workplace inclusion at EY and the role of Read&Write

Since introducing Read&Write in 2018, EY has "seen explosive growth… and an increased demand for it.” It’s played an important role in supporting EY’s goal to “level the playing field for absolutely everybody.”

KPMG highlights how inclusive tech supports neurodivergent staff

Read&Write allows KPMG to offer inclusive technology to all of their UK-based colleagues, anytime and anywhere, with no need to self-disclose. This plays a crucial role in creating an inclusive workplace where all employees are supported.

Read&Write supports every employee at Network Rail

Read&Write is embraced organisation-wide, seeing it as software that's “much more than a support for staff with specific challenges.” It’s used at all levels, “from our top executives to trackside workers who’ve got it on their tablets.”

Caroline Casey's words from the keynote session at our festival encapsulate the reason behind any DEI initiative: "I think every single person in this world of ours, and you can feel it more now than ever, is yearning to be seen and heard and to be known and understood themselves."

However, if these DEI initiatives are going to last, they need to be connected to real business outcomes. The key takeaway then, is clear; talking about workplace inclusion isn’t enough for your employees or business goals. DEI initiatives must be woven into the fabric of your business. Actions and the subsequent impact on business success must be clearly communicated by D&I leaders.

When DEI is on the agenda of senior leaders, inclusiveness will drive down through the wider business and become part of everyone’s role.

In this workplace, every voice matters, paving the way for all the competitive advantages that an inclusive environment brings.