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Part II of the YLAI4All Playbook: Establishing Core Values & Developing a Strategic Action Plan


Entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners are critical in advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and belonging efforts within the workplace. Every aspect of business benefits from these efforts; an enterprise that considers the perspectives and needs of all workers and customers can experience improved employee job satisfaction, retention, enhanced productivity and increased profitability. Review diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and belonging best practices and consider a template for a strategic action plan for your business.

Many conversations about diversity and inclusion do not happen in the boardroom because people are embarrassed at using unfamiliar words or afraid of saying the wrong thing — yet this is the very place we need to be talking about it. The business case speaks for itself — diverse teams are more innovative and successful in going after new markets.” — Inga Beale


DEIAB Best Practices for Hiring, Recruitment and Management


Concentrating your efforts on diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in fostering a feeling of belonging strengthens your overall business. Here is a list of best practices for hiring, recruitment and management for a diverse, equitable, inclusive and accessible workplace. 

Determine your recruitment objectives. Are you recruiting for specific departments or for manager roles? What demographics are underrepresented among your employees? Set SMART Goals for your recruitment objectives that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound. Explore any unconscious biases you might have to make an informed decision. Create your recruitment strategy with a full evaluation of your current hiring practices and your customer base and the community in which you operate. Define diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility for yourself and your business. Update your mission and values and be transparent about them with the rest of your organization. Encourage your employees and partners to speak up and speak freely — through communication internally, employee resource groups, events, etc. Creating these channels of inclusion can be important for employees already in your organization and will help you build an environment that is welcoming to new team members. Make managers accountable for your DEIAB efforts and ensure managers have a shared understanding of your company’s core values and expectations. Solicit feedback via anonymous entries in regular surveys to your employees and ask important questions in exit interviews to learn what you could be doing differently. Be transparent about how you are implementing this feedback. Give equal opportunity for training and skills development programs and encourage and follow through on providing advancement and filling management positions inclusively.
Source: https://hbr.org/2022/06/an-intersectional-approach-to-inclusion-at-work

Take the dialogue offline with these conversation prompts: How do you feel about where our office is in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion? What do you wish we did more? What do you wish we did less? Do you think our current diversity policies in place contribute to a safe, inclusive work environment?


Building a DEIAB Strategic Action Plan

Whether you are crafting an action plan focusing on your DEIAB efforts for the first time or updating your previously stated goals and values, this template will help you to refocus your efforts and improve their effectiveness. Use this strategic action plan template to think through the critical elements of the values and expectations of your business. 

First use the conversation prompts below to assess where you are now, where you want to go, and what influences you are taking with you into this strategic planning: 

First use the conversation prompts below to assess where you are now, where you want to go, and what influences you are taking with you into this strategic planning: What is your overall goal in creating a strategic action plan focusing on diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility? What strategic efforts in your business to address diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility do you already have in place? Are there other organizations or businesses that have shared their efforts or plans that you admire? What about these organizations resonates with you?

Your Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Action Plan Template


A DEIAB strategic action plan communicates your business’s efforts to address problems, needs, challenges and opportunities concerning DEIAB. Using this template, you can write out your mission to foster belonging with an inclusive organization, map out solutions and opportunities, set target goals, and evaluate your progress. Take our example as a starting point and consider other strategic plans such as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s DEIA Strategic Plan, where their actions to achieve their goal of becoming a model employer for employees with disabilities include integrating reasonable accommodation procedures, assessing current accessibility models, and developing and implementing training on accommodations. 

Tip: DEIAB efforts are always evolving and changing. Make sure to continually evaluate the needs of your employees and partners and return to this template as necessary.

PART III: Partnerships and Community–Centering Marginalized Voices and Strengthening Unity 

Creating partnerships that promote diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and belonging is what builds unity and strengthens communities large and small. Coalitions are partnerships formed in support of a common goal: bringing together groups of people from various racial, socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. Below, you will learn more about allyship, coalition building and using resources for a collective purpose. 

Decentering Yourself in Community and Business

Decentering — The act of listening to the perspectives of people experiencing oppression without centering the conversation on your personal views when you are in a place of privilege.
Source: https://onlinegrad.baylor.edu/resources/how-to-decenter-yourself/

Centering ourselves means that instead of truly listening to someone’s experience, we refocus and challenge the conversation by sharing our own. It shows that you are just listening to reply, not to truly understand and empathize. A key component of allyship is lifting others’ voices and understanding their experiences. 

