Setting Workforce Diversity Goals with Intention

Published on May 17, 2021

Updated on Jul 14, 2023

Written by Haley Yamane Melhart

Setting diversity-based goals is an important step for companies wanting to create a more positive, inclusive culture. However, it is fraught with pitfalls if not done with thoughtful care and if the goals are not realistic. 

That’s why companies should have a solid understanding of what DEI&B means, how it applies to setting diversity goals, and how data helps set your goals up for success.

Defining diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B)

Let’s be clear—there are a lot of different ways to define each component of DEI&B. We’ll use the basic overview from Dr. Vivian Smith-Del Toro, and look at the general overlap between elements: 

Venn diagram of workforce diversity goals

So why does DEI&B matter? Because workforce diversity leverages differences in thoughts, experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives to drive dialogue, innovation, and financial returns. 

The purpose of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging within a company is to incorporate the different elements that allow people to bring their whole selves to work AND celebrate their differences. Companies also benefit from this diversity of thought and background.

Amit Mohindra, People Analytics Leader and Coach

You may be more familiar with “D&I” or “DEI.” Mohindra describes the evolution of experience and thinking that led to the present term, “DEI&B.” Companies initially emphasized “diversity” and focused their efforts on hiring more women or people of different ethnic backgrounds to address low rates of representation. Now, there is an emphasis on not only bringing diverse talent into an organization, but also retaining that talent by ensuring equitable pay and promotional opportunities, valuing their perspectives, and fostering an environment where people feel like they belong.

Workforce Diversity: The Evolution of DEI&B

Chart of the evolution of diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging concepts in workforce diversity goals

Source: Amit Mohindra

Because of this evolution, there are many title variations for people working in DEI&B roles. Fundamentally, they focus on diversity and inclusion-based outcomes for the company such as hiring and promoting diverse employees, cultural awareness and sensitivity, reducing unconscious bias, enriching company culture, and much more.

Committing to workforce diversity requires caring

When it comes to adopting a certain company culture, you’ve probably heard, “It starts at the top.” This is especially true for implementing DEI&B goals.

Without senior business leader commitment, a heavy investment in the DEI programs has limited impact.

Josh Bersin

In Bersin’s recent DEI research report based on survey responses from 804 HR professionals, he concluded:

DEI training, recruitment practices, employee resource groups, and many other DEI interventions add value—but not as much as you may think…. The most powerful strategies to drive inclusion and diversity come from the business strategy, not HR programs.

Without senior business leader commitment, a heavy investment in the DEI programs has limited impact.

Josh Bersin

In other words, the responsibility of carrying out successful DEI&B initiatives is not all on HR. A company’s efforts will only be successful if the leaders at the top care enough to take responsibility for seeing them through. That’s right, your CEO should also be the Chief DEI&B Officer. 

Even though there isn’t a standard to measure companies in this area, many are doing it well. Mohindra recognizes IBM as a long-time, leading example of a company that has always prioritized DEI&B:

Long ago, IBM considered diversity at the company as a moral imperative. Over time, they realized that DEI&B was also a business imperative. They’re leaders in this space; caring about DEI&B is just a normal part of how they operate.

Josh Bersin

When companies genuinely care about fulfilling DEI&B initiatives, they’re demonstrating how invested they are in their people. And there are several studies out there that prove investing in employees leads to positive financial returns for the business.

Setting goals with intention (AKA data)

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to setting DEI&B goals because these goals can (and should) be customized to what makes a company unique—its vision, mission, culture, and strategy. At the same time, it’s important to look outside your own company’s walls when trying to assess DEI&B progress. Looking at talent dynamics through a DEI&B lens across the total labor market helps you create realistic goals for your company. 

For example, if you want to increase the number of female software engineers at your company by 10%, but the talent in your region would only allow for 4% growth, you either have to change your goal or start recruiting elsewhere. 

So even though there isn’t one path to follow, we recommend trying these two data-driven approaches to help be successful in setting your workforce diversity goals: 

  1. Use diversity data in your recruiting: For talent acquisition efforts, Lightcast provides demographic information by age, gender, race, ethnicity, and geography for every occupation in the US. Our diversity data helps companies benchmark their DEI&B goals against what actually exists in the market.

  2. Recruit from diverse schools and programs: To help organizations use data to better prepare for and plan collegiate recruiting strategies, Lightcast offers completion data (individuals graduating from specific programs by degree) by gender and ethnicity for just about every college in the US.  Additionally, we compare the diversity graduates for each university program against their peer institutions to quickly provide context as to whether or not the demographics of that program are below average, average, or above average.

This topic has many layers and we don’t have all the answers, but we do know that using data to make decisions void of bias is a good place to start. 

Workforce diversity is an ongoing commitment

Setting these goals for your company can be tough. The balance of creating realistic and impactful DEI&B goals requires thoughtful care and attention. Only you can set the best DEI&B goals for your company, and we want to help give you the best information out there to do it. 

To learn more about how Lightcat's tools can bring you the best data for setting DEI&B goals, fill out the form below.


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