The events of 2020 put diversity, equity and inclusion at the forefront.

2020 changed the way we work. COVID-19 turned whole industries on their heads overnight and took a huge toll on people’s personal lives. When working from home — or not working at all — became the only option for many, the line blurred between personal and professional life.

The murder of George Floyd and several Black Americans triggered social unrest and put the Black Lives Matter movement at the center of the world’s stage. People started asking their leaders what they were going to do to break down systemic barriers in their organizations. More importantly, they wanted to know what they could do to help.

And suddenly workplaces were held accountable for breaking down the inequalities that society created, in a way never seen before.

Existing DEI strategies that were meant to serve businesses for five or 10 years were scrapped or adapted as businesses focused on tending to people’s immediate needs.

Much of the world’s workforce was forced to go digital — some for the first time ever. DEI leaders pivoted to using online platforms with mixed levels of success.

The Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic demanded a compassionate approach. We heard about DEI teams who stopped their work to tend to the needs of newly remote workers.

People struggled with the mental health impact of the pandemic and social unrest.

Expectations for organizations and those leading them changed — DEI was added to the C-Suite agenda as a matter of priority.

As Dow Jones’ Vice President, Inclusion & Community, Allison F. Avery, said to us:

“We have moved to a place where it is riskier not to talk about DEI. We have to talk about race. We have to talk about inequity. We need to be more specific, more contextual, and nuanced with our DEI objectives.”

It’s clear that the state of DEI will never be the same again.

2020 threw plenty of curveballs at organizations and DEI teams. COVID-19 created new and urgent people needs while putting many companies on rocky economic grounds. And the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement meant people wanted to have difficult conversations, but didn’t know where to begin.

We wanted to know how the most impactful DEI leaders tackled each challenge.

And because these events triggered a desire for permanent change, we wanted to know how DEI leaders’ plans for 2021 are shaping up.

So we sat down with 38 DEI leaders — at the helm of some of the world’s largest and most influential organizations — and asked them two questions:

  1. What did you do in response to the extraordinary events of 2020?
  2. How did that impact your focus for 2021?

Then we distilled their insights into this practical pulse report.

The report contains insights on how 2020 altered the state of DEI forever, with important warnings and practical lessons to take forward.

If you’re reading this, we hope you’ll take away practical ideas and inspiration on developing a strategy that will serve your people and sustain real change in the year ahead. You’ll be able to rest a little bit easier in the knowledge that you are not alone in tackling these difficult challenges.

P.S. The report should take you no longer than 30 minutes to read, but hey, we get it, you’re busy. (The world is operating at unprecedented speed, right?) If you don’t have time to read it now, sign up for our newsletter and we’ll deliver the report straight to your inbox in bite-sized chunks over the course of the next week.

Race was planted firmly on the C-suite agenda

The death of Black Americans at the hands of the police is not a new occurrence.

But the way George Floyd’s killing was captured in stark witness videos and shared virally, compounded with lockdown measures removing distractions for people at home, meant that George Floyd’s death struck an unprecedented chord in the US and far beyond.

The ripples felt from the untimely deaths of Black Americans followed people into work. They permeated public consciousness. And race was planted firmly on the corporate agenda, which was sorely overdue.

For organizations that had previously hung all of their diversity efforts on gender, it became very clear that businesses can no longer tackle one diversity issue at a time. 

And while becoming an antiracist organization will likely be a priority for years to come, DEI leaders we spoke to urged us not to forget the importance of intersectionality. We must continue to create equitable workplaces that serve all underrepresented groups and the nuances of identity, like being LGBT+ as well as Black.

COVID-19 also added an entirely new dimension to DEI work — wellbeing. People worried about job security and were furloughed or laid off. The constant pandemic news contributed to a rise in anxiety levels.

Leaders had to make difficult decisions. It was up to managers to have difficult conversations and treat their teams with compassion.

Working from home presented new challenges

Working from home became the norm and blurred the line between home and work life.

