From Intention to Action: 7 Ways to Make Meaningful DEI Progress in the Workplace

Posted by Deanna Singh | Jan 19, 2023 9:00:00 AM

“Action expresses priorities.” - Mahatma Gandhi

When it comes to creating an equitable and inclusive workplace, it’s not enough to have good intentions. After George Floyd’s murder in 2020, hundreds of major corporations pledged billions of dollars to DEI efforts. However, very few of those pledges actually came to fruition, and the ones that did were not necessarily spent productively. The Washington Post reported that, 14 months after Floyd’s murder, the 50 companies which had pledged $50 billion only actually distributed $1.7 billion. That’s less than 2 percent of what was pledged.

That’s what happens when good intentions are not accompanied by a plan. Good intentions are a start, but they’re not enough. Unfortunately, this happens far too often in the DEI space. The intention is there, but because the organization does not have an intentional strategy, it has no teeth and inevitably fails or fades away.

To achieve meaningful action, an organization needs to use their intentions as a springboard. Right now, the vast majority of workers value diverse and inclusive companies. Capitalize on that intention by taking meaningful, organization-wide actions:

1. Gather Data

You can’t set worthwhile company goals without understanding and acknowledging your baseline. Gather information on hiring demographics, worker satisfaction, and the success (or failure) of any DEI practices that are currently in place.

2. Organize a Diverse Thinktank

Here’s a novel idea: involve underrepresented employees in your company’s equity and inclusion planning! If only people from similar backgrounds are making DEI-related decisions, chances are, they’ll miss the mark. On the other hand, people with lived experience can provide deeper insights on which programs and initiatives might actually move the needle on workplace equity and inclusion.

3. Formalize the Strategy

After data has been gathered and a vision has been outlined, it’s time to formalize the plan. The strategy has to be tailored to the organization and include clear goals, measurable metrics, and timelines. Without metrics, there’s no way to track progress, and without a timeline, meaningful progress will never be achieved.

4. Involve the C-Suite

If company leaders are not directly involved in DEI work, it probably won’t become a company-wide priority. Company culture researcher Donald Sull concluded from his investigations that when a company doesn’t seem to value diversity, that “doesn’t come from a lack of good intentions—it seems more likely to come from CEOs’ lack of sustained attention.” In other words, the C-Level leaders at the company need to demonstrate genuine commitment to DEI initiatives, otherwise they’re likely to flop.

5. Hire a DEI Director

If a medium-sized or large company is truly committed to DEI work, they will create a position for a DEI director. This person would be responsible for keeping the strategy on track, helping to analyze data, and ensuring that DEI initiatives are integrated into the company culture.

6. Promote Education

One of the most powerful ways to turn intention into action is to regularly engage in continuing education. As part of your company’s DEI planning, it’s crucial to include an education component for both leadership and team members. This training should be ongoing and cover topics like power dynamics, privilege, and micro-aggressions in the workplace. It could even include internal DEI workshops, online courses, and opportunities for employees to attend external conferences and programs.

7. Regularly Review and Evaluate

It’s important to track the progress of your DEI initiatives to ensure that they stay on track and actually produce meaningful change. Establish regular review and evaluation processes to ensure that DEI goals are met and that changes are made in a timely manner.


Creating equitable and inclusive workplaces requires organizations to move beyond good intentions and take meaningful, concrete steps. That includes gathering data, forming a diverse think tank, formalizing a strategy, actively involving the C-Suite, hiring a DEI director, promoting education, and regularly reviewing progress. Having good intentions is an important start, but it’s only when those intentions become actions that real and lasting change can occur.

Topics: Purpose, Impact, Plan, DEI Consultant

Written by Deanna Singh

Deanna Singh is a business consultant, speaker, and podcaster who is internationally recognized for her work in leadership, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Deanna helps her clients create more equitable and inclusive work environments and engage more authentically within their internal and external communities. A gifted communicator, she is a champion for marginalized communities through her work. Her podcast, Uplifting Impact with a focus on looking at the intersection of Leadership and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, focuses on solutions and is directed at people who want to break the status quo. Singh earned her Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from Fordham University, a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University, a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and certification in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion from Cornell University.

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