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Diversity, equity, and inclusion

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6 ways to develop an authentic DEI program for your healthcare organization

Diverse employees enjoying the benefits of a strong DEI program

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) isn’t just the latest organizational craze. It’s an important workplace initiative that requires real change and intentional action to create a positive, lasting impact for your employees. Whether you’re looking to enhance your DEI program or just starting your DEI journey, here are six practical tips from leaders in healthcare on how to effectively implement meaningful DEI initiatives in your organization.

1. Get buy-in from the entire organization

For a DEI initiative to have any footing, it needs to be an executive strategic priority. Additionally, it’s important to have diversity represented in your executive leadership team.

“People need to see representation in leadership roles so they know that there is opportunity there and that the diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are genuine,” says Jessica Reynolds, candidate experience manager for ChenMed.

So, how do you gain buy-in from the C-suite?

“Present them with the data,” recommends Reynolds. “Show them statistics and analytics on the revenue they can generate, and what they're losing when they don't have a diverse workforce. When you show them where the money is going and the opportunities they're missing, then it will open their eyes to the importance of it not just being the flavor of the month.”

But for your DEI initiatives to have a lasting impact, you have to also have buy-in from everyone in your organization.

“It has to be something that's engrained in the culture of the entire organization,” shares Hannah Chadee, director of physician talent management at Emory Healthcare. “Every department and every person in the organization must feel like they’re a part of the culture.”

That’s why having clear DEI messaging from your leaders is so important. It helps to foster DEI champions — people in your organization who live and breathe your DEI culture and help to implement actionable initiatives across the organization.

2. Develop an authentic commitment to DEI

Getting caught up in frivolous programs and activities that your people see as symbolic gestures or performative DEI efforts will ultimately undermine the impact and effectiveness of your DEI initiative. So, it’s extremely important to develop an authentic commitment to DEI.

The best way to do that is through intentional and transparent communication, followed by giving your employees a voice.

“Once you’ve laid out your strategic and business DEI imperatives, talk to employees at every level of the organization to get their input — their perspective on what a diverse and inclusive organization looks like through their lens — and began framing your action plan from their input,” shares Russ Peal, director of workforce recruitment and retention for the Veterans Health Administration. “After you’ve laid out your actionable goals, be very intentional about transparency, making sure all of the information, all of the milestones reached, and all of the gains accomplished are widely publicized and celebrated. That is a key part of transforming a culture.”

3. Be proactive, not reactive

With everything that’s happened over the last few years, a lot of organizations found themselves in a very reactive state when it came to DEI.

“Companies have had really big campaigns around things that we've been reacting to, but how many companies have really implemented sustainable culture shifts within their organizations?” Chadee asks. “How many will sustain themselves, and how many are just reactive and more just there to show some type of awareness to their employees and to the public, but are they true DEI initiatives?”

It’s important to remember that a sustainable, long-term DEI strategy takes time.

“Have the courage to hold your critics at bay and say, ‘we're doing this the right way and we're doing it for the long haul, so we need you to hang with us,’” shares Christine VanCampen, vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion for CHG Healthcare. “I’m glad in hindsight that we took that strategy, but it was not easy to do.”

4. Set measurable goals

Setting measurable goals gives you the data you need to better understand what’s working and what’s not, as well as track any changes your initiatives make.

“There continually has to be a development of new data, so you can understand current state and identify how to help troubleshoot those areas where you're not seeing the results you’re looking for,” says VanCampen. “For instance, we just created a new report around promotion rates, and we’re able to monitor and assess across the organization the rate of promotion using a number of demographic factors to help uncover differences in the rate of promotion.”

5. Share your commitment and successes externally

While focusing on your DEI initiatives internally is imperative to cultural change, it’s also important to share your DEI stance externally.

Reynolds shares, “It needs to be part of the organization’s branding, so that the community knows this is an initiative you’re going to stand by and really believe in, because it's important for the workforce to reflect the community they’re in.”

Extending your DEI focus outside your organizational walls isn’t just great for recruiting, it’s also a great way to build a relationship with your community.

“We're actively looking for nonprofit partners in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space, so we can provide opportunities to our employees to go out and serve and get involved in their communities,” says VanCampen.

Offering your people diverse opportunities to give back isn’t just good for the community, it’s also rewarding for your employees and gives them the opportunity to diversify their experiences and perspectives.

6. Embrace diversity of thought

Everyone has their own unique experiences that shape the person they are. Diversity of thought is the concept that you appreciate and take into consideration everyone’s unique experiences and perspectives regardless of whether you agree with them.

“When you have a space where diversity of perspective is welcomed, it’s like adding seasoning to your favorite dish. It’s like soul food in the organization, if you will,” says Peal. “It's like adding multiple layers of different types of seasoning to the organization, adding flavor and substance.”

More on this topic:

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CHG Healthcare can help you find the doctors, nurses, and allied professionals you need to staff your facility. To learn more about our staffing solutions, give us a call at 866.588.5996 or email

About the author

Liz Cornwall

Liz is a communications manager based in Salt Lake City. For more than a decade, she’s done a little bit of everything in the communications world — from writing about locum tenens and travel nursing, to working as an executive speech writer, to becoming a social media influencer in the world of micro goldendoodles.

See all articles from this author

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