There were two sides to seeing each other differently.

Existing hierarchies were broken as employees dealt with the same WFH challenges.

But not everyone’s experience was the same. People juggling caring responsibilities with work needed more support and flexibility. Those who couldn’t work from home were furloughed or had to deal with the higher risk of being exposed to COVID-19 to do their job.

This revealed inequalities and added different dimensions to the DEI radar. For example, how inclusive are we of workers who can’t work from home?

In response, organizations and wider society took on an approach anchored in empathy.

Inclusion in the wider community took priority

At least five DEI leaders we spoke to are extending their compassion and scope for advancing equity beyond the walls of their organization. One business advanced cash flow to give women-owned and minority-owned businesses a lifeline as the pandemic threatened to wipe out a disproportionate number of these businesses. They also offer a program that teaches women and ethnic minorities how to do business with a federal agency.

Other DEI leaders like Myra Caldwell also drew attention to the importance of corporate responsibility to the wider community.

People had to take a global lens on DEI

In 2020, COVID-19 ignited a feeling of global collectivism for businesses by connecting people over a common crisis. The Black Lives Matter movement has had global reach, too. It erupted in the US but has prompted people to think about injustice and dark colonial legacies in countries like Belgium and the UK.

Some experts we spoke to told us about their own train-the-trainer systems that ensure DEI programs are localized and relevant no matter where you work.

DEI leaders are urging businesses to think global, act local. They are taking critical reviews to their organizations’ approach to inclusion to ensure they serve employees at a local level, and are sure not to prioritize a single nation’s culture.

2020 shook up people’s perception of DEI. At most, it positioned DEI as an indispensable part of an organization’s goals. At the very least, it put DEI on the radar for businesses that had little or no experience of it before.

Budgets grew and DEI teams scaled 

While uncertainty at the start of the pandemic forced many leaders to momentarily press pause, the need for DEI was clear and budgets and headcounts for DEI departments eventually grew to unprecedented levels. This was evident to DEI leaders who were new in their role and others whose teams were finally growing.

In fact, half of our respondents told us their DEI budgets had increased.

And more than a quarter of respondents told us that their DEI budgets had stayed the same.

In some cases, where all areas of a business were affected by budget cuts, DEI was protected.

And in others, people told us they were finding it easier to secure budget for DEI initiatives.

These tangible examples prove that decision-makers finally ‘get’ the true value of DEI. DEI is no longer a nice to have, but a need to have.

Of course, the devastating effect of COVID-19 meant some businesses had to make cuts across all departments, including DEI. For some, it was telling whether their DEI operations fell into the ‘non-essential’ or ‘essential’ categories.

As much as we have made incredible progress in collectively recognizing the importance of DEI, it would be disingenuous to pretend that the issue has vanished. Some DEI leaders are still having to boldly fight their corner:

We hope this is a promising sign for DEI leaders, and that the seismic shifts of 2020 will make it easier for leaders to prove the value of DEI.

After all, as one DEI leader suggested, not committing to DEI is inevitably bad for business.

ERGs received long-overdue support and recognition 

As well as investing in growing DEI teams, employee resource groups (ERGs) were recognized and fairly rewarded for their pivotal role in creating meaningful progress.

Prior to this year, it was commonplace to see a disconnect between corporations who said DEI was important and the compensation they gave to those actually doing the work — this was especially true of ERGs. It goes without saying that unpaid labor can worsen inequities and the passion required to fuel this unpaid work is often unsustainable.

But this year we saw a shift.

We heard that ERG leaders were finally being given some of their paid time to do ERG work. Employees were given billable hours to work on DEI initiatives rather than being expected to do this as a passion project outside of their day job.

And leaders even cited that a digital environment accelerated the impact of ERGs making them easier to access and interact with, and less siloed — a win for intersectionality.

