So you've been charged with writing your company's first DEI Mission Statement. Well, before I tell you how, I'm going to try and talk you out of it first.
DEI statements are widely public and often the first impression your company makes. So here’s my advice: don’t publish a DEI mission statement for your organization without an honest and deep reflection of the truly viable impact your organization is capable of.
If this is your first time writing a DEI Mission Statement, start by asking yourself, “could these ideas take the form of goals, instead?”
Here’s why: goals imply actions and results. Any mission statement must aim for what is viable, show what people have already bought into, and, most importantly, be sincere.
Without first having some form of results from the initial efforts from your first round of goals, your mission statement won’t have the clout, relevance, or inspirational effect it needs.
Here are three things to consider before sitting down to draft your first DEI statement.
- The mission statement should be the voice of the systemically non-dominant. If there are no underrepresented groups in your organization to collaborate with on this, then you're not ready for a mission statement. First, get clear on why that may be the case.
- A mission statement needs to serve as inspiration for the people doing the work. If there aren't people in place to do the work, there doesn't need to be a mission statement.
- DEI has never existed within capitalism, so to really do this work will require a major overhaul of what we know about the status quo.
If you're still with me, and ready to write a statement that truly embodies a sound mission for DEI, you've clicked on the right article.
I'm Katie Zink, DEI Strategist and Facilitator based in Portland, Oregon. I help visionary leaders and change agents create positive, dynamic workplace cultures that hear, recognize, and support all voices. To do this, I work with organizations on their initial strategy when embarking on their DEI program design.
What Is A DEI Statement?
A DEI statement (also called a diversity statement or inclusion statement) is a written, formal articulation of the projected impact an organization strives to have toward increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion. This statement needs to represent the needs of your people and the systemic changes that will take place to operationalize DEI across your organization. It can be both self-aware and aspirational.
Here are some of my favorite examples of companies with comprehensive, actionable, and purposeful DEI Missions.
From Zendesk, “Weave DE&I into the fabric of our culture”.
Why we love it: It’s an established strategy and mission that shines off the page with focused, people-first resources and data that doesn’t skirt around the problems at hand.
From Treehouse, “Our mission is to diversify the tech industry through accessible education, unlocking the door to opportunity, and empowering people to achieve their dreams.”
Why we love it: It’s the first thing you see on the About page, showing that DEI is literally synonymous with the company’s main mission.
From Culture Amp, “Culture Amp is committed to building a world of work where everyone can thrive, which is impossible without organizational justice. We’re committed to designing our organization for equity.”
Why we love it: Culture Amp is in the business of employee experience. They center equity and social justice as the science behind the efficacy of their HR platform tools, conveying that there is no sense in improving employee experience without applying a DEI lens.
Why Does Your Organization Need A DEI Statement?
DEI work is indeed a mission. There will be many moments where you will need a phrase of inspiration and motivation to keep your sights set forward. Think of your DEI statement as an internal tool to help achieve this.
When writing a diversity statement, think of why DEI matters to your leaders, managers, individual contributors, external stakeholders, and the success of your business. A good statement reminds you of why DEI matters.
How To Write A Meaningful Diversity Statement
Follow these four steps to help you write a meaningful DEI statement.
Know and Respond to the Need
There are 6 core needs that everyone has: belonging, improvement, choice, equality, predictability, and significance.
A thoughtful DEI Mission statement incorporates these needs into the systemic change happening across the organization. Identify where needs aren’t being met and think in terms of the systems that need to change. Systemic change will lead to behavioral change.
Any business owner knows, that before you build your product, service, or solution, you have to know your market. You have to speak the language, understand the pain points, and empathize with who you’re serving.
A DEI mission statement can work the same way. Think about how you can apply your skills in market research to find the words for your mission statement (more on this shortly).
Align with your Business Values
Your diversity statement needs to make sense next to what your business does. Consider your customers, products, services, and lines of business. The way your business operates cannot conflict with your DEI statement.
Make sure you actually believe in what you’re writing. Your employees will quickly spot fluff or recall behavior that the statement conflicts with. Maybe you notice that, while you craft your DEI mission statement, your values could also use an update to match your DEI work. This is an excellent opportunity to revisit those, too.
Ask for Feedback
Remember, feedback = respect. When you’re ready to get feedback, diversify who you’ll be getting feedback from and what questions you’ll ask to invite balanced perspectives.
Here are some questions to ask for balanced feedback:
- “I have an idea I need your advice on - what support or pushback do you think there might be to this?”
- “If you were me, how would you roll this out?”
- “Who should I talk to to learn more about the background on this issue?”
Review and Revise
The mission statement should never get written and stashed away in a file. It’s a use it or loses it type of situation. The way things move and evolve, I’d suggest reviewing your DEI statement every quarter and asking
- Does this focus on the right things?
- Does it use the right language?
- Is this completely viable?
Find your Role Models
If you're ready to roll out your first DEI statement, I imagine you may be struggling with exactly what to say.
That’s why it’s essential to have role models throughout your DEI mission. Find your favorite companies and learn from the best. Let’s take a closer look at one of my all-time favorite organizations, Culture Amp.
Culture Amp is an employee experience platform designed to collect, understand, and act on employee feedback. Whether or not you currently use a platform like this, you can apply this mindset to your DEI mission statement.
In my work with clients, we talk a lot about gathering information to build a DEI strategy. This might include surveys, focus groups, performance reviews, or interviews with management. The more diverse the demographic the better.
If you’re the one heading up these information-gathering initiatives, you know that making sense of the results and then taking action on them can be months of work, depending on the size of your company.
Furthermore, if you’re the one getting surveyed on an annual basis (or more) without seeing any communications from your leadership that they
1) Validate the feedback they’ve received
2) Have plans on the horizon for change
You may not have any more energy or motivation to continue providing honest feedback.
The people at Culture Amp get that. They’ve made it their mission to help the people who have a hand in affecting change do it in a smart and informed way. Organizations that use Culture Amp can deliver change to their people with homegrown data. It’s innovative employee listening.
“We help facilitate a grassroots, bottom-up movement of HR professionals and people leaders committed to improving the employee experience across their organizations.”
So, think about how you can prioritize employee listening to inspire your DEI Mission Statement.
When people see themselves represented in the mission, they’ll feel seen, heard, acknowledged, and as they belong. It’s a people-first mission, after all.
Learn More And Let Us Know How It’s Going
Of course, diversity, equity & inclusion is more than just a mission statement. But, an effective diversity statement will act as the north star for your DEI work.
To achieve our ultimate goal of building a world where everyone has access to equal opportunities—regardless of ethnicity, gender identity, disabilities, or sexual orientation—means implementing systemic behavioral change, and this road is a long one.
Learn more about the mindset, skills, and resources needed to sustainably approach DEI in your organization in my article The Ultimate DEI Skillset of 2023? Mastering Change Management, and share with us some stories from your mission!
We are all in this together.