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Setting effective diversity, equity, and inclusion goals for the new year

Once again, the year is coming to a close. It’s a time of frenzied tasks; finishing the year’s commitments, spending the last of the budget, completing reviews, bonus allocations, and holiday party plans. And, it’s the time to reflect on the year – what went well, what did not, and what will be done differently in the plans for the fresh new year on our doorstep.

Thinking back on when 2021 was a fresh new year full of opportunity and big plans, what did you have planned? What were your big diversity, equity, and inclusion goals (or any other goals, for that matter)? And how did you do?

For those with grand plans of 2021 that did not transform into reality over the past year, why not? Was it the constant stream of wrenches being thrown at you during the wild ride that was 2021? Was it that the shifting priorities or lack of resources or reorganizations happening under your feet?


But could it be that the goals themselves were doomed from the beginning? Were the shifting priorities, dried up resources and new org structures just symptoms of the problem? Is it possible that the goal wasn’t the right one for the organization or wasn’t truly supported?


Now, looking ahead at the fresh new year at our doorstep, full of opportunity and ready to be filled with big plans, we have a fresh opportunity to set DEI goals that are positioned for success.


The formula is simple: goals must be CLEAR, MEASURABLE, COMPELLING, and REASONABLE.

While CLEAR, MEASURABLE, and REASONABLE are relatively straightforward (not to be confused with ‘simple’), COMPELLING can be tricky. Without goals that are compelling, support, and therefore budget and resources, can dry up long before the effort is completed.

Here’s how to create COMPELLING DEI goals (or any type of goal).

Align to what drives THEM (not you)

For many DEI goals, rather than already having a budget and resources, you need to convince stakeholders to release what you need to accomplish your goals. These stakeholders could be department heads, the C-suite, a board or whoever else is part of that decision process.

To them, a compelling goal drives what they must accomplish, not what you want to accomplish.

That doesn’t mean you won’t accomplish what you need, you just have to show how your efforts will also be in their best interests.

To do this, answer the following questions.

1. Who are the stakeholders?

This includes:

  • The decision makers: those who approves activities, budgets, and resources

  • The influencers: those the decision makers listen to in order to help make decisions

  • The road blockers: those who may oppose the requests. These are usually those who are competing for the same resources, budget, and priorities or those who have conflicting interests

2. What are the stakeholder’s drivers?

This includes the drivers behind both rewards and risks.

  • Rewards: for example - how they are compensated, what metrics are tied to their bonus or promotion, what accomplishments are celebrated

  • Risks: for example - what failures must they avoid to protect their position or their chances of promotion/raise/bonus

3. What are the stakeholder’s motivations

Based on drivers, what are the stakeholders motivated to do or support?

For example, if a driver is lowering costs of Talent Acquisition, then they will be motivated to support activities that lower costs and oppose activities that increase costs.

For example, if a driver is increasing revenue, they will be motivated to support initiatives that feed customer acquisition and customer retention efforts such as sales, marketing, and customer success.

The more the goals for the DEI imitative (or any initiative) are aligned with the motivations of the stakeholders, the more likely those stakeholders will support your initiative. Look for any way to connect or expand your DEI goals to encompass the needs of your stakeholders.

Align to the organization mission, values, and priorities

For many organizations, initiatives are plentiful. There are so many great ideas, great intentions, and great opportunity. At the same time, there’s no shortage of fuel for rounds and rounds of initiatives, special projects, committees, etc. Of course, while the ideas and opportunities are endless, budgets and resources are not. Inevitably, many of these programs get stuck in the discussion phase or teeter out before making much impact.

To stand out in the crowd, or to keep the momentum, tie the DEI goals to the core mission, values, and priorities of the organization. Activities that align to them will be prioritized over those that don’t.

Connect the dots

Compelling goals often have multiple levels – supporting the initiative, the stakeholders, and the organization. However, not all of these levels are obvious if they aren’t spelled out. Don’t assume that your audience will see why your goal feeds their priorities or the organization mission. Connect the dots, spell it out, take them through the journey [favorite metaphor for ‘show them’ here].

For example, the goal may be to “increase women in leadership by 20%” which feeds the DEI initiative of “increasing diversity at all levels to make a more productive and inclusive workplace that everyone wants to join.”

So, if a stakeholder is motivated by cost of the talent acquisition process – show how increasing the number of women will drive retention and lower costs. Or, for a more direct route, show how the solutions for increasing women by removing bias in the hiring process (such as using will also reduce the costs of hiring.

And, if the company mission is to “be the Earth’s most customer-centric company”, show how more women in leadership will result in a more productive, creative organization that is better equipped to cater to the needs of a wider array of customers.

Bringing it all together

Within most organizations, there are always competing priorities and programs. Beating the competition for resources and attention requires something truly compelling. Especially when it is for a program that is not core to the organization (such as building, selling, and supporting product).

Therefore, compelling goals are more than just accomplishing the initiative. They must also drive success for the organization and the stakeholders either directly or indirectly. When presenting goals to get buy-in and support, show how the goals are not just in your best interest, but also in the best interest of the stakeholders and the organization and connect the dots to make it clear how everything aligns.

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