Building Block #14 – Guide

Data-driven, measurable, specific DEI goals create a roadmap and catalyze the motivation and effort necessary to actualize your DEI mission and strategy. However, in a McKinsey survey, only 50% of companies surveyed had clear goals for setting and tracking the progress of their DEI goals, despite the fact that DEI was cited as a top priority[1].

Building Block #14: DEI Goal Setting will focus on helping your organization set goals based on your organization’s customized data, developed via participation in the Camber Survey System and other data sources. The process of engaging in DEI work is not a “one size fits all” approach. Rather organizational data must be paired with DEI best practices to make progress in the achievement of meaningful attainable DEI goals.

Achieving workplace inclusion, equity and diversity does not involve merely “checking the box” by simply stating that diversity matters. Rather it involves setting and meeting goals aimed at developing inclusive workplace culture, ensuring equitable systems, and hiring and onboarding diverse candidates in an analytically rigorous, data-driven manner characterized by measurements and accountability. 

This Building Block will focus on:

  • Why DEI goal setting matters
  • The characteristics of strong workplace DEI goals
  • How to set goals
  • Risks and pitfalls of DEI goal setting
  • Emerging trends in DEI goal setting 

If your organization is striving for an inclusive, equitable, and diverse culture, it is vital to define and share relevant DEI goals with stakeholders – including employees, customers, shareholders, suppliers, community members, and board members. 

Why DEI Goal Setting Matters

DEI goal-setting creates new norms, norms that exert a powerful influence on employee behavior and company culture, as described below:

Setting DEI goals that incorporate education via training, team-building exercises, workshops, and courses will impact employees at all levels in the following ways:

  • Knowledge gained through DEI-focused learning and professional development will allow employees to:
    • Recognize both individual and organizational biases
    • Better understand the need for many of the DEI goals set by the organization
    • Raise awareness of the power that collective knowledge and action can have on an organizational system
  • It will help create allies for your diverse employees who call out infractions and actions that are not inclusive and equitable. 
  • It takes the pressure off of the diverse talent to be the only advocates for diverse talent and diversity knowledge.

Setting goals that tackle the tough questions and discrimination and harassment allow your organization to commit to creating and upholding a safe space for all employees. Creating and communicating goals that improve systems will support your current workforce and help you create safe, inclusive workplaces that attract diverse talent. 

The characteristics of strong DEI goals

Your organizational DEI goals should be data-driven.
Data can be a powerful tool to change behaviors and measure progress. The Camber Survey System provides organizations with critical year-on-year data to help set measurable goals that impact mission and workplace culture. Without specific goals grounded in sound, carefully gathered, and rigorously analyzed data, organizations engage in DEI activities without a real idea of what’s working, what to change, and how to fulfill their DEI mission. 

A key resource for Camber Partners is the Camber Survey System – developed in partnership with the Claremont Evaluation Center – which is an annual two-part survey composed of:

  • The Workplace Survey, in which a leadership representative from each participating organization reports on the status of DEI efforts. Data from this cohort:
    • Provides insight into the DEI practices of companies with a demonstrated commitment to DEI as evidenced by their engagement as Camber Partners
    • Serves as a directional indicator of cohort-wide trends.
  • The  Employee Survey, in which employees of each participating organization report their views on the organization’s DEI efforts. This data provides survey participants with valuable information on the successes and opportunity areas for improvement in their DEI programming.

Camber Partners that participate in the  Camber Survey System receive organization-specific results that reveal valuable insights on how employees perceive their efforts and progress in creating inclusive, equitable, and diverse workplaces.  (To express interest in participating in the Camber Survey System in 2021, CLICK HERE [Link to a capture form that feeds to Partnerships?)