CEOs were held to account and publicly committed to the DEI agenda

The expectation from employees and the public on what organizations should weigh in on changed overnight. People wanted to know where their organization stood on the subject of social justice. CEOs no longer had the option to stay silent.

The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report found that people were up to 4.5 times more likely to say a brand would earn or keep their trust by acting in response to racial injustice.

While we saw flimsy statements and vague promises published, thankfully not all responses were simply lip service.

We saw CEOs and executive teams experience their own lightbulb moments right in front of us. They released public statements and set the bar for their peers. They asked DEI leaders for their counsel, and the role of senior leaders in DEI became crystal clear.

This was one of the most powerful shifts DEI work has seen in years.

As all DEI leaders are well aware, genuine buy-in from senior executives removes one of an organization’s first — and often greatest — hurdles to becoming truly equitable and inclusive.

We’re now seeing more DEI teams with direct lines to the top with weekly and monthly touchpoints with the C-Suite and boards of directors. This integration cements DEI as one of an organization’s most important agendas and is a clear indicator of what a company stands for to the rest of the business.

We were excited to hear about CEOs who spelled out their intolerance to racism in company-wide emails. Senior executives spoke about DEI as a focus in their strategy announcements. C-Suites agreed to review whole policies through the lens of DEI.

We heard a story where a white CEO emailed their entire New York workforce to acknowledge the devastating injustice for Breonna Taylor when those responsible for her death were not charged for it. It was the first time a CEO in this organization had made a statement like this.

But now, and for the foreseeable future, genuine and demonstrable commitment beyond lip service will be critical. Business leaders who were used as figureheads to lend their voice when it was convenient, but never authentically engaged with antiracist initiatives, will be held accountable by their people and the public.

As businesses prove their commitment into 2021 and beyond, leaders will need to continue to communicate the value and purpose behind their organization’s DEI agenda and ensure that they drive action.

Businesses embedded greater accountability for DEI

Businesses with leaders who had experienced that lightbulb moment of understanding the significance of DEI are reaping the benefits. But realizing the need and taking responsibility doesn’t mean that CEOs alone are now responsible for achieving the company’s DEI objective. What it does mean is that they are better able to rally everyone around a clear purpose and put DEI on the agenda for all employees.

What’s more, we’ve also noted that many businesses are holding leaders and managers at every level accountable for DEI and making progress.

And for those in agreement that a DEI strategy is imperative, it’s back over to DEI execs to showcase the impact that their DEI strategies can deliver in the long term. We know that tying DEI initiatives to a tangible business priority like profitability helps keep both DEI and senior execs accountable.

Employees ask what they can do to help

Before this year, leaders told us anecdotally they could expect about 30% of their teams to engage in DEI initiatives. They turned up to webinars, engaged with ERGs and read all the resources on offer.

But this year, something changed. Groups who previously didn’t engage in DEI — in particular we were told, white men — asked what they could do to help and how they could contribute to building more equitable workplaces. They were ready to have uncomfortable conversations and recognized the role they may have played in reinforcing systemic biases.

People showed up to Town Halls, checked in on colleagues, and asked about their organizations’ DEI strategies. They finally realized that DEI is not just ‘HR’s job’.

DEI leaders made it clear that DEI is everyone’s responsibility

Terms like antiracism, white privilege and systemic racism were added to the corporate vocabulary.  And while Donald Trump’s executive order threw a spanner in the works, DEI teams are working hard to ensure this doesn’t hinder essential conversations.

As a side note, we hope that the executive order will be revoked under President-elect Biden. As it’s in effect until January 2021, our guide can help you understand what it might mean for your DEI strategy.

Courageous Conversations became the norm

DEI leaders prioritized making sure people felt heard with listening sessions and open forums. They gave people a platform to ask questions, created safe spaces to get it wrong, and began to create a culture of continuous learning around DEI issues.

DEI teams organized discussion groups and internal talks. Where budgets allowed, guest speakers like Ibram X. Kendi and Ijeoma Oluo were brought in to speak to employees. Where they didn’t, leaders pulled together thoughtfully curated sets of publicly available resources designed to spark difficult conversations and reflections.

