Crownpeak Logo Posted by Crownpeak November 30, 2021

How to make DEI actionable across your digital enterprise

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are on the to-do list for many organizations. Heightened societal awareness has inspired companies to respond by bringing under-represented populations into the fold – both in their internal corporate culture and in their externally-focused recruiting, brand and marketing efforts. 

In our webinar How to Action: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives Across Your Digital Enterprise, Crownpeak’s Senior Customer Success Manager Lucy Neilson spoke with Andy and Tracy Wood, founders of the Renegade Agency, about the significance of DEI in communications. 

Here we recap the key takeaways for your digital enterprise. Read on to learn about DEI best practices, the benefits of DEI, the opportunities having a proactive DEI strategy can create, and the actionable tools and techniques for driving successful DEI communications that will help organizations strengthen market leadership, win new customers, build loyalty, and win new customers.

Webinar on-demand: How To Action: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Across Your Digital Enterprise

Why is diversity, equity and inclusion important?

Diversity, equity and inclusion matter because they help build a fairer society, strengthening the bonds between people and within organizations. Companies have a responsibility to act against the barriers and historical factors that have caused unfair conditions for underrepresented groups.

Although DEI is rising fast up the corporate agenda, many companies are just starting out on this journey, and it is creating some concern, even trepidation, as enterprises struggle to identify and take action on their most pressing DEI challenges. 

In many ways the cultural shift that DEI represents is comparable to the early days of social media 15 years ago. Something we now take for granted as “business as usual” was new, challenging, and even a bit scary, because it required not just new roles within the enterprise, but entirely new ways of working. It required businesses to adapt quickly to address new channels of communication and develop new ways of engaging with employees, prospects and customers. 

As we look to the future, implementing the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion will become business as usual too. But today, as companies explore why DEI matters to them and struggle to get an enterprise-wide view, the challenges of moving forward with DEI can feel intimidating. Like the early days of social media, when the power of engagement wasn’t well understood, it took a while to get everyone on board with the idea. 

Likewise with DEI, making the organizational shifts required to successfully implement diversity, equity, and inclusion best practices across the enterprise will require understanding and buy-in across functions and departments – including HR, corporate communications, branding, marketing, IT and beyond – as well as from different levels of seniority. And, perhaps most important for DEI initiatives to be successful, C-suite sponsorship is key.

This starts with having a deeper understanding of what DEI means, the benefits of DEI strategy and how it manifests for your organization – both internally and in how you communicate externally with your job candidates, partners and customers. 

What is diversity, equity, and inclusion?

What is DEI? While most of us have an idea of what both diversity and inclusion mean, equity is a bit less understood, and it’s not always clear what these three terms mean when looking at them through an enterprise lens. In the broadest, enterprise-relevant terms:

  • Diversity is about having a wide range of individuals and perspectives – in your organization and in how your brand communicates externally – that represent diverse life experiences. People tend to think first about diversity in terms of ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender, but it also involves people with different physical and cognitive abilities (neurodiversity) and diversity of age and experience among other things. 
  • Inclusion requires having active, intentional and ongoing efforts to promote the full participation and sense of belonging for everyone within your organization and everyone who engages with your organization. This requires new ways of thinking and new ways of leading. If diversity is being asked to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.
  • Equity is about taking action. It is about considering the broader motions that are needed in order to create the environment where diversity and inclusion can thrive. If we continue the dance party metaphor, equity would be about: Is there equal access to the dance floor for people with different abilities? Is there equal space to dance? Can everybody hear the same music or feel the beat in their own way?

Successful DEI strategy requires engagement

It's important to engage in DEI in a planful, thoughtful way that is both meaningful and ongoing. Like social media, DEI is not a “one and done” effort or a simple set of checkboxes, it is a continuous and ever-evolving process of supporting and enriching engagement with key audiences – be they your employees, potential new hires, partners, prospects or customers. 

While marketers may segment people into groups and target them with specific messaging at key points during the year, successful marketing involves finding ways to keep your audiences engaged throughout the year. DEI may seem similar on the surface, but it’s a lot more involved, and engagement takes many different forms. 

Tokenism is a common pitfall, when companies don’t understand why is DEI important and treat it as if it were simply a marketing function - only engaging with underrepresented groups during specific moments, such as holidays, Black History Month or Pride Week. There’s certainly nothing wrong with celebrating, but if these moments are the only times you are engaging with diverse groups, it could come across as cynical or opportunistic and be seen as showing a lack of true commitment to DEI. Shallow, inauthentic representation of diverse groups, used as props to fuel a strategic marketing tactic, will, at best, have no impact and, at worst, have the exact opposite effect.

It’s essential to lay the groundwork for year-round DEI with fair and thoughtful representation of underrepresented groups throughout your content – both internally and externally. In so doing, you build credibility with those audiences, improve your reputation and enhance your bottom line by engaging with groups that individually and collectively hold trillions of dollars in spending power.

