9 Steps to build a diversity strategy in the workplace

7 min read

Discover the benefits of fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in your workplace, and gain insights into implementing a successful DEI strategy.

Andrea Roth Last updated on June 12, 2023
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What is DEI, and why does it matter?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are values as well as an organizational framework to promote fairness and full participation of all groups in business.

  • Diversity refers to differences between people — for example, (sexual) identity, gender, age, religion, nationality, or disability.
  • Equity is a concept that recognizes that privileges exist for some and barriers for others.
  • Inclusion describes a culture where all individuals feel heard, seen, and accepted.

Colloquially, these terms are sometimes used synonymously. A modern and inclusive workplace aims to correct inequalities and prevent discrimination.

And that’s important because issues like workplace discrimination and the gender pay gap, unfortunately, are still a reality. The good news is that this is changing, albeit slowly.

With awareness rising and politics creating respective frameworks, developments like an increase of women on executive boards in German DAX companies are gradually taking place.

Increase of women on executive boards in German DAX companies

Increase of women on executive boards in German DAX companies
DIW Berlin. (January 18, 2023)

Benefits of diversity in the workplace

Every year, Germany requires 400,000 skilled professional migrant workers to fill the demand in booming industries. About one-third of these jobs are specialists in the IT sector.

A lack of new local young talent, the advancing demographic change, and the emigration of qualified specialists are fueling the problem. The shortage of skilled (IT) professionals in Germany is real.

As larger companies with higher budgets get ahead of the international recruiting game, small and medium-sized enterprises that typically drive innovation are disadvantaged.

Now, while some recruiters and headhunters may initially feel overwhelmed by the task of hiring foreign talent, there is simply no way around it.

Plus, many HR professionals have recognized the manifold of opportunities that come with inclusive hiring practices.

Different perspectives and filters, experiences, and ideas that come with international teams (so-called multidimensional and intersectoral thinking) have the potential to increase sales and profits through

  • a deeper understanding of customer need
  • better products and services
  • driving innovation and competitiveness

At the same time, the sense of community within the company is raised. As a result

  • trust increases, and the brand/image is positively charged
  • problems are solved in new and creative ways
  • team spirit and morale are boosted

All this ultimately creates smart and lasting solutions, which increase customer satisfaction and drives profits. Likewise, new and emerging markets, customer bases, and niches can be identified through a fundamental understanding of cultures and practices in foreign markets.

And you’re in good company: industry leaders Infineon, Agilent Technologies, and SAP are among the most diverse organizations in Germany.

To sum it up, DEI in the workplace is the right thing to do, and it ensures the long-term health, resilience, and innovative power of companies.

The diversity leaders of Germany

Top 20 German companies in 2022 by inclusivity score*

Rank Company Score Main industry sector
1 Infineon 8.22 Semiconductors
2 Hugo Boss 7.90 Clothing and accessories
3 Rheinmetall 7.86 Automotive (producers and suppliers)
4 AbbVie 7.75 Drugs and biotechnology
5 Texas Instruments 7.75 Semiconductors
6 Agilent Technologies 7.73 Health care equipment and services
7 Aareal Bank 7.73 Banking and financial services
8 PUMA 7.72 Clothing and accessories
9 EnBW 7.71 Electric utilities
10 Adva Optical Networking 7.70 Semiconductors
11 Knorr-Bremse 7.70 Automotive (producers and suppliers)
12 SAP 7.67 Software and services
13 RAG 7.67 Oil and gas operations
14 Merck 7.65 Drugs and biotechnology
15 Barmenia Versicherungen 7.65 Insurance
16 RWE 7.65 Electric utilities
17 Keysight Technologies 7.64 Semiconductors
18 Adidas 7.63 Clothing and accessories
19 Deutsche Bundesbank 7.62 Banking and financial services
20 Fiducia & GAD IT 7.61 Software and services

*On a scale of 0 to 10 according to company inclusivity measure concerning age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation

9 steps to build a DEI strategy for your company

Implementing DEI in the talent acquisition strategy and company culture is more than just a one-off checkbox to be done overnight and ticked off. Instead, it is an ongoing action and long-term process.

