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

Once again, the year is coming to a close. The first wave of the holiday season is creeping into retail spaces just behind the Halloween products, orange packaging and pumpkin spice flavored everything crowds the supermarket shelves. For those of us in colder climates, the leaves are turning brilliant shades of red and orange and yellow, and the jackets and coats are coming out of the closets. And with the turning of the seasons, we are also turning our attention to the final tasks of the year and planning for a new one.

Unfortunately, for many, this planning is being done among uncertainty and change. This means shifting priorities and shifting budgets. And, unfortunately, for many, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) efforts are on the receiving end of tightening budgets.

So, what do we do when our 2023 DEIB aspirations have outpaced our DEIB budget?

With the same formula as any other successful DEIB initiatives applied at a smaller scale.

The Formula for successful DEIB initiatives

The formula for DEIB initiatives (or any initiative) is simple: initiative activities and goals must be CLEAR, MEASURABLE, COMPELLING, and REASONABLE.

And with tight budgets, add FOCUS and PRIORITY. These natural extensions to ‘REASONABLE’ will ensure you are not trying to do too much or commit to too much variation, which will dilute your effort and minimize your impact.

Make it CLEAR

With limited resources (budget, people hours, etc.), every moment and every dollar (or whichever currency you use to operate) counts so it’s important to know what you’re going to do with those precious moments and dollars to meet your goals.

For example, consider a goal of increasing representation across demographics in leadership positions. There are many ways to go about achieving this goal. You could engage with staffing organizations that specialize in engaging candidates of targeted demographics. You could invest in relationships with candidate pools to attract and engage a more diverse group of candidates. You could audit and adjust each step of the screening process to maximize equity and inclusion. You could update employer branding materials to be more inclusive, increase advertising budgets to reach a wider audience, increase salary ranges to attract more talent, etc. etc. etc. There is no shortage of ways to spend your resources. Therefore, without clarity your team could all be doing different things and your precious resources can quickly disappear without a coherent effort.

With limited budgets (of any size), goals, tasks, expected outcomes, and paths to achieve the expected outcomes must be clear to all those involved so no one is wasting precious resources on the wrong thing.

To do this:

  • Define the purpose and expected outcomes of each task.

  • Scope each task: answering the what, why, how, when, where, and how much

  • Identify all roles and responsibilities including owner(s), contributors, reviewers, consumers, stakeholders, etc.

  • Define timelines of activities

  • Establish check-ins and other communication cadences throughout the task

  • Establish a process for adjustments if the task derails such as going over time or budget, not meeting milestones, etc.

  • Communicate status, next steps and action items, and scheduled tasks in an accessible way, such as through email notifications with links to a community workspace.


Doing the work is important, achieving the expected outcomes (or at least knowing if you are achieving it or not) is more important.

Consider the same goal of increasing representation across demographics in leadership positions. How do you know if you’ve achieved this goal? Is it if you have at least two candidates of a subset of under-represented demographics within each candidate slate? Is it when you’ve hired at least one person within a subset of under-represented demographics? Is it a shift in representation within your initial candidate pool or a shift in demographic distribution of employees throughout leadership? Without a definition of success and how to measure it, there is no way to know if you are achieving the goal.

Investments, even limiting ones, are made with the intention of return. It’s not enough to spend the budget, you also have to know what you’ve achieved with that budget. Not only does this validate (or invalidate) the spend, it also builds an argument for future investment (i.e. achieving the outcomes makes it easier to get budget next year). The outcome of the task must be measurable, and it must be measured.

To do this:

  • Define success and/or outcome for each task and how you will prove (i.e. measure) that you have reached that success and/or outcome.

  • Identify how and when you will measure progress and success.

  • Define how you will report on those measurements to the team, organization, and other stakeholders.

  • Measure.

  • Communicate/report results.


Efforts, even successful ones, are only as valuable as the value they provide.

Consider the goal of increasing representation across demographics in leadership positions. Why is this effort to increase the representation across demographics in leadership positions worthy of the budget? What value does it bring to the stakeholders that are compelling to those stakeholders? For leaders, the value could be the reduced costs associated with reduced attrition rates or the increased high-quality talent which increases productivity and revenue. For employees, it could be the demonstration of career mobility and opportunity so they stay engaged and loyal to the organization. For sales, it could be better resonance and understanding with the diverse set of clients or partners. For operations, it could be the wider range of experiences to help solve problems and navigate upcoming challenges. There are usually many values, the key is knowing which ones matter to which people.

It's not enough to be clear and measurable, the task must also be compelling with a purpose and an outcome that adds real value so others want to be a part of the effort. This is especially true when you have a limited budget that is heavily reliant on borrowed resources (i.e. all those volunteer hours from employees with day jobs).

To do this:

  • Identify the stakeholders – including decision makers, influencers, contributors, consumers.

  • Identify the drivers and motivators for each stakeholder (i.e. what’s most important to them and why).

  • Align the value of the goal to the drivers/motivators of the stakeholders.

  • Communicate the value(s) of the goals that compel them (not you).


The best, most compelling, well thought out, fully planned initiatives will still fall flat if they can’t actually be achieved. And with limited budgets, this can get tricky. There are often so many goals we want to achieve, so many opportunities for improvements and adding value, so many ways we can impact our organizations to increase diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. And all of them require budget of time, resources, and investment that we may not have.

This is where FOCUS and PRIORITY come into play – to select what you will do from all the things you could do.

FOCUS your initiative to a scope that will allow for meaningful impact within the budget. Doing one thing really well will have a greater impact than doing five things sorta kinda okay-ish. And doing one small thing really well, will have a greater impact than doing a big thing sorta kinda okay-ish.

If your budget doesn’t allow for much, don’t do much. Do a little and do it brilliantly.

PRIORIZE what will get that small budget, so you get the most valuable return for the investment. Look for the opportunities to solve the most compelling pain points or roadblocks, that have the highest chance for success, that have the most impact to metrics, are most noticeable to the employees, and/or that will engage the widest range of employees/future employees. And prioritize actions that will be a source of pride for the organization, because when the organization is proud, it will crave more.

Bringing it all together

Unless you are among the very lucky few, budgets are rarely as big as our lofty, aspirational goals. And, in times of uncertainty, change, and unrest, those budgets shrink to sizes that feel like they are setting us up for failure. If this is what you face in 2023, don’t give up, and don’t give in to the pressures of ‘do more with less’ (that doesn’t work, it just spreads the failure thinner).

Maintain the discipline of compelling initiatives – CLEAR, MEASURABLE, COMPELLING, and REASONABLE. And within that sticky realm of REASONABLE, keep your FOCUS sharp and your PRIORITES on impact so that whatever you do, and at whatever scale, it will be brilliant.

You can do it! we can help!

Join on November 15 for a free webinar to showcase DEIB ideas for 2023 to fit a wide range of budgets and priorities. Contact us at to sign up.

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