Other potential sources of data include:

  • Internal focus groups or listening sessions*
  • Primary research:* Surveys and other forms of quantitative research conducted internally
  • Secondary research: Reports published by credible consulting firms, academic institutions, and research organizations 

*Note that Camber strongly recommends that any internal research be conducted by experienced expert research practitioners. For guidance on selecting research consultants and other experts, please consult the “Camber Guide to Vetting Consultants and Other Suppliers” as a resource. (COMING SOON add link from Mindy)

To ensure that your organization gets the most from your Camber Survey System or other research results, ask the following questions:

  • What are specific challenges do you face in building workplace culture or with the programs that your organization is implementing to shape that culture? 
  • In which areas is your organization showing strong performance or promise?
  • What are some assumptions your organizational leadership have or have had that were proven wrong? 
  • What are some assumptions that were confirmed?
  • Which issues warrant further discussion, research, or analysis?

Results of your Camber Survey System or other market research should be treated as an organizational “North Star” or compass that directs the development of DEI goals tailored to your organization’s unique needs. These results are invaluable tools for the following reasons:

  • This data allows you to identify employees’ “passion points” or areas of deep focus to incorporate into your diversity goal setting.
  • Showing employees that what is important to them is important to you builds buy-in for future programming or organizational changes. 
  • Camber Survey results or other data collected regarding your organization’s DEI efforts can be actively used to inform short- and long-term actionable next steps.

All of your goals should be attainable. To ensure that the goals are realistic and achievable, take the following steps:

  • Seek input from team members and Employee Resource Groups on the relevance and reasonableness of your goals.
  • Identify resources and leadership for all goals when setting them. 
  • Set timelines and deadlines so you can reflect and assess progress in real time
  • Define short-term goals that show impact and provide early wins.
  •  Articulate and engage support for more challenging long-term goals that may take employees further out of their comfort zones.

How to Set Goals

Organizations should manage DEI using many of the same principles and best practices that are used to manage other aspects of your business:

  • Make data-driven decisions via information-gathering, collection of information, and development of plans. 
  • Involve leadership at every level.
  • Measure opportunities to increase representation within the organization at all levels. Identifying specific populations that are underrepresented will help you create recruitment and community culture goals that enable your organization to attract top talent.
  • Be intentional about involving ALL employees. Do not involve only your employees who are members of underrepresented groups. It is the job of all employees and leaders to create inclusive and safe workspaces.  

Today’s workplace DEI goes much so further than compliance. Engaged employees are more productive and innovative which reduces turnover and the high cost associated with it. 
True equity and inclusion involve working with intention to eliminate intolerance, discrimination, and other practices that prevent the valuable contributions of all team members.

Often, “DEI goals” are thought of purely in terms of numerical diversity targets. However it is important to set holistic DEI goals: numbers are important only if they reflect the result of integrated efforts that focus on all three priorities of achieving workplace inclusion, equity, and diversity. Commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is vital to ensuring a productive workforce, especially since Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce, and 44% of Millennials identify as non-white. Your organization’s goals should be designed to measure systemic change.

For goal setting, across all three areas of diversity, equity and inclusion, the following are some universal keys to setting effective goals:

  • Use clear and consistent DEI language and terminology. The language you use in setting and communicating your goals matters. Make sure your HR team and leadership understand the difference in these terms and their impact. Please see “Building Block #1: The Language and Structure of DEI for further guidance.”
  • Utilize partnerships with leadership, community stakeholders, and diverse talent to garner input and guide how you address current areas of opportunity within your organization. 
  • Commit to building leadership skills of underrepresented talent within your organization so that they may choose to be a part of the decisions and programs that dismantle structural inequity and racism.
  • Annually reevaluate your goals to determine if they need to be revised or refined. 
  • Ensure that your goals reflect up-to-date information and recent organizational changes, including external factors, as well as, successes, failures, and lessons learned.
  • Communicate progress towards goals that reflect your awareness of barriers and your actions to remove those barriers. 
  • If your organizational outcomes do not begin to approach targeted levels or numbers over time, then it is necessary to reevaluate inputs and make corrections. Implement consistent annual reviews of data and key organizational performance indicators to measure your organization’s success in meeting its goals.

Communicate goals and progress with key stakeholders inside and outside of your organization. 

Clearly communicated goals provide your organization with the benefits described below.

