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How to Set a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Meeting Agenda

How to Set a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Meeting Agenda

Many companies today are focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). As part of these efforts they may hold a variety of different types of meetings:

  • Meetings among DEI leaders.
  • Meetings of the company’s overall leadership team.
  • Meetings of employee resource group (ERG) representatives.
  • Meetings of ERG councils or leadership teams.
  • Meetings with employees to share progress updates.

To ensure that these meetings are run efficiently and achieve the overall goals of their DEI efforts, it’s important to create a diversity, equity, and inclusion agenda. This should clearly outline what will be covered, and provide attendees with information on how they can be best prepared to participate in the meeting. 

Effective DEI efforts can pay off significantly for companies in a number of ways—from employee retention to customer acquisition and retention to positive brand impact and a healthy bottom line. But meetings are also expensive and time-consuming. 

In fact, a study conducted by Otter.ai in partnership with Dr. Steven G. Rogelberg, Professor of Organizational Science, Management at UNC Charlotte took a look at how companies can save time and money by planning and holding more effective meetings. They found that:

  • Useless meetings cost companies $100 million annually.
  • Employees would like to skip nearly one-third of the meetings they’re invited to.

Neither of these findings are ideal, of course. Here we take a look at how to set a diversity, equity, and inclusion meeting agenda and techniques to ensure that your meetings, and your DEI efforts, are successful.


What do you talk about in diversity, equity, and inclusion meetings?

At a high level, what you talk about in diversity, equity, and inclusion meetings is diversity, equity, and inclusion!

More specifically, you are likely to cover the following discussion points.

  • Diversity: what is the status of our hiring, promotion, and retention efforts with regard to marginalized employees and specific demographic segments we’re targeting?
  • Equity: what are we doing to ensure that our employee-related decisions are equitable and not inadvertently negatively impacting diverse groups?
  • Inclusion: do employees feel that they are included and that they have an opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions openly? How do we know that? How are we measuring it?

At a more granular level, though, DEI meetings are often focused on reviewing action plans, providing updates, and identifying new tactics and efforts aligned with the company’s DEI statement and goals and the overall corporate mission.

Employee Resource Group (ERG) meetings are even more focused on specific efforts related to ERGs and the groups they represent.

Some agenda items are standing and included in every meeting. For instance, updates from team members or on specific projects. Other agenda items may be submitted by members and others as issues and opportunities emerge.


How to set a diversity, equity, and inclusion meeting agenda

Setting a diversity, equity, and inclusion meeting agenda requires the same considerations and efforts as establishing an agenda for any type of meeting.

The purpose is to ensure efficiency and effectiveness as well as to provide a historical record of what was to be covered. Meeting minutes will provide a record of what was actually covered and any follow up tasks assigned. 

In addition to serving as a means of organizing the meeting and identifying the topics to be covered, agendas can also set expectations and requirements for meeting participants to ensure that discussions are productive and positive.

DEI meeting agendas generally include such items as:

  • Date, time, length, and location of the meeting.
  • Names of those who are invited to the meeting.
  • A welcome and call to order.
  • Introductions: Initially, team members should have an opportunity to introduce themselves and share their role within the organization and role as part of the DEI meeting. At each meeting, any guests also should have the opportunity to introduce themselves and to be quickly introduced to other participants.
  • Ground rules: Ground rules, often established when a team is initially convened, lay out the expectations that the team leaders and group members have of each other. These may include such things as:
    • The confidentiality expectations for topics discussed.
    • A commitment to open, and honest communication.
    • The importance of allowing all to have the opportunity for input.
    • An expectation of professionalism during meetings.
    • A commitment to active listening in a nonjudgmental environment.

Creating these expectations as a group and agreeing to abide by them can create buy-in and help to support an open, transparent, and supportive environment for all.

  • Points to be discussed: Prior to the meeting, the meeting facilitator may wish to solicit input from team members for discussion topics, and also review the prior meeting’s minutes to confirm planned topics of discussion.
  • Some meeting planners will include in the agenda an indication of an estimated time for each discussion point to help keep the meeting on track.

A best practice that some meeting planners practice at the beginning of meetings is to review the agenda and, given the time limit for the meeting, invite input about whether any items should be moved up or down the list, or allotted more or less time.

Planning and holding efficient meetings can have a significant positive impact on the success of your diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives as well as ensuring your team members remain engaged and committed to the process.


7 ways to take action on diversity, equity, and inclusion

Following DEI meetings, participants and others may have takeaway tasks and expected deliverables that are required to ensure the company meets its DEI goals and objectives. Taking action on these deliverables is important. Here are seven ways to make sure DEI efforts are successfully achieved through positive and productive efforts. 

1. Accountability.

When assigning tasks and responsibilities for action plans, be sure to identify an individual who will be responsible for moving forward with the item and reporting back to the team. Clear accountability can help to avoid misunderstanding and ensure that action items move forward.

2. Clear deliverables.

Be clear about what is expected of individuals assigned accountability for action items and that they understand what their responsibilities are.

3. Open and transparent communication.

Open and transparent communication is important to support a strong DEI culture and to ensure that progress is made on action items. This means both communication within teams, and with the rest of the organization. 

Make sure that team members understand if they’re expected to be communication conduits with other groups—e.g., their divisions or departments—within the organization and what information they should be sharing.

Develop channels for two-way communication and opportunities for employees to ask questions and share ideas and information with DEI teams.

4. The use of subcommittees. 

Effective teams operate best with a small number of people. According to Gallup the ideal team size is under 10 people. You can extend the opportunity for broader involvement, though, by establishing subcommittees that report to teams and are assigned specific responsibilities and tasks. 

5. Flexibility.

Things change and priorities change. Having a plan is important but so is being flexible with that plan as new issues emerge, internally and externally, or as priorities evolve.

6. Learn from the best practices of others.

DEI undertakings are a high priority for many organizations today and many have been working on these efforts for some time. Their experiences and lessons learned can be good insights for other companies just embarking on this work or looking for best practice advice and ideas. 

7. Share your own best practices and progress.

In September 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal, only 14 US-based companies were making their EEOC data public. By March 2021 that number had climbed to 54. Clearly, there is room for improvement. Many companies are doing great things in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion. If your company is one of them, make sure you’re sharing your successes and how you’ve achieved them with others.

Are you ready to put your diversity, equity, and inclusion plans into action and deliver on your DEI promise? Guided Diversity Planning can help you set and achieve measurable goals.

About the author: Linda Pophal

Linda Pophal, MA, PCM, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is the founder and owner of Strategic Communications, LLC, and a marketing and communication strategist with expertise in HR and employee relations. With a background as a business journalist, her writing has appeared in the HR Daily Advisor, Human Resource Executive, and SHRM. She is a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire.

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