Designing a DEI Program

Designing a DEI Program

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are crucial components for promoting innovation, luring top talent, boosting employee engagement, and supporting organizational success in today’s global and linked corporate environment. Organizations can benefit from DEI programs by attracting and keeping top people, enhancing employee satisfaction and productivity, and fostering innovation. Business-driven DEI programs are among the most effective ways to increase economic upward mobility. DEI training, recruitment practices, and employee resource groups may not add value as much as they seem. The most powerful strategies for inclusion and diversity come from business strategy, not HR programs (The Josh Bersin Company, 2021). As the newly hired DEI manager for Fictitious Corp., this proposal outlines a comprehensive DEI program, including its advantages, recommendations for getting started, and a step-by-step approach to its development. It also discusses potential challenges and strategies to overcome resistance to the program.

The Need for a DEI Program

            Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs aim to change organizations by dismantling barriers and biases that hinder equitable outcomes. They can foster work environments that embrace and value employees’ unique differences, unifying a workforce with diverse backgrounds and generating new ideas, perspectives, and experiences—leading to innovative and creative solutions (Hewlett, 2014). DEI initiatives typically include training, education, fair policies, inclusive hiring and recruitment methods, mentorship programs, employee resource groups, continuous evaluation, and success measurement.

Successful DEI programs increase employee morale and engagement, as employees feel heard and appreciated. This contributes to a positive work environment and demonstrates the organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion (Kiradoo, 2022; Thompson, 2021). DEI programs foster a culture of respect, justice, and belonging, enabling companies to fully utilize their diverse workforce, produce superior financial results, and positively impact society.

A DEI program is influential in improving organizational performance, talent attraction and retention, compliance with legal and ethical standards, and meeting customer expectations. By leveraging diverse skills, experiences, and backgrounds, DEI programs drive creativity, agility, and adaptability while demonstrating organizational commitment to fairness, equal opportunity, and social responsibility. By implementing a DEI program, the organization can effectively engage with diverse customers and develop inclusive products and services, ensuring a more inclusive and diverse workforce.

Getting Started

DEI Committee

A DEI committee or task force should be established to initiate the development of Fictitious Corp.’s DEI program. A DEI committee should include between 10 and 15 members (Kolluru et al., 2022). the committee structure should be appointed broadly beyond underrepresented groups to include leaders, community members, customers, and suppliers (Kolluru et al., 2022). Careful consideration should be given to the makeup of DEI committees to avoid the committee’s membership to comprise entirely of underrepresented minority members, which may be perceived as leaving diversity work to underrepresented minority members. This can lead to feelings of obligation, exhaustion, and burnout. In contrast, excluding traditionally advantaged groups may also make them feel undervalued, threatened, and less likely to accept DEI committee policies (Kolluru et al., 2022).

            The role of the DEI committee is to implement and lead changes to ensure all stakeholders are represented (Kolluru et al., 2022). They strive to develop and integrate strategic plans that prioritize DEI goals while ensuring the proper distribution of resources. These committees put into practice the rules and regulations that support DEI programs and promote an inclusive environment for all employees. They act as the company’s spokesperson on DEI matters to ensure ongoing progress.

DEI programs aim to shift the organizational culture. For initiatives with company-wide changes, a proactive approach is to institute a change management model. Organizations, people, and projects are the three layers that make up change management (Galli, 2018). A change management model provides a process that aligns everyone with the same language and needs for change. A general change management model identifies the need for the change, determines the change details, communicates change and mitigates resistance, and implements changes. Several change management models are commonly used in organizations, including Lewin’s Change Management Model, Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model, ADKAR Model, Bridges’ Transition Model, and McKinsey’s 7-S model (Galli, 2018).

Need Assessment

            Fictitious Corp.’s DEI committee should conduct a comprehensive DEI needs assessment to audit the organizational culture’s temperature and identify improvement areas. Data about the workforce’s demographics, employee experiences, and current rules and procedures should all be included in this assessment. By conducting a needs assessment, the committee can operate from factual information instead of assumptions (Kirkpatrick, 2009). Following the assessment, the committee should be able to produce a clear definition of the program’s vision, mission, and objectives consistent with the organization’s mission and values. Many organizations tend to start diversity programs without identifying the program’s goal and objectives, leaving them unfocused and overwhelmed. Setting a mission at the onset of a program aligns with all future actions (Stone, 2009).

Stakeholders Involvement

            All stakeholders must be identified and involved for DEI programs to be successful. It is essential to involve staff at all levels to promote a sense of ownership and inclusivity. As the organizational culture changes, established relationships are redefined, and expectations may change as a result of the change results (Awal et al., 2006). Therefore, all stakeholders must be aware of and agree with the changes. Key stakeholders can and will be impacted by the implementation of the DEI program (Awal et al., 2006). They comprise internal and external individuals, such as leadership, human resources, employees, employee resource groups, customers, vendors, suppliers, and sometimes the community.