DEI leaders shared resources digitally to reach workforces dispersed by the pandemic, and were careful not to burden Black colleagues with the expectation of helping everyone. Employee resource groups played a crucial role in mediating discussions and reviewing resources.

Some organizations even published their resources to help others who didn’t have the resources to create content internally, citing the belief that DEI should never be a competitive advantage.

Expedia shared their Actions to be Anti-racist, Xaxis shared their Journey to Anti-Racism and we also published our own collection of antiracism content.

And because senior leaders and managers were now expected to speak on social justice and DEI issues, it became necessary to upskill them quickly so they could speak with confidence on these subjects.

Organizations that saw productive change were the ones in which senior leaders were honest and vulnerable. These leaders openly admitted where they felt incompetent and showed a willingness to learn and grow.

After all, leaders are spokespeople for their entire organization, and questions from a senior figure like “What is Black Lives Matter? I thought all lives mattered?” could cause immense damage internally and externally.

In one organization, “safe spaces” allowed staff to be vulnerable and ask questions. These judgment-free “safe spaces” cleared up common areas of confusion and participants came away feeling bonded and more comfortable having these conversations.

There’s evidence to show that creating a positive feedback-action loop where employees feel heard and management acts on employee feedback boosts engagement, so creating spaces where people feel heard were invaluable.

In encouraging leaders to have courageous conversations, people were equipped with resources giving them the language to proactively take part in discussions about race — rather than sitting and listening on the sidelines.

Leaders and managers were equipped with discussion guides like the ‘Workouts’ Hive Learning clients used as a framework for having interactive discussions about race and racism. Giving people the tools and permission to have these discussions is a vital part of the process, especially for subjects that have historically (and wrongly) been considered inappropriate for the workplace.

Conversations like these were critical for helping people develop empathy and ‘find their way’ when it comes to equity and inclusion. But moving beyond conversations and into action will be critical for effecting lasting change.

Moving from awareness to action

One thing we heard time and time again is the importance of turning the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement into long-lasting, sustainable change. The central part of this is moving beyond awareness to action.

2020 could be described as the year people fell out of love with unconscious bias training. In a report we conducted in Spring 2020, 69% of DEI leaders said unconscious bias training could only have a positive impact if it was coupled with other initiatives.

The challenge with bias training, leaders shared, is that too often it tells people ‘you have bias’ and not ‘here’s what you can do about it’. The result? People feel guilty, powerless, and fail to take action.

What’s worse is that this kind of training can fuel resentment, as we saw from Donald Trump, and DEI initiatives can be thought of as little more than blame-and-shame exercises.

This year, we noticed a marked rise in DEI training focused on helping people understand how to strip bias out of their processes and embed inclusion in their daily behaviors.

All companies need to do a deep-dive and identify the exclusive practices that surface across large internal processes. At Expedia Group, we are asking ourselves: At what points do we see systemic oppression in the employee and talent lifecycle? Are there unidentified barriers to creating inclusion during our hiring or exit processes? This will help to identify areas where inclusive interventions should be implemented.

Zack Rubinstein
Senior Program Manager; Head of Global Inclusion Learning

The most impactful organizations focused on showing everyone what inclusive behavior looks like and what the expectations are from them. How do they go about their day in an inclusive way? If a customer or client makes a racist remark, what do they do? Make sure your people are equipped to operate inclusively and know how to react to racism when they see it.

Hive Learning clients used checklists to help hiring managers debias hiring, gave people practical tips on how to be an ally, shared guides on talking about subjects like race and ethnicity, and equipped people with antiracist actions.

This is the key to driving greater accountability around equity.

In some cases, old structures have been scrapped in favor of systems that democratize DEI and focus on including the people who can really influence people and systems.

