How Government HR Can Create a Diversity and Inclusion Program Part II

Written by Jonathan Wiersma

How to Implement a D&I Program in Your Local Government.

If you are reading this, you have hopefully read Part I in this blog series on the importance of establishing a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) program in your community. The creation of any wide-spread administrative initiative will take planning, commitment, and collaboration to be successful. When it comes to topics as crucial as diversity and inclusion, you must be thorough in your planning and implementation process to best serve the needs of your community and your employees. Follow these best practices when implementing your D&I program.

Establish Your Goals

The needs in your community will be unique, but from a foundational perspective, your goals should center on:

  • Building and nurturing an employment base that reflects the races, cultures, faiths, and philosophies of your community.
  • Recruiting, hiring, and retaining a diverse workforce committed to your community’s D&I initiative and capable of working in an open and accepting environment.

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  • To ensure ongoing success and mitigate behaviors that are in contradiction to your D&I program goals, establish policies and programs that will help educate staff and foster a culture of acceptance.

Getting Started

Follow the steps below to implement a successful program.

Identify Potential Barriers to Success

Be honest with yourself and with one another. In what ways could your initiatives meet resistance? Don’t just identify barriers, work proactively to mitigate their impact and optimize your chances of success.

Get Buy-In from Key Departments

While a D&I program can be established by your government human resources office, to be successful, you will need the support and buy-in from your elected officials, city council, supervisors in all departments, and communications office.

Create a Committee

A critical step to success is to ensure your D&I program is comprised of diverse leaders. Rather than attempting to manage the program entirely within your HR department, create a D&I committee consisting of employees of all experience levels and backgrounds. These individuals should champion your program’s goals across your administration and should serve as resources for staff members with questions, concerns, or feedback.

Start with Data

To ensure your D&I program addresses the unique needs of your community and your administration, collect data that will help you identify gaps in staffing and culture barriers that your efforts will need to overcome. As part of your data gathering and analysis efforts, compare the demographics that comprise your workforce, which should be accessible via your human resource information(HRIS) system, to the demographics of your entire community to ensure your administration is proportionately reflective of the people it serves.

Hold Open Dialogue

Quantifiable data is an essential factor in understanding your community’s needs, but you will also need to hear your employees’ thoughts on how they perceive your administration’s current culture, and what they feel is needed to foster a more accepting environment. Hold focus groups that include everyone from managers to entry-level employees. The most extensive possible variety of voices, experiences, and opinions need to be heard for your D&I program to be successful.

Based on Data Analysis, Identify Areas of Focus

After analyzing your data, identify the areas where your administration will need to pay particular focus. Such areas could include anything from hiring initiatives to supplementing underrepresented demographics in your workforce, to fostering a culture of open dialogue, to enabling diversity training for supervisors.

Establish Policies

To demonstrate your administration’s commitment to its D&I program, and to enable its success, you will need to establish clearly outlined administrative policies that impact your ability to maintain an accepting, diverse employee culture. This process may also require adjusting existing rules, including those that affect hiring and career advancement initiatives.

Align Program Initiatives with Administrative Goals

As we discussed in Part I of this series, a diverse local government administration will enable more balanced citizen representation and allow your leadership to serve the needs of its population most efficiently. By identifying specific organizational goals that your D&I program will help support, you can achieve greater buy-in and participation, as your employees will see the program’s larger-scale impact on the community as a whole, and on its voters.

Offer Training

Your research may demonstrate that some individuals—for a variety of reasons—are less familiar with other cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds, and beliefs. Diversity training can help these and all employees see the value that a diverse workforce brings to local government and open up their own belief systems, furthering a culture of acceptance and appreciation for different cultures.

Decide How to Measure Success

Some measurement factors will be easy to identify, such as the overall demographic makeup of your workforce. To determine other success factors, such as whether employees feel they are working in an accepting atmosphere, consider holding annual focus groups or implementing employee surveys—both for tenured staff and new hires after their onboarding process.

Communicate with Citizens

Keep in mind that your diversity initiative is just as much about your citizens as it is about your employees. Work with your communications department to communicate with citizens about your D&I program. Hold dialogue with residents and listen to their feedback. Their input as to how they are represented by their local leaders will be a critical benchmark for success. 

Establishing a D&I program is not just a one-time initiative. To ensure your ongoing hiring, advancement, and retention efforts foster a diverse workforce, read Part III in our series: How to Incorporate Diversity into Your Hiring and Retention Strategies.