So where do we start?  

Accessibility is an essential component of DEI

It’s important for all businesses to represent themselves well across the different aspects of DEI, but one of the most crucial aspects to address is accessibility. That means providing access for differently abled people on your physical premises, and it also means digital and web accessibility across all of your different channels of interaction with your employees, candidates, partners and customers. 

Accessibility is inextricably linked to equity. Because it’s not as well understood or as obvious to the majority of people, equity is often something that an organization pushes to the bottom of the list. And when it comes to web accessibility, many organizations treat it as a simple tick box exercise to fix some minor issues. In truth, it is much more far reaching than that. 

Digital accessibility is establishing how your brand is represented to the world online by creating an environment that everybody can access. Equity, in this case, means providing ways for differently abled people to gain access to your environment – your recruitment, your services, your websites and apps and everywhere else you have a touchpoint.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some real-world examples that illustrate how critical it is to identify potential barriers and create accessible experiences for all users.

Real-world examples of accessibility requirements

Accessibility example: Woman trying to use her mobile phone while holding a walking stickWe tend to think first of people who have disabilities that require assistive technology. This could be someone with motor or mobility challenges, such as a person who uses a wheelchair with an integrated device or a visually impaired user who requires a screen reader. 

When you consider that 15% of the global population have some sort of disability - that’s 1.2 billion people – you’re looking at a huge amount of spending power from people who fall within that category. Making your sites more accessible wins loyalty among those who now have access to your content, and for brands this can create a significant marketing opportunity to reach a relatively untapped market.

Example of situational accessibility - Person trying to use their mobile phone with an arm in a slingWhen considering the importance of accessibility, we also need to include situational accessibility – and this expands the audience considerably when we’re thinking about accessible experiences. Some users may have temporary accessibility needs. An eye infection or surgery may cause someone to need short-term use of a screen reader, or a broken bone or injury may require short-term use of keyboard-only navigation.  

Situational accessibility example - Woman trying to use her mobile phone while breastfeeding a babyThink about a user of your app or website who is holding or feeding a baby or using a smartphone with a non-dominant hand due to an injury. They benefit from accessibility too. And these users remember – and develop positive associations with – brands that made it easier for them. This wins customers and builds loyalty.

Situational accessibility example: Person trying to watch a video in a noisy public space And, consider the person who wants to watch a video, but they’re in a public space or on a busy commuter train without headphones. Chances are, they won't watch your video unless it's captioned. And once that moment has passed, they aren’t likely to go back. You’ve just lost eyeballs, awareness, and a potential customer.

DEI in digital experiences: language and representation matters

In addition to accessibility, the specific language we use in all our communications across the digital enterprise is fundamental. And when it comes to language, terminology, and imagery what was acceptable usage yesterday may not be acceptable today or tomorrow. Using outdated language not only makes an organization look out-of-touch, it can have real impacts on reputation and bottom line, which we explore in more depth later. 

Changing well-worn language, terminology and imagery can be a very difficult thing to do, particularly when the evolving nature of language – and the accelerating pace of change – can make it feel like we’re always playing catch-up. Add to this the variations from country to country and market to market, and it’s a challenge to come up with standards that work across the board.

Fortunately, there are enterprise-level tools and technologies available – such as Crownpeak’s Digital Quality Management (DQM) platform – that can help us put DEI initiatives into action by addressing digital accessibility and inclusion more effectively. We’ll talk more about the importance of harnessing technology to support your DEI initiatives later.

Get a free web accessibility assessment of your site

Building your DEI action plan

Advancing DEI within your company can be a complex and highly matrixed process that involves people, process and technology. We won’t cover every aspect here, but it’s important to note a few of the basics that will help you get started – or reach a new level – in your DEI journey. 

Your DEI action plan will need to encompass three key areas:

Diagram of DEI action plan encompassing people, process and technology

  • People: Ideally, this plan should include the creation of a Transformation Working Group. This group of employees is responsible for promoting and coordinating DEI efforts across the company. They should represent a cross-functional, cross-departmental team that is diverse in makeup by seniority, job title, age, experience, ethnicity, and ability. 
  • Process: It’s the job of your Transformation Working Group to gather the lay of the land in order to create a plan. The best place to start is an audit of your content and processes across the enterprise to identify areas that require immediate action in terms of accessibility, language/terms and representation of diversity. This is an area where DQM technology can be particularly useful.
  • Technology: Your technology audit should identify which tools you currently have at your disposal and look at whether that technology is fit for the purpose and best able to support the practice standards you develop.If your technology is not up to the task – or if it requires too much manual effort to be cost-effective, this is the time to start identifying what additional technologies you require to aid your DEI efforts.

For more detail, real-world case studies and data to help you make the case for DEI initiatives in your enterprise, view the webinar How to Action: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives Across Your Digital Enterprise.