It’s clear that to create long-lasting change we must be proactive in reminding people and making it easy for people to play their part. Inclusion must become a habit. And in some cases, DEI leaders are looking to digital tools as the answer.

We worked with insurer Sun Life to drive an inclusive workplace culture using our digital inclusion program, Inclusion Works. By using peer learning to take participants on a journey from unconscious bias to conscious action, Sun Life is helping employees embed tiny but powerful acts of inclusion into their daily behaviors and routine. Ultimately, this helps their people own, accelerate and embed change — making inclusion become a habit more quickly.

The program delivered bite-sized, actionable content on topics like how to respond to micromessages, ways to be a better ally and how to build psychological safety. Leaders could consume, process and plan how they would take those actions in their day to day.

It created a huge wave of momentum and a pilot of 1,500 employees in North America and Asia resulted in 94% of learners feeling confident demonstrating inclusive behaviors at work and 88% committing to taking action on what they learned.

Following the pilot’s success, Sun Life decided to launch the Inclusion Works program to their whole workforce. Find out more in the press release here.

From here on out, the most impactful DEI leaders are prioritizing getting everyone involved in playing their part on the journey to building equitable organizations.

This will be critical to ensure new DEI strategies aren’t set up to fail — DEI leaders can no longer be expected to single-handedly carry what should be a business-wide responsibility.

As workers were moved out of offices and factory floors, organizations were forced to move their operations online. It was an abrupt change that some were ready to make, while others weren’t.

Even as people are given the option to return to physical workplaces, we know that attitudes to remote working have changed. A 2020 survey found that 86% of people believe that remote working is the future of work.

As they ventured into the world of doing everything online, the question to those new to this mode of delivery was: can DEI be done digitally?

Every DEI leader we spoke to made resources accessible to employees from a distance. They introduced video calls, some uploaded content onto cloud-based services, others invested in tools like intranet solutions and some invested in peer learning solutions.

One person confided in us about how they had been skeptical about the efficacy of a remote and digital approach to DEI. But once they spoke to colleagues about the new format and saw the NPS scores, it became clear that it was working as well — if not better — than before.

Many of our experts reported similar levels of success. People generally adapted well, likely helped by the fact that the smartphones and gadgets we carry around in our pockets have made so many of us fluent in technology.

Digital DEI: the cheaper and faster alternative?

The majority of our contributors said that taking DEI online meant huge financial savings. Because of pandemic restrictions, organizations were seeing how they could bring employees together to collaborate without the usual travel and event planning costs.

Not only did it save money, a crucial element of operations during COVID-19, but a digital approach meant DEI teams were saving time by cutting out the traditional demands of in-person events.

There’s really a big runway for us to be able to really leverage technology. It allows us more touch points with people and that can provide an experience that doesn’t just match what we do live, but actually exceeds that. Now, we can pull together things in a couple of days that positively impact our inclusion.

Going digital had instant payoffs. It allowed organizations to reach unprecedented numbers of employees. People were able to tune into talks and webinars from front-row seats in their homes instead of struggling to catch information from the back of a conference room.

This complemented the immediate need to gather colleagues to discuss the events surrounding 2020’s Black Lives Matter movement.

Video recordings gave people the flexibility to consume information when and how it suited them —  an inclusion win for the likes of parents and carers. We also heard how it opened up the conversation to those who had potentially been excluded by an in-person-first culture that favored extroverts.

Events that would have been held in headquarters or as single events in a major city were now accessible to all regional team members. Our leaders told us how people were connecting with those they hadn’t been in the habit of doing so before.

A digital-first approach also allows for asynchronous work and connects people across different time zones, two things that put us in good stead for the inevitable growth of remote working.

Short-term solutions vs long-term strategies 

There’s no doubt that doing DEI digitally unlocked exciting capabilities. Leaders are recognizing that people don’t have to be in a room together to learn and communicate.

However, as we look to 2021 and consider the longevity of our digital DEI approach, there are some important questions DEI leaders are asking. For example, how do we continue to engage people as the novelty wears off?