Ask yourself the following questions before vocalizing (or communicating online) to help identify when you might be centering yourself and when you are not truly allowing space for marginalized voices to be heard and understood. 

  1. Does this issue directly affect or relate to me or my family? 
  2. Who is this conversation for? 
  3. Who may be affected by my actions? 
  4. Am I using my own experience to tell someone about how they should feel?
  5. Am I seeking to understand the speaker better? 
  6. Am I responding to someone who has a different lived experience than me? Is that lived experience one of oppression or marginalization?

How to Be a Better Ally 

DEIAB, within the context of community and peer-to-peer relationships, relies heavily on the foundation of allyship. Being an active ally is more than just declaring yourself an ally. Allyship is not an identity, skill or performance. Allyship is a commitment to an active, ongoing practice of working in solidarity with marginalized groups and individuals to advocate for equal access, inclusion and empowerment.

Allyship and inclusivity can strengthen businesses, communities and partnerships. One key step to eliminating bias and ensuring a more equitable, diverse and inclusive workplace and community is to become an ally. Allyship is the practice that gives visibility and credit to marginalized and underrepresented groups, ensuring their voices are heard, and taking appropriate action. Taking action as an ally is an important part of promoting and prioritizing diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and belonging in your personal and professional life.

Allyship is a muscle that must be exercised regularly. Unless you are actively working on it, it will grow weaker. There is no single fix that will forever promote allyship in your organization. Just as you might exercise your muscles often, you must continue to develop your personal journey of allyship. When starting conversations with others about challenges, microaggressions or discrimination they’ve faced, start by requesting their permission. If it’s okay with them, be sure to approach the conversation with humility and a learning mindset. 

Take the dialogue offline with these conversation prompts: Do you recall a time when you felt you needed an ally? What does being supported by an ally feel like for you? Do you consider yourself a strong, active ally? Are there barriers or challenges you’ve faced that I probably will never encounter because of my identity? What’s one way you wish your allies support you or your community? If you were giving me advice on how to help you feel like you belong, what would you say? Coalition Building

While focusing on DEIAB efforts in your business and creating an environment in which employees feel that they truly belong, you also have a responsibility as a part of your community. Focusing on active advocacy through community involvement results in benefits for your business, your customers, your employees and your community. Prioritizing social responsibility has a positive impact on everyone involved. 

One way to prioritize social responsibility is to organize as a community. Forming ethical partnerships with partners with like-minded values and goals is an important step to your business’s inclusive efforts. Whether in your own business or across the broader community, building a coalition or partnership is a good way to come together and address issues and opportunities.

A coalition is a group of individuals and/or organizations with a common interest who agree to work together toward a common goal. Coalitions can empower a community’s future by addressing urgent issues, launching community initiatives or sharing resources. The University of Kansas has created a Community Tool Box for step-by-step guidance in community-building skills, including a chapter on coalition building, where you can understand how to set an action plan for your coalition, recruit members, determine resources and maintain your coalition over time.

The University of Kansas Community Tool Box’s general rules for forming and running a coalition are as follows:

The University of Kansas Community Tool Box’s general rules for forming and running a coalition are as follows:Communicate openly and freely with everyone. Be inclusive and participatory. Network at every opportunity. Set reachable goals, in order to engender success. Hold creative meetings. Be realistic about what you can do: Don't promise more than you can accomplish, and always keep your promises. Acknowledge and use the diversity of the group.
Source: https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/assessment/promotion-strategies/start-a-coaltion/main


Resource Sharing

Creating a more equitable and inclusive workplace is a shared responsibility. Building a sense of community and fostering belonging begins with your strategic priorities mapped in your action plan, such as more inclusive hiring practices. Belonging can then be fostered through allies actively supporting, advocating for and sharing resources with marginalized groups.

While marginalized communities can benefit from allyship and advocacy, the lack of allocated financial resources continues to exacerbate the many challenges these communities face. For example, in Peru many Afro- and Indigenous Peruvians live on the coast. These coastal communities have suffered the devastation of flooding, brought on by climate change. 

Allyship might look like organizing a volunteer group to rebuild structures lost to flooding. Advocacy might include petitioning local governments to address climate change. Both of these actions are helpful. However, resource sharing and allocating funds would also help community members to make critical decisions about their futures, such as relocating or sourcing materials that can withstand climate change.