group of diverse people at a charity event
Diversity and inclusion statements are authentic to each business's own mission, goals and values, so taking care and leveraging employees to help create the statement are key. — Getty Images/SDI Productions

A diversity and inclusion statement demonstrates a company’s commitment to building an inclusive, varied workplace welcoming to people of all backgrounds. Much like a mission and values statement, the diversity and inclusion statement is, ideally, more than just a marketing exercise. It should guide your hiring, employee benefits, customer service and workplace culture.

CO— spoke to two diversity and inclusion experts for their tips on how to craft a statement on diversity and inclusion. Here are some tips for getting started, some mistakes to avoid and some resources to help you create a great D&I statement.

[Read more: Looking for Diversity? How to Build a More Inclusive Small Business]

The purpose of a D&I statement

As you approach your diversity and inclusion statement, it’s important to understand what you can accomplish with this document. Tiffany Houser, an executive leadership coach, told CO— that authenticity must be at the very foundation of your statement.

“Authenticity creates a path for everyone and a direction,” said Houser. “If you just slap together buzzwords, there may not be anything to anchor into or connect with as possible. Embody [your commitment to diversity] in your culture, rather than it just being a statement. Leverage your time, energy and resources to create results.”

A clear strategy should contain what DEI means to us, why DEI matters to us (now and for the future) and how we approach DEI (now and activities planned for the future).

Julie Kratz, CEO, Next Pivot Point

Julie Kratz, CEO at Next Pivot Point, agreed: These statements must serve a larger purpose. “I call them DEI statements (diversity, equity, inclusion),” said Kratz. “Small business owners should have a DEI statement to show how they plan to represent their community and how they view equality, which is a human issue, not a political issue. It signals to potential customers, community members and employees what the business stands for and who and how it intends to serve the community.”

A great D&I statement triangulates with your company’s mission, vision and values. What do you want to say about your business, and what do you want employees and customers to know about your values?

What goes into a D&I statement?

Houser says that because each statement is authentic to the business, there’s really no template or checklist for what should go in your diversity and inclusion statement. “Connect with what your vision looks like—describe it, define it,” said Houser. “From there, the action steps will reveal themselves.”

Kratz added, “A clear strategy should contain what DEI means to us, why DEI matters to us (now and for the future) and how we approach DEI (now and activities planned for the future).”

Many small business owners find it helpful to start with a vision and build an action plan from there. Kratz suggests building a 90-day action plan, a one-year plan and a three-year plan that each include internal activities, such as training, and public-facing commitments, like volunteering or community events.

Check out this episode of CO— Blueprint to learn how and why it makes sense to create a more diverse and inclusive business model.

“Take a look at how diverse, equitable and inclusive your processes are as well,” recommended Houser. “This allows you to leverage your resources to create a ripple effect, rather than working through each individual in your organization. Transform the way you do business rather than just the way your people experience runs.”

Avoid these common mistakes

Kratz noted that some organizations overcomplicate their D&I statement. It doesn’t need to be longer than a page, because what matters is the action that stems from the statement.

Houser also says that some businesses make the mistake of not leveraging time, energy and resources behind the statement. She suggests implementing your vision in the following ways:

  • Create an “enrollment process” as part of the vision: Ask for your employees’ buy-in and include them in crafting your D&I statement.
  • Include elements of the D&I statement in hiring, onboarding and employee performance reviews.
  • Revisit the statement and strategy at least once a year, if not more often, to reiterate your commitment and make sure all employees are aligned.
  • Implement some KPIs to measure the statement and strategy’s success.

Houser also noted the importance of including all of your employees and asking for input as you build your D&I statement and action plan. Host company-wide town halls. Offer training on topics like communication, feedback, dispute resolution and office politics. You may even consider bringing in a coach who can help uncover unconscious bias and create neutrality, understanding and workability.

[Read more: 7 Tips for Hiring a More Diverse Workforce]

Resources to help you get started

Ready to start working on your diversity and inclusion statement? Houser suggests checking out the work of Tidal Equality, an organization that helps business leaders learn more deeply about diversity, equality and inclusion.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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