Yes, people feel more connected when they can see each other’s faces on a video call, but how inclusive is it to demand that everyone switches on their camera? A recent study also suggested that the shift to working from home could put us at greater risk of social silos.

Unless we do it right, remote working might threaten inclusion and belonging in our teams.

One contributor reminded us that now we’re interacting virtually, we have to think about who we are actively seeking out and getting to know.

A few leaders also talked us through their thinking around how we can’t just transplant DEI into a virtual format and expect it to work. They know that what used to be an intensive face-to-face course over a few days can’t just be transported into Zoom slots, demanding people are glued to their screens at home for hours at a time. After all, we’ve heard about Zoom fatigue contributing to burnout and disengagement.

If you’re unsure about the positive impact of your digital approach so far, you’re not alone. Our contributors were divided on how impactful they thought their tactics had been so far and admitted that it would take time.

The need for speed and agility meant digital strategies were set up hastily to meet remote working needs. These stopgaps fulfilled their purpose through the transition from face-to-face work to fully remote working.

What businesses need to ask now is: how sustainable is the digital approach we’ve put in place?

These questions need to be asked because we now know that we won’t be going back to 100% face-to-face practices. Organizations will need to figure out what their sustainable digital solution looks like, whether that’s fully digital or what our contributors referred to as a “hybrid” or “blended” approach.

The approach has to be longer-term to make it stick. We know the forgetting curve is real. We typically show a steep drop-off in how much we can remember something just hours after we’ve learned it. So, we can’t rely on sharing resources and expect that to change behavior.

Then there’s the piece around engagement. Or rather, disengagement. How do we watch out for people who might be disengaged virtually?

We heard from one leader whose company was using an LMS to share digital inclusion content found that it lacked depth and engagement. It’s because of this that we work with our customers to create content and engagement plans that keep learners engaged and coming back to the Hive Learning platform.

Can you build psychological safety online?

Two or three leaders were still skeptical at how inclusion can be effectively built through screens. There’s no denying the intimacy you get from being in the same room and making eye contact. So how do we build psychological safety online?

We heard Daniel Danso, Global Diversity Manager at Linklaters LLP, share their take on the opportunities of moving DEI online in a Hive Learning panel discussion on scaling inclusion digitally:

The thing I love about tech is that it gives me the tools to do things differently to how I normally would — it also gives us the ability to ensure that participants have more opportunity to engage in ways that are safe for them. The difference in presentation styles needed for different groups in face-to-face situations can also be impacted by tech. I can use polls, quizzes and comments to get people to share and engage in a way that helps them transcend barriers to engagement, be they cultural or hierarchical.

One example from our contributors was the “safe spaces” mentioned earlier. As people were working from home, these private discussions were held in virtual rooms where clear guidelines were set beforehand and participants were able to ask questions without fear of being chided for saying the wrong thing.

A Hive Learning client shared the same worry about psychological safety in a virtual format. What they found was that the familiar surroundings people were in contributed to participants feeling comfortable enough to open up.

Over time, we’ve seen the bravest among us model and normalize the practice of being vulnerable in places like LinkedIn. This might look like talking about an insecurity about knowing what to say, or admitting that you don’t have the right answers and that you’re all on a learning journey together. It’s how we nurture this going forward that will shape our collective psychological safety in these digital spaces. 

This year, we worked with one of the UK’s fastest growing FTSE 100 manufacturing companies who had already established a peer-learning culture with thousands of people engaged on a monthly basis. They needed a solution to equip their globally dispersed workforce with the tools to model inclusive behaviour every day – they needed to understand what good looked like, and then form an inclusion habit, so they could build an environment where diversity and equity could thrive.

It was the first of this kind of initiative, but the business knew it was important for everyone to be headed in the same direction at the same time to make real progress and systemic change. They sped up their journey to coincide with the momentum of the BLM movement.

