This article was written for our sponsor, The Diversity Movement


Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) leaders are frequently charged with an overwhelming number of tasks that cut right to the heart of the organization, ranging from changing workplace culture and stemming worker exodus to recruiting diverse candidates and the endless array of initiatives designed to create equitable enterprises. There is logic behind the laundry list of items: companies that are more diverse, equitable and inclusive are also more creative, collaborative and profitable.

The challenge, however, is that the lofty aspirations are often not backed up with the kind of resources necessary to accomplish such an audacious list. In some instances, DEI executives find themselves a “team of one,” essentially trying to single-handedly battle across all fronts without the team necessary to win. In other cases, the right infrastructure hasn’t been put in place or the leader doesn’t have an internal network built to support wholesale cultural change. We have even worked with some organizations that hired a DEI leader without a job description or onboarding plan that would give the person a fighting chance for success.

As a result, companies have diversity leaders who are alone, overwhelmed, and don’t know where to turn for help. Here are the four steps to success The Diversity Movement has created after working with more than 100 clients and helping countless thousands on their DEI journeys:

Step one: Create a strategic plan

Start by taking a step back and thinking strategically. Recognize that true success of DEI within your organization does not actually rest on you alone. Effective DEI programs are fully integrated organization-wide. DEI should be infused in the company’s values, championed by its executives, woven into company policies, and exemplified in the daily interactions and communications of all employees.

“DEI efforts are not just something larger companies do to check a box…a public relations or compliance thing. It really is about having diverse teams,” explains Jessica Jolley, head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Pendo. “You’re driving innovation in your company, and even in early stages, that’s so critical.”

Step two: Develop a network of DEI champions

Don’t work in a silo. Create DEI visibility and commitment throughout your organization by building a diverse network of DEI champions, department by department. Collaborate with each department head and gain their go-ahead to identify an individual who is respected by their peers, a natural influencer, and passionate about DEI values.

“Once you establish a DEI strategy, I think that to elevate it and make it as successful as possible, it has to become part of your day-to-day culture,” says Angie Vincent-Hamacher, board member and co-chair of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion committee at Robinson Bradshaw, a law firm in Charlotte, N.C. “My goal is to have it be a priority that is completely throughout the organization.”

Use your champion’s network to facilitate your DEI communications company-wide. Schedule strategic meetings to share best practices and inspiring success stories, help resolve DEI roadblocks and challenges and brainstorm new ideas. Also, absorb your network members’ expert knowledge about their individual departments and your company overall. DEI practitioners are most successful when they know both their business and industry well.

Step three: Gain visibility and support from senior leadership

Successful DEI programs have leadership and endorsement from the top. The fact that you are just one department (and a department of one) does not diminish the statistically proven role DEI plays in improving company sales and profitability, branding and marketing, hiring and retention, innovation and expansion. Gain visibility with senior leadership. Share the message of DEI’s wide-ranging impact with them.

“We are very fortunate that we’ve had a string of leaders…who were either active in the D&I committee itself or were actively working with the committee, and asking questions and looking to figure out where it made sense to advance the initiatives that the committee was seeing,” says Roy Prather III, principal and former chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee at Beveridge & Diamond, a Washington, D.C., law firm. “Now we have this whole suite of folks who see D&I as just baked into how they think about how the firm works.”

An open, two-way channel of communication is essential. To achieve this objective:

Discuss the issue with your immediate manager (don’t skip steps in the chain of command)
Ask your manager how they would suggest you reach out to the senior team
Seek an opportunity to make a brief presentation (ideally in person)
Engage leadership by pinpointing how DEI directly ties to achieving your company’s top business objectives
Share why leading companies routinely invest 2-3% of their total annual operating budget in DEI
Invite senior leaders to contact you with their personal DEI questions, challenges, or suggestions

Step four:  Keep DEI top of mind throughout the company, throughout the year

Corporate employees are often barraged with in-house email communications. Obviously, don’t add to this overload with uninteresting clutter. But do consider producing a monthly, one-page DEI communique with consistent, colorful branding. Share previous DEI highlights, plus news about upcoming DEI-related events, learning opportunities, or holidays/observances.

To effectively execute these steps as a solo DEI leader, make sure to equip yourself with the best tools and training possible. Take advantage of online educational offerings that readily fit into your daily workflow, enabling you to learn more, faster, and rapidly apply what you’ve learned.

One powerful tool that provides these resources is DEI Navigator, a platform developed by The Diversity Movement (TDM). The DEI Navigator provides access to DEI digital learning courses, a Best Practices Library (over 300 curated how-to guides, articles, whitepapers, and FAQs), over 600 short informative videos, and a monthly newsletter that will keep you current on DEI news and trends. Perhaps even more valuable than this educational content are the human connections: the experts you can consult and your fellow DEI practitioners who are learning with you.

As you rise to the challenge of leading your organization’s DEI effort, keep in mind the solo role of the kicker on the football team: just one player, supported by teammates, who scores more than 30% of all points. You may be a DEI team of one, but by using these tools – and a total team approach – you, too, can make a valuable, outsized impact.


This article was written for our sponsor, The Diversity Movement