Transform Company Culture Through Your DEI Strategy

A strong diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy is essential to a culture that values and su...

Posted by Berkshire on August 31 2023

A strong diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy is essential to a culture that values and supports diversity and inclusion. By taking an intentional approach to DEI, companies can move beyond just talking about DEI to actions that ensure that everyone feels safe, respected, and valued.

Getting started with DEI strategy isn’t easy. You’ll need to recognize the opportunities and challenges that come with creating an inclusive environment. Cheryl Boyer, Berkshire’s director of diversity and inclusion services, provided insight on how organizations should navigate the process of developing and implementing a DEI strategy. 

Learn what a DEI strategy is, what it can do for you, and how to establish one in your organization.

What Is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategy?

A DEI strategy is a set of practices, policies, and initiatives that organizations use to create a diverse and inclusive workplace. The end goal of a DEI strategy is to create a culture where all employees are respected, treated fairly, and have access to the same opportunities regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation or sexual identity, religion, disability, or other characteristics. 

A DEI strategy is essential for organizations because it not only fosters a culture of acceptance and respect, but reduces the risk of disparate impact and claims of discrimination. These outcomes contribute to greater productivity, creativity, and collaboration.

Where Are You On Your DEI Journey?

The first step in determining your strategy is to understand where your organization is at in its DEI maturity.

A DEI maturity model is a set of criteria used to measure and evaluate an organization's progress toward creating an inclusive and equitable workplace. 

Bersin by Deloitte Model

The Bersin by Deloitte maturity model has four levels, and follows a similar trajectory to the Mercer model.

  • Compliance-focused: Diversity is perceived as a problem to be managed through compliance. Responsibility falls to the legal, HR, and DEI teams.
  • Programmatic: The focus is on increasing representation. The HR and DEI teams are the primary drivers behind these efforts.
  • Leader-led: Leaders take more responsibility for addressing systemic cultural barriers rather than solely fixing individual instances of under-representation.
  • Integrated: The entire organization takes responsibility for using differences to drive business value.

Consider which of these stages of maturity your business is in. “Once you know where you are in your diversity journey, and where you want to be, your next step would be to build your business case,” Boyer said. 

Why Does Your Organization Need a DEI Strategy?

There are numerous business reasons for developing a DEI strategy. “More and more companies are being asked to disclose this kind of data, either externally or internally, because employees are asking for it,” Boyer said. 

As of 2022, every company in the Fortune 100 had made a public commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Your commitment to a DEI strategy helps with attracting clients and customers and recruiting talent. Younger job-seekers tend to be more values-driven and want to work in diverse workplaces. 

Additionally, company performance trends up when the workforce is diverse. Research from McKinsey found that companies with higher gender and ethnic diversity are more likely to financially outperform their peers with lower diversity. And it’s not difficult to see why: Behaviors that do not reflect inclusivity  lead to lower productivity and employee well-being, Boyer said, which negatively affects employee engagement and performance. 

Each of these arguments can help you build a business case, but also determine what reasons resonate most within your culture. “Your business case has to be unique to your organization — to your mission, your values,” employees, customers, and community, Boyer said. When your workforce reflects your target market and audience, for example, you’re more likely to design products or services that match your audience’s needs.

What Is Your Current State?

Once you know where you fall on the maturity model and what your business case is, you have to evaluate your current state. There are three components to focus on: representation, opportunity, and equity.


Demographic representation helps you understand the state of diversity in your business. “This will give you a snapshot of what your organization looks [like] at any given time, and can serve to set your baseline for what your organization looks like today — and where you envision moving in the future,” Boyer said. 

But basic statistics can be misleading or incomplete: White employees, for example, might make up less than half the workforce but occupy more than half of the executive and management positions. You need to break down representation by job role and/or level for a more complete picture.

Compare representation data within your organization against information about ‌the number of diverse candidates available on the market. One source for external demographic data is equal employment opportunity tabulation data from the U.S. Census. It’s detailed, and breaks availability down by job descriptions and skill levels.


To understand your opportunities for improving the state of DEI in your business, run an analysis of your hires, promotions, and terminations that reveals what factors drive representation, Boyer said. 

