Key Elements of an Effective Workplace DEI Policy

We all have read workplace policies. Some are inspiring, specific, and manageable, while others can feel strict, prescriptive, or unrealistic. The main goals of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Policy are to define organizational processes and practices that are equitable and inclusive and also set expectations for employee behavior to create a workplace culture where everyone can thrive and feel that they belong. We want the DEI policy to be authentic and sustainable over the long term. In our experience, effective Workplace DEI policies have consistent aspects and specific ingredients that make them stand out which we share below.

Start with the Leadership

The DEI policy may be developed through the lens of the current organizational culture or the vision of a new organizational culture (the organization we want to be). Regardless of the type of organizational culture the DEI Policy is addressing, it should be based on the capabilities of leaders to live up to, follow, and model the key elements of the policy.

Leadership behaviors and actions are going to be measured against the DEI policy every day, so it is critical that they reinforce the policy. There is nothing more counter-productive for an organization than having a policy that is violated, overlooked, and dismissed at the top. It makes people lose trust and confidence in the organization, its leaders, and its mission. It erodes relationships and creates a hostile environment.

Key Elements to Consider

The key elements to consider including in the DEI policy include:

  • An introduction to the organization’s mission and how DEI will support the achievement of its mission and strategic priorities.
  • The people that the DEI policy is applicable to. Examples include employees, as well as contractors, agents, consultants, partners and others.
  • The characteristics considered diverse by the organization. There are many examples around the globe including, but not limited to: gender, race/ethnicity, cultural background, native language, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status, physical and mental ability, education, experience, family or marital status and responsibilities, and socio-economic status.
  • Organizational processes, practices, programs and initiatives where DEI is fostered and upheld as guiding values. Examples may include: Recruitment and hiring, compensation and benefits, learning and development, performance management, succession planning and promotions, transfers, social and recreational programs, layoffs and terminations, and ongoing communications in a work environment where all feel they are included and they belong.


Demonstrate Commitment

A statement of commitment and specific related actions can go a long way towards ensuring that the policy is authentic and sustainable. Here are a few examples of statements that can be included:

  • A workplace free of discrimination, harassment, and bullying.
  • A supportive, respectful, collaborative work environment for all employees.
  • Flexible working schedules, where appropriate, to accommodate employees’ changing needs.
  • Employer and employee contributions to the communities served to build greater understanding and respect that influence products and services.
  • Policies and practices that facilitate business with diverse suppliers.
  • The representation of a diverse workforce at all levels of the organization.


Make it Real

As the last step, organizations need to consider developing a DEI Plan (if they don’t already have one) to ensure implementation and practice of the DEI policy, and as a way of promoting accountability and expectation of responsibility in the application of the policy. If a DEI Plan already exists, then it should be leveraged in the development of the policy, and adjusted as needed to ensure consistency between the two documents.