We translated our bite-size and actionable digital inclusion program, Inclusion Works, into nine different languages — and ensured that delivery was localized by editing content with a cultural lens with the help of business champions. We trained a team of champions, equipping them with all the tools they needed to drive continuous learning in their regions, functions and teams.

The business delivered strong, aligned internal comms to employees on the platform, through posts from the CEO and timely content supported by drip-fed additional resources like BLM discussion guides and topical blog posts to spark conversation. The digital program has connected over 2,000 people across 59 countries so far and we’ve already seen over 4,400 contributions made to the online inclusion dialogue.

2020 has been a year of pivoting, learning and acceleration for DEI. We wanted to know: what are DEI leaders’ biggest challenges and objectives for the year ahead? 

At Hive Learning, we speak to 100s of DEI leaders each week. And the most forward-thinking among them share the views of the changemakers we spoke with to compile this report.

We hope that everyone reading this can feel proud of how they and their leaders acted in 2020. It’s how we keep the promises made in light of the BLM movement now that will define leadership legacies — and show us whether our actions improve the everyday lives of people in our organizations.

DEI leaders need to capitalize on the widespread passion and take action now, while employees are engaged and willing to be part of a shift in culture change.

It’s unclear what 2021 will bring, but this pulse report lays out what actions organizations need to be doing:

 Equip and empower everyone to have honest conversations. Model this willingness and prioritization from the top. Create the space to have these conversations. Provide resources and tools that help build the psychological safety needed for people to have these conversations.

 Hear and respond to everyone’s voice. Listen and act on what you hear.  Speak to your employee resource groups about what is expected of your organization and what you have the capacity to do together. Democratize your DEI work to sustain the pull fuelled by the BLM movement through the changing newscycle.

 Move from awareness to action. Give people the permission, confidence and information needed to put what they’ve learned into practice. Show what inclusion looks like through everyday behaviors and embed them as habits.

 Think global, act local. Look at best practice on an international level and benchmark your own against it. Test your DEI strategy to ensure it stands up locally and not just in your headquarters. Set up a process that includes people who can localize your DEI practice.

 Use data for equitable outcomes. Critically assess how you report on diversity figures. Avoid lumping underrepresented groups into larger categories like BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) and BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic). As Audre Lorde says, we need to “divide and empower”. Ensure that reporting accurately reflects the needs and challenges of underrepresented groups so that they can inform equitable actions.

 Create a code of conduct for dealing with racism. Set expectations for employees and mandate your code of conduct from the top. Take a loud, no-tolerance approach and communicate it clearly to everyone in your organization.

 Assess your digital DEI offering. Will its purpose change as your organization settles into a new normal way of working? Do you have a solution that will create and sustain culture change? Measure the impact of your current approach and review it against the long-term needs of communicating and executing DEI priorities.

 Use unconscious bias training as a starting point. As some organizations are in the infancy of their DEI journey, we’ll say it again. The consensus from DEI leaders and employees is this: unconscious bias training is only effective when paired with education on actions to mitigate that bias.

 Strip bias out of systems and processes. We can’t change outcomes if we don’t address the flaws in the process. Review your talent and employee lifecycle. And if necessary, dismantle them and rebuild them through a DEI lens.

 Educate and empower leaders. Leaders need to be invested and up-to-date on what’s happening in DEI because they play a pivotal role in advancing all business strategies, including DEI. Keep stakeholders informed and involved in key decisions and conversations and encourage them to add their voice as sponsors to a strand of diversity or employee resource group that resonates with them.

 Add DEI to everyone’s agenda. Make DEI work accessible to everyone. Set clear expectations through quarterly goals and company values. What does DEI work look like at your organization? Give people actions to take to help move the needle in their everyday life. Don’t have a large DEI budget? Task other departments to allocate some of their budget for DEI work to root it as a shared responsibility.

2020 has been a bittersweet turning point for DEI. We need to learn from its challenges and review the way we’ve always done things to create a more equitable world. There is still plenty of work to do, and it’s up to businesses and the people within them to accept their new role.