Leadership’s Role

            Like any other business initiative, engaging leadership is essential. Without it, progress can be slow and temporary (The Josh Bersin Company, 2021). People demand genuine leadership commitment and see through shallow promises. Therefore, leadership must be responsible for DEI results—assigning a champion to spearhead each initiative can promote ownership and accountability (The Josh Bersin Company, 2021). A champion will drive change and is committed to the change initiative’s success (Galli, 2018). A collection of initiatives, programs, and tactics will always be associated with a DEI plan independent of the company’s strategy. Successful companies incorporate DEI as a business imperative into their mission, vision, and strategy.

            Additionally, leadership must be the first to buy into the DEI program’s goals and objectives. Their commitment is necessary to execute them. The senior and executive-level leadership needs to communicate and reflect a cultural shift in the organization. They should model inclusive behavior to set the tone for the entire organization (The Josh Bersin Company, 2021). Building a culture of inclusion where all employees feel welcome, respected, and valued, empower employees to follow suit and speak up about DEI issues.

            Finally, leaders should allocate resources, both financial and personnel resources, to support DEI initiatives. Providing financial and personnel resources support indicates leadership is committed to the program’s success and willing to invest in its development and implementation. After the program has started, allocating sufficient funding for DEI in the organization’s budget shows that it’s a commitment and not a disposable line item.

 Developing a DEI Program

            Organizations need to develop a DEI program if they are looking to build an inclusive and equitable work environment. A well-designed DEI program addresses social and regulatory requirements and gives major competitive advantages. Thompson (2021) suggested implementing the CAPE process –collect, analyze, plan, and execute—to structure a DEI program. CAPE provides a framework that uses foundational tools to generate a process (Thompson, 2021). The CAPE process is a targeted approach that helps to mitigate costs while tailoring solutions to a specific issue (Thompson, 2021). This section will provide a strategy for building a DEI program for Fictitious Corp.


            As mentioned, the initial step is to collect data to assess areas of need. Data collection begins with identifying what data already exists within the organization. It is best to start with the organization application tracking system, human resource information system, or EEO-1 Form. This mandatory federal compliance form requires employers to submit demographic workforce data as required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (US EEOC, n.d.). This will provide a quick snapshot of the company’s diversity climate; however, not all protected class information may be provided. For example, hiring documentation does not typically collect information on an individual’s disabilities, and LGBTQ+ was not a protected class until 2020 (Thompson, 2021).

            Once data is collected, it allows you to have an established reference point, create actionable objectives, and create a measurable plan (Thompson, 2021). Data collection at a specific time will be a reference point for further analysis and decision-making. By having clear and specific data points, progress can be tracked, and adjustments can be made with informed decisions.


            Analyzing the data properly is just as important as collecting the right data. If the data is only assessed as a whole, key improvement areas may be overlooked. For a holistic view of the organization, examining each department for potential diversity disparities is wise. For example, a large technology company may collect data on the demographics of its workforce and find that overall gender representation is relatively balanced. However, upon diving into department-specific data, they may discover that certain departments, such as engineering or leadership positions have a significant lack of gender diversity, indicating potential problems with promotion or recruitment processes. By analyzing data at a department level, the company can identify specific areas for improvement and develop targeted strategies to address diversity disparities.


            After the DEI Committee thoroughly analyzes key performance indicators and needs assessment results, the next step is to develop a roadmap that serves as the foundation for the initiative. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) to provide clear guidance and accountability. They are prioritized based on their impact and feasibility. The roadmap should include timelines and milestones, metrics and benchmarks, resources and budget, and a communication plan. This will help the DEI Committee progress toward its goals and ensure that they successfully create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization.

Once the roadmap is complete, the DEI committee will present it to senior and executive leadership to gather feedback, secure endorsement, and assign champions. The roadmap should highlight the business case for the DEI’s key objectives, action steps, and expected outcomes. This roadmap is backed by data and research. Leadership is encouraged to actively create an open and inclusive environment for them to express their thoughts, concerns, and suggestions. This feedback loop will allow for further refinement, addressing potential gaps or challenges, and aligning with the overall organizational strategy and values. Additionally, it will foster transparency and inclusivity by involving stakeholders in the decision-making process.

Securing endorsement from senior and executive leadership is crucial for creating a culture of commitment and accountability. Their endorsement gains credibility and authority as senior leaders advocate for the DEI initiatives, driving change and allocating resources. Their endorsement also sends a powerful message to the rest of the organization, signaling that diversity, equity, and inclusion are priorities at the highest level.

Assigning champions for each goal outlined in the roadmap will be leaders within the organization who are passionate about driving the DEI agenda forward. These champions will act as change agents, advocating for the initiatives, mobilizing resources, and leading by example. By assigning champions, responsibility for each goal is distributed across the organization, fostering ownership and accountability at different levels.