  • Goals serve as mechanisms for accountability that foster employee trust in the authenticity of the organization’s DEI efforts.
  • Debriefing your stakeholders about your successes and your challenges that informed your goal setting allows you to celebrate your wins and understand your missteps. 
  • Transparency in goal setting demonstrates commitment to the process, fostering buy-in amongst employees, consumers, vendors, community members, and other stakeholders. 
  • Open sharing of information, goals, and organizational initiatives designed to achieve those goals attracts and supports top talent. In a Monster survey, 62% of job seekers reported they would turn down a job offer if they feel the company did not value an inclusive and diverse workplace culture.

Best Practices for Setting Inclusion Goals
Inclusion goals center on the practices, processes, and policies that create an inclusive workplace for all employees.

To set these goals effectively:

  • Identify actions that will help create an understanding of DEI principles throughout your organization. For example, shared knowledge that builds cultural competence allows for genuine inclusion and respect of diverse employees and their perspectives. As a result, diverse employees are seen as valued contributors rather than token hires for numerical purposes. For guidance on developing a shared understanding of DEI, see “Building Block #1: The Language and Structure of DEI.” (LINK)
  • Set goals that measure participation in training and other activities that promote knowledge and cultural competence for all employees. To set goals, leadership should ask the following questions: 
    • What percentage of employees should participate annually? 
    • What training opportunities should be created?
    • How should those opportunities be tailored to various levels of leadership?
  • Identify actions and goals that will embed inclusion into all standard practices, including pathways to promotions, leadership opportunities, and mentorship and sponsorship opportunities. For further information on mentorship and sponsorship, see Building Block #7: Mentoring & Sponsorship. (LINK)
  • Establish Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) as discussed in Building Block #3: Employee Resource Groups (LINK), to support your diverse talent in feeling included within the workplace culture. Set meaningful goals for ERG participation, as well as the formation of new ERGs that are currently missing in your workplace. 
  • Other tools for garnering inclusion-related input include employee listening sessions, internal surveys, and training session feedback.

Best Practices for Setting Equity Goals
Goals centered on your commitment to equity should focus on specific practices, policies, and processes and lead with a systems focus. To successfully set equity goals:

  • Leverage data you collected via the Camber Survey and other sources.
  • Be deliberate in setting goals that measure inclusion and outreach. Examples include diverse talent satisfaction ratings of the culture, numbers, and types of events that foster inclusion, etc. 
  • Set goals to measure whether you are appropriately addressing the barriers to equity and inclusion within your organization.
  • Design equity goals to require the review and redesign of organizational processes. If your recruiting systems are skewed and discriminatory, you cannot achieve equitable representation within the organization even if it is your stated goal.
  • Continually revisit and reevaluate DEI goals and program outcomes. The data should indicate steady progress in achieving stated goals. If the data do not indicate that progress, the goals need to be refined and optimized.

Best Practices for Setting Diversity Goals
Goals centered on your commitment to equity should focus on specific practices, policies, and processes that promote, measure, and track progress toward increased organizational diversity. 

To set sound diversity goals:

  •  Historically, in order to achieve specific outputs or outcomes, organizations have implemented quotas such as a specific number of minorities hired. However, Camber encourages the use of input-based diversity goals rather than outputs or quotas, which expose you to legal risks. “Inputs” are the“percentage of diverse talent in the overall candidate pool, whereas “outputs” are the outcomes and end results of hiring, promotions, and other actions taken to increase diversity. One example of an input-oriented goal is the  “Rooney Rule,” a rule based upon an NFL policy requiring every team with a head coaching vacancy to interview at least one or more candidates from underrepresented backgrounds.
  • Regularly review the results of your inputs-based policies, to ensure that you are making progress towards your broader goals and that your systems are being implemented with success across all parts of your organization.
  • Utilize data, including the data obtained from your participation in the Camber Survey, to guide and inform how you set goals, implement action steps, and strategically leverage Camber resources. 
  • Monitor your progress to ensure that your outputs and/or outcomes begin to approach external benchmarks. For example, over time, your organization’s representation should gradually approach representation across your consumer base or national representation.

