Another year is upon us, and that prompts many people to create New Year’s Resolutions (or goals, or objectives) for the year ahead. Even though we’re really just turning the page of the calendar, the psychological effects of the New Year are real. People feel like they have a clean slate, and a chance to head in a new direction.
This phenomenon is known as the fresh start effect. This concept claims that “people are better at tackling their goals when they start on so-called temporal landmarks.” A temporal landmark might be the first day of the year, the first of the quarter, or a Monday morning. There is some debate about whether the fresh start effect is a help or a hindrance, but one thing’s for certain: the effect is real. There’s a reason gym attendance increases by 20 percent at the beginning of a new year!
How can you use the fresh start effect to create momentum around your work’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices? Try the following 4 steps:
1. Gather Data
If you’re unsure of your current DEI performance, how can you work to improve it? It’s important to gather relevant data to create a starting point to measure growth and improvement. Some of these data points may be more straightforward than others (e.g., hiring practices might be easier to map than inclusivity practices), but it’s important to gather both quantitative and qualitative data.
Some examples of quantitative data include:
- The percentages of people from underrepresented groups in your organization at different levels
- The percentages of people from underrepresented groups who applied for open positions in the past year
- The percentages of people from underrepresented groups who received promotions in the past year
Examples of qualitative data include:
- Feedback from employees about their experiences within your organization
- DEI training attendance and feedback
- Feedback from customers or clients about their interactions with your organization
- Employee exit interview data
2. Keep Goal-Setting Smart
Now that you have some data points to work with, it’s time to set some goals! These should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. Trying to accomplish too much at once will only lead to frustration.
3. Include Multiple Perspectives
It’s important to include many voices and perspectives when setting DEI goals. When assembling a goal-setting committee, make sure to ask a wide array of people to join. Once the team is assembled, it’s crucial to give everyone speaking time and a chance to share their thoughts and opinions. Convey that all perspectives are valued and welcomed, and keep an open mind when listening to ideas.
4. Focus on a Few Key Goals
Once you’ve gathered your data and brainstormed ideas, it’s a good idea to establish priorities. You probably can’t tackle every idea or objective this year, but you can try to make progress in a few key areas.
Are your hiring practices outdated and/or biased? Create an initiative to write more inclusive job postings and improve the interview process.
Are employees demonstrating a lack of knowledge or awareness of certain DEI concepts? Make an effort to invest in DEI training for employees (and make sure to measure the results!).
Are people expressing a sense of exclusion or lack of support? Begin to establish mentoring programs and/or Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for underrepresented employees.
By taking the time to set SMART DEI goals for your organization, you can use the fresh start effect to make real progress throughout the year. Remember: meaningful action can only be taken once you’ve taken time to sift through the data AND talk with a wide range of people about their DEI-related experiences.