With the approved roadmap, the plan can now be put into action. The DEI Committee must ensure what is communicated aligns with observable practices. This starts with being transparent and consistent in messaging, clearly articulating DEI initiatives’ goals, objectives, and progress. The DEI committee must be clear on what they can control within their sphere of influence, acknowledging the limits of their control and strategically channeling resources to maximize their impact on creating meaningful change. Leveraging leadership can sources to ensure information and actions are being reflected accurately.

Finally, the DEI committee can monitor progress and evaluate the effectiveness of the action steps. The roadmap includes key milestones and performance metrics to track the organization’s advancement toward each goal. Through ongoing assessment and continuous improvement, the committee will adapt and refine the roadmap as needed, ensuring it remains dynamic and responsive to the evolving needs and challenges in pursuing a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace or environment.

Potential Challenges

            A successful manager or leader anticipates challenges and attempts to address them preemptively. While every challenge cannot be known, preparing for the known knowns is possible. Below are a few known challenges that can occur while developing a DEI program.

            As previously mentioned, at the onset of a DEI program, having an adequate budget and staff are essential to the program’s prosperity (Thompson, 2021). Adequate financial resources are necessary for investing in training, outreach, and technology that help foster an inclusive environment. At the same time, a dedicated DEI team ensures long-term sustainability and impact through effective coordination and evaluation. Leadership is key to ensuring this challenge is mitigated. They must prioritize sufficient financial and personnel resources to support the DEI program’s successful implementation and continuous growth.

Another challenge occurs with acquiring accurate, current, and sufficient data. Often companies fail to acquire enough data to conduct a comprehensive analysis; this can leave gaps when visualizing areas of improvement (Thompson, 2021). Additionally, since sharing these protected categories are optional, this can skew the perception of the organization’s diversity index (Thompson, 2021). Dated data is another challenge companies face. Every day people are being recruited, hired, or departing—which means the diversity index shifts (Thompson, 2021).

Moreover, current employees may have a status change while still employed that is not captured. For example, a person may become disabled or identify as LGBTQ. Quarterly or yearly, a request can be sent out to encourage employees to update their protected status.

Every change management model has a phase that anticipates resistance from employees. It is important to be aware of the possible obstacles and have resources readily available for employees to ease the transition (Galli, 2018). Iyer (2022) identified three types of threats advantaged group members have in opposition to DEI policies—resource, symbolic, and ingroup morality.

Resource threat is the perception that resources or opportunities will decrease. This perception fuels the zero-sum mentality, suggesting that resources and opportunities are finite and supporting the underrepresented group within the organization will deprive the advantaged group of their share of opportunities (Iyer, 2022; Leslie, 2020). Emphasizing that a fair system should provide everyone with the results they have earned can help mitigate any unease (Iyer, 2022). Additionally, highlighting that DEI improves productivity, performance, and learning opportunities, it can show how everyone would benefit (Iyer, 2022).

Symbolic threat is the perceived attack on one’s beliefs, practices, and values (Iyer, 2022). Advantaged groups may grow resistant to policy changes that disrupt traditional frameworks. Changes to organizational culture and policies can affect an individual’s attitudes, behaviors, and intergroup dynamics. Establishing a fair system that ensures equal opportunity can demonstrate that these programs are consistent with meritocracy and justice ideas (Iyer, 2022). Also, remind advantage groups that the organization’s culture considers all groups, not just the mainstream culture (Iyer, 2022).

Finally, an ingroup morality threat is the perceived challenge or risk to one’s own group’s or community’s moral principles, customs, or integrity (Iyer, 2022). Individuals fear the DEI policies compromise or threaten their ingroup’s moral principles, traditions, or identity. A group’s positive image is founded on competency, friendliness, and morality. Individuals experience threats when their group violates societal standards, such as their group’s unearned privileges or role as a perpetrator of discrimination (Iyer. 2022). To alleviate this, highlight the positive aspects where the advantaged group can create positive change rather than focusing on the indiscretions against disadvantaged groups (Iyer, 2022).


Diversity, equity, and inclusion programs have become essential for firms to prosper in today’s interconnected corporate landscape. A well-designed DEI program may attract and retain top talent while increasing employee satisfaction and productivity, fostering innovation, and improving organizational performance. While DEI training, recruitment methods, and employee resource groups all play a part, the most effective inclusion and diversity tactics arise from integrating DEI with the overall corporate strategy. This proposal provided a complete framework for building a DEI program, highlighting the necessity of a DEI committee, needs assessment, stakeholder involvement, leadership engagement, and a step-by-step approach to program creation. The CAPE process, which includes data collection, analysis, planning efforts, and execution, is an organized framework for developing an effective DEI program. Budget constraints, data accuracy, and resistance from advantaged employees can all be handled by proactive steps and effective communication.


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