Risks and Pitfalls in Goal Setting

Despite the importance of DEI, a McKinsey survey reported that nine out of ten executives surveyed report challenges in executing their DEI strategies, even though DEI has remained a priority during the global pandemic.[3]  DEI strategies vary from organization to organization, but there are common mistakes that many organizations make when attempting to formulate their DEI goals.

The foundation of the goal-setting process is to recognize that the overarching ultimate objective of DEI is to create an inclusive, diverse and equitable environment at your organization. However, progress toward achieving this objective can be derailed by the following missteps:

  • Failure to identify all employees responsible for implementation and progress, and failure to resource their efforts
  • Allowing your DEI to be merely performative activism
  • Establishing an overly narrow definition of  diversity upon which DEI goals are based
  • Setting oversimplified or purely numeric goals that do not drive lasting change

Failure to identify all employees responsible for implementation and progress
A common mistake in creating DEI strategy and goals is failing to identify employees who are accountable for ensuring implementation of and progress towards your DEI goals. Failing to secure resources and empower individuals who will follow through with the action items of each DEI goal reflects a lack of commitment and hinders your organization’s ability to meet your goals. Building accountability for DEI progress into job descriptions and performance evaluations will ensure your diversity goals get the attention from employees that they deserve.

Allowing your DEI to be merely performative activism
If your organization is creating a DEI strategy because everyone else is or it is the “politically correct” step to take, your DEI is performative, and your DEI strategy will fail.Performative activism” is a pejorative term referring to surface-level activism that is done to enhance how an organization is perceived rather than to make an authentic and substantive commitment to a cause. Current employees, prospective employees, community stakeholders, and activists have become highly attuned to the warning signs of performative diversity — and more vocal about calling it out through social media and other means. A meaningful diversity plan with actionable goals is a company-wide framework that involves knowledge, data, and measurable outcomes. 

Establishing an overly narrow definition of diversity upon which DEI goals are based.
Set benchmarks that reflect where we should be as a nation rather than benchmarks that merely match the status quo of a job structure or geographic area that historically lacks equity or diversity. For example, if your organization is located in a geographic area that lacks diversity, it is acceptable  to set a goal that states: “This year we would like to increase our representation of Black and Asian mid-level managers by ten percent.” Possible strategies to achieve this goal include creating more virtual roles that enable the organization to attract diverse talent even if the organization is located in a place that lacks diversity.  

Setting oversimplified or purely numeric goals that understate the importance of DEI in the workplace.
A common pitfall is that organizations will set a target percentage for new hires from underrepresented communities. However, in the zeal to pursue these targets, leaders and team members may miss opportunities to set goals to ensure that the organization’s talent recruitment system, and the workplace more broadly, is inclusive and equitable.

For example, rather than attempting to engage diverse talent within a talent recruitment system that will reject or tokenize prospects, set a goal to ensure that all job descriptions are developed with a lens of inclusion, equity, and diversity.  Note: Specific guidance on creating a diverse talent pipeline is found in Building Blocks #5: Inclusive Outreach and Recruiting. (LINK)

 Emerging Trends in DEI Goal Setting

The increasingly important role of data in goal setting requires new attention by organizations.
The most significant emerging trend is that the goal-setting process is increasingly data-driven. To be actionable, data needs to be understood by its intended audience and organizations need to be clear about what that data means for DEI health at your organization.

This Building Block, combined with results from the Camber Survey System and other data sources, will form the foundation for meaningful and actionable goals that empower your leaders and employees to act. 


Goals are a powerful mechanism to affect change if employees, leaders, and stakeholders understand them and perceive them as challenging yet achievable. Clear data-driven goals help employees understand the connection between their daily actions and inclusion, equity, and diversity outcomes. Goals transmit organizational expectations and guidelines for DEI best practices that ultimately ensure success in creating and sustaining inclusive, equitable, and diverse workplaces.