Here is how to get started with creating a diverse company - whether you are an in-house recruiter, freelance headhunter, or staffing agency.

Ingraining diversity in company DNA & culture

Leverage the potential of diversity for your business by giving it a top-level priority and visibility while encouraging a bottom-up and inclusive implementation process.

Depending on the size of the company, different measures, and an adjusted scope make sense. However, the basic procedure remains the same.

  1. Define your starting point. Conduct a thorough assessment of the company’s diversity status quo. Evaluate the representation of different demographic groups across the organization, review policies and procedures, and consider surveys. Asses both the strengths and identify areas for improvement.
  2. Include diversity in the company strategy. While the HR department spearheads diversity, equity, and inclusion, DEI affects the whole company. Ensure that the leadership team understands the benefits of DEI and is on board with its implementation. Anchoring diversity in the company strategy (plus ideally values and vision) helps to prioritize this topic and mainstream it across departments. As always, leaders should set a positive example.
  3. Develop a DEI strategy. This strategy should include recruitment, retention, career development, and the creation of an inclusive work environment. Develop SMART goals and define clear responsibilities. Include stakeholder input - from leadership to employees, challenge unconscious bias, develop anti-discrimination policies, quotas, and more. Depending on your company, appoint or hire a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), transformation task force, or committee.
  4. Hard facts and perceived experiences. Yes, diversity can and should be measured. At the same time, belonging, fairness, and equal opportunity are also perceived values among individuals and as a collective. Make sure that diversity on paper and the experience within the company culture align.

This framework is the basis for a more inclusive and equitable talent acquisition process and company culture that fosters diversity ensures equity, and promotes an inclusive work environment.

International developers brainstorming at a desk

DEI recruiting & hiring

Implementing a successful DEI strategy requires changes - some smaller and easier, others more complex and challenging.

  1. Expand your candidate pool. Review job ads to make them appeal to a wider audience. Remove any barriers or biases. Tap into new recruitment platforms and places to address a larger and more diverse talent pool. Partner with organizations specifically supporting minority groups, e.g., women in technology. Offer sponsorship programs and internships to provide opportunities and growth for marginalized groups.
  2. Eliminate biases. Encourage applicants to remove personal information on resumes (e.g., race, date of birth, marital status). “Blind resumes" foster an objective evaluation of skills that remove unconscious and conscious bias. Also, apply this practice to “blind interviews," which are most effective in the early stages of the recruiting process. Rethink and redefine recruitment factors to attract diverse talent and hire candidates with the best skills and most potential.
  3. DEI training. Provide DEI training for all employees to increase awareness, challenge biases, and foster an inclusive mindset. Create an inclusive onboarding process that familiarizes new employees with your company’s commitment to diversity.
  4. Peer mentoring. Create safe spaces to bring together employees with shared identities or experiences. These groups can provide support, networking opportunities and contribute to the overall diversity and inclusion efforts.
  5. Monitor progress and adapt. Continuously evaluate the success of your DEI initiatives, and make adjustments where necessary. Collect and analyze data on key diversity metrics and monitor progress toward your goals. Hold leaders and managers accountable for creating an inclusive workplace and addressing any issues that arise.

Whether you have already taken steps toward a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace or are just getting started with this process - DEI is an ongoing effort that has become mandatory rather than optional in today’s world. It requires long-term commitment and active involvement from leadership and employees alike.

Help! I need to figure out how to get started.

Are you looking for IT experts and tech specialists? Get access to Nioomi’s international talent pool of IT developers, engineers, and more.

For DEI transformation and implementing change processes, Nioomi partners with HR visionary Heidi Hofer, among others.

Heidi has been assisting companies for over 25 years in creating a future-proof HR culture, including successfully integrating international employees. Contact Heidi to discuss your individual diversity hiring strategy and close the DEI gap.

Key takeaways

  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion are a must for German IT companies to stay relevant.
  • DEI is ethical, economic, foresighted, and part of a modern HR culture.
  • Creating a DEI recruiting strategy and company culture is an ongoing and long-term process.

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