Watch our on-demand webinar to learn actionable DEI best practices

Putting your DEI plan into practice

Now it’s time for your Transformation Working Group to start making it real:

  1. Prioritize. Based on the results of your People, Process and Technology audits, begin by prioritizing each activity you need to undertake as a company in order to move your DEI efforts forward. This should include an evaluation of the potential risks of not taking action as well as the potential rewards of being proactive.
  2. Set Goals. You’ll want to consider resources, cost and time required, and factor these into your setting of achievable goals that have the flexibility to gain momentum as you become more adept at evolving in your ongoing DEI efforts.
  3. Create a Workflow. You’ll want to organize a clear and visible workflow across all of your teams and ensure that you are communicating your plans and efforts to your entire organization.
  4. Leverage Technology. As you consider the resource requirements and costs, it’s important to factor in ways that technology can help you – particularly when it comes to digital content. Expecting people to reference and internalize all DEI standards then pore over every word and image in your content libraries – whether they be HR, internal communications or externally-facing marketing content – is a tall order. This is a perfect place to leverage DQM technology that can audit, monitor, surface issues and risks, and manage remediation across every area of your digital enterprise.

Driving DEI home with DQM technology

Making sure that your content, communications and digital experiences are both accessible and convey the right messages – with the right language, imagery and tone – is essential to success in DEI initiatives. After you make your business case and build your action plan for diversity, equity and inclusion, technology is how put it into action scalably and sustainably across your digital environments.

Certain images, words or terms can carry heightened cultural awareness or even controversy – and cultural shifts can quickly change what language is acceptable or optimal. This makes keeping up with the landscape and managing the guidelines for imagery and terminology across your digital content particularly challenging if you don’t have the right tools. 

For this reason, an automated solution is a must-have component for ensuring diverse, equitable and inclusive digital experiences, for any organization looking to address DEI accessibility and communication issues at enterprise-wide scale – even across different languages and cultures. 

Crownpeak DQM: Delivering accessibility and inclusivity at enterprise scale

Global brands use Crownpeak DQM to efficiently manage the digital aspects of their DEI initiatives, from WCAG- and ADA accessibility compliance through to diversity and representation among images or the use of particular terminology or phrases.

Managing digital accessibility compliance with Crownpeak DQM
Some of the capabilities in Crownpeak DQM include:

  • Advanced Automated Scanning to discover potential issues across all websites, PDFs, media files and other digital assets throughout the enterprise.
  • Custom Checkpoints help organizations create and monitor for specific terminology, language, digital policies and standards that are unique to their business.
  • Prioritized Actionable Fixes to identify critical changes that need to be made, including issue alerts, with prioritized importance and easy-to-understand fixes that help organizations make fast improvements.
  • Centralized Dashboards and Reporting enabling central visibility and progress- tracking across all content properties.
  • Digital Accessibility and Compliance covers all digital accessibility requirements, including both manual and automated scanning  and AI-based on-page automatic issue remediation. Crownpeak’s comprehensive solution is designed for enterprise environments and makes it easy for even the most complex organizations to achieve WCAG and ADA accessibility and compliance.
  • Dedicated Customer Success experts are available to help guide your program to success, educate teams and deliver results.

Crownpeak provides full support for WCAG / ADA accessibility, and can be configured to support your organization’s individual language or terminology requirements. The logic can be custom tailored to anything you want to specifically address (which you will have uncovered and outlined in your audits and action plans) and the system will continuously monitor and provide you with benchmarking scores.

Here’s an example from the Renegade Agency, showing how they use the platform to support their clients’ DEI initiatives.

Custom reports track key terminology

Ensuring inclusive terminology with Crownpeak DQM

You can also look at how your different sites compare…

Benchmarking accessibility compliance across your digital enterprise with Crownpeak Digital Quality Management (DQM)

In the example below, we’re looking at the accessibility compliance scores for a site’s career pages. 

Tracking progress towards WCAG compliance goals with Crownpeak DQM

In addition, the DQM platform provides workflow tools to make DEI a seamless part of the content management process. The platform (which comes included with Crownpeak’s CMS),  can be incorporated directly into an organization’s existing CMS publication workflow, enabling users to test, repair and optimize their content in both pre- and post-publication environments. It also identifies its own limitations as an automated tool and highlights where additional manual checks are needed to address the human element of web accessibility. Our experts are on hand to help here too through our manual testing and remediation services. 

Crownpeak DQM helps you implement diversity, equity and inclusion best practices by monitoring and continuously optimizing the accessibility and inclusivity of your content across all of your digital channels – be they intranet, website, mobile apps, social media, even billboards and digital signage – wherever your company is visible. 

Every channel represents your company, and that’s why it’s so critically important that you get it right. 

To learn more about DEI and how Crownpeak DQM can help your organization succeed, view the webinar on demand.

Want to see how well your company is performing? Try Crownpeak DQM for free →

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