For example, employees self-identifying as a certain racial demographic make up 15% of your new hires in the past year but comprise 20% of voluntary departures. You also find that this employee group only accounts for only 10% of promotions during the same period. You know that something is causing a net outflow of employees from this demographic  — and one factor may be a lack of promotion opportunities, Boyer said. This data analysis can prompt you to examine other factors, such as unconscious racial biases manifesting in acts of exclusion toward this group of employees.


Equity at work refers to the fair and impartial treatment of all employees regardless of race, gender, age, or other characteristics. Fostering equity at work involves providing equal opportunities for development and growth. All employees should have access to equivalent tools and resources — and in the quality and quantity needed to succeed in their role.

Pay equity is one component that’s increasingly gaining public attention, including from state and municipal lawmakers developing their own pay equity laws. Assessing your current state of pay equity starts with a wage-gap analysis. Getting started with pay equity is complicated, but a trusted partner, like Berkshire, can guide you in the right direction.

How Do You Set and Implement a DEI Strategy?

Creating a DEI strategy takes commitment and hard work, but is well worth the effort if it produces a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture. 

Set Goals and Targets

Begin by researching and understanding the current DEI landscape in your company and industry. Use that data to identify areas of opportunity for growth and improvement.

Develop measurable goals that outline the desired impact of DEI initiatives and the timeline for achieving your DEI goals. Set objectives that are achievable and measurable, regularly revisiting them with the latest data. Revise as needed.

Goals that rely on numerical targets can be challenging. “Setting quotas in most cases is illegal,  and it may be perceived as just hiring people to fill the quota without hiring the most qualified person,” Boyer said. The problem isn't the targets so much as how they’re set and what they mean. “You just need to be really careful to understand what those targets are and what achieving them means,” Boyer added.

A DEI hiring strategy can help you close gaps in representation. Adapting your hiring process for diversity could include seeking candidates from a wider array of job boards or other sources (such as historically Black colleges and universities) or implementing more diverse interview panels.

Develop Training Programs

Provide managers with targeted training on how to create a more inclusive workplace. “Managers should understand that we all come with unconscious, inherent biases that, if not recognized, can influence our decisions,” Boyer said.

Manager training should include topics such as identifying and addressing unconscious bias in the workplace, fostering respectful dialogue between different groups, and creating systems and policies that promote equity and inclusion. This training should be ongoing and tailored to the specific needs of the organization. 

By providing managers with the right tools and resources, organizations can ensure that they are creating an environment that's welcoming and equitable.

Establish Cultural Awareness

A good company culture sees employees regularly interact with and get to know each other. Employers can encourage this through opportunities that invite learning about different cultures present within the workforce. Examples include hosting cultural events, celebrating holidays from different backgrounds, and creating forums for employees to discuss cultural topics. These activities help employees better understand each other and foster an open and respectful work environment.

Employers should take an active role in creating a culturally aware workplace. They should be open to feedback and suggestions while encouraging employees to speak up when they feel uncomfortable or disrespected. By taking these steps and more, employers can create a workplace where all employees feel respected and included.

Review HR Policies and Practices

Thoroughly examine existing HR policies and practices, as well as other company rules and guidelines. Don’t just look at the intent of these policies; examine the language to identify potential areas of bias. Compare existing policies and practices to the organization's mission and values. This can also  help to identify potential areas of bias and those that don’t align with the company's values. 

When advertising for open positions, “examine your job advertisements, or your job descriptions, for biased language,” Boyer said. You can’t build a successful DEI recruiting strategy if biases are hardwired into your policies, guidelines, and other documents. 

Gather feedback from key stakeholders about your current HR state and where you could improve. Helpful feedback often comes from employees, managers, and external partners. 

Get the Workforce Involved

Even small companies can create inclusion councils or employee resource groups. The former is a cross-section of the workforce “who would be responsible for evaluating your culture and making recommendations for ways to create a more inclusive culture in your organization,” Boyer said.  The latter is a group of people with a common interest in a particular culture or group. It’s important when establishing employee resource groups to encourage membership from anyone interested in joining, not just members of a select group.  

Invest in a DEI Strategy to Drive Business Success

In today's dynamic and interconnected business landscape, a successful DEI strategy is a profound testament to company progress and growth. Fortunately, companies of all sizes can capitalize on this opportunity. By recognizing the inherent strength that lies within a diverse workforce and implementing a robust DEI strategy, you can unlock the potential to excel.

For more information on these and other DEI strategies, read about our services or to talk with an expert.

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