We all know that diverse teams deliver better results, and that inclusion creates the conditions for diverse teams to thrive. But until now, progress in creating equitable workplaces has stalled.

We believe that’s because DEI initiatives too often focus on driving awareness rather than action. They focus on winning hearts in the moment rather than changing processes for good.

Inclusion Works from Hive Learning is a peer learning program designed to take your people on a journey from awareness to action in as little as three months. As the world’s only digital solution for accelerating culture change, Inclusion Works gives your people the tools to be more inclusive every day through habit-forming nudges and conversations.

We combine the power of peer accountability, activated network science and nudge theory to help organizations create ripples of long-lasting change. In our programs, 88% of participants take action against bias and two thirds of participants create an inclusion habit in under 90 days.

If you want to find out how the likes of Sun Life Financial, Legal & General and Deloitte create culture change at scale, get in touch by emailing

A huge thank you to our expert contributors

Aaisha Hamid, Inclusion Coordinator

Allison F. Avery, Vice President, Inclusion & Community at Dow Jones

Dr. Angela Anderson, US Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Strategy and Operations at Novartis

Anu Koshy Thekumparampil, Global Head of Inclusion & Diversity at UST Global

Carol Watson, Chief Inclusion Officer at BCW Global

Cindy Owyoung, Vice President, Inclusion, Culture & Change at Charles Schwab

Damien Shieber, Head of Culture, Inclusion & Experience at Santander UK

Debs Chapman, Director of Employee Relations, Reward, HR Shared Services and Inclusion at The Very Group

Debrah Wirtzfeld MD CEC CCPE ICD.D MBA, Associate Chief Medical Officer, Physician Health, Diversity & Wellness at Alberta Health Services

Emma Smythe, Director of Talent & Development at The AA

Gloria Barilari, HR Director EMEA and Corp. Marketing at Netafim

Dr Gus Bussmann, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator at RICS

Heidi Robertson, Group Head of Diversity & Inclusion and Employer Brand at ABB

Jacqueline M. Welch, SVP, Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Diversity Officer at Freddie Mac

Joanne Conway, Diversity & Inclusion Strategy Lead at EY

John Mays, Director of Equity & Inclusion at KFC US 

Jonathan Mayes, Senior Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer at Albertsons Companies

Julie Thomas, Director, Inclusion & Diversity at Coca-Cola European Partners

Kim Waller, Practice Leader Willis Towers Watson Diversity Solutions at Willis Towers Watson

Kimberly Denese Boykin, Vice President, BOLD a Business Resource Group at Delta Air Lines

Laura Probert, Global VP Talent at Xaxis

Lauren von Stackelberg, Global Head of Inclusion & Diversity at Expedia Group

Myra Caldwell, Chief Diversity Officer at Cadence Bank

Nancy Lengthorn, Head of Inclusion and Belonging at WPP and MediaCom

Neil Griffiths, Global Head of Diversity, Equality & Inclusion at ERM

Pamela Popp, Chief Inclusion Officer at Lockton Companies

Ramon Bates, D&I Consultant at American National 

Sabina Khanom, Head of Inclusion at Aviva

Sady Fischer, CDP, Corporate Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Excellus BCBS

Sarah Barnes, Vice President Human Resources, Bauer Audio UK, Nordics, Slovakia and Poland at Bauer Audio

Sheri Feinzig, Partner at IBM Global Business Services

Sheri Crosby Wheeler, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility at Mr. Cooper

Sue Unerman, Chief Transformation Officer at MediaCom

Taran Ozagir, Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Wellbeing at

Tracey Ray Robinson, Ph.D., Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Yetunde Akinbolagbe, Talent & Development Coordinator at Chubb

Zack Rubinstein, Senior Program Manager; Head of Global Inclusion Learning at Expedia Group

Anonymous, SVP, Diversity & Inclusion at a ~44,000-person information and management company

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