Diversity, equity and inclusion is top-of-mind for CW managers in 2021. And it’s not just because of recent attention focused on racial disparity amid the pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement. DE&I is the path to take for a range of reasons.

“It’s not only the right thing for the organization and its culture, but there has been proof about the ROI to an organization, the diverse mindsets that come in, the different ways in which business is done with that diversity,” says Dawn McCartney SIA’s VP, Contingent Workforce Strategies Council. “There are just so many positives.”

Once a lower priority, diversity hiring — as well as diversity and inclusion programs among contingent workers — is now a high priority, spurred by recent societal events and driven by senior-level executive sponsorship, the changes in talent needs in the new economy, and a more distributed workforce, according to SIA’s report, “The Future of Diversity and Inclusion in the Contingent Workforce.” Its survey of executives found  nearly two-thirds, 64%, believe D&I efforts for their employed workforce are a priority, while only a quarter, 26%, believe so for contingent. Meanwhile, given the current cultural shift, 63% of respondents expect contingent D&I to become a higher priority in the future.

Share the Responsibility

Given this priority, a good way for CW programs to initiate a DE&I focus is to direct spending toward diversity-owned suppliers, which are more likely to provide a diverse pool of candidates. But don’t leave everything up to your vendors.

“The company has some onus on this too,” said Ashish Kaushal, CEO of HireTalent and the founder, Consciously Unbiased, in an SIA webinar. Train managers to be open-minded toward hiring diverse candidates and ensure the candidates are well-received. “I think that is a big piece of it because you can put all the pressure on the vendor, but if it’s not happening on the internal side, then  it’s not really going to go anywhere,” Kaushal said.

Organizations can take three concrete steps to meet the goals of increased diversity and inclusion, according to Dima Ghawi, DE&I expert and author of her memoir, Breaking Vases: Shattering Limitations & Daring to Thrive.

  • Grasp the current status of diversity within the company by undertaking demographic analysis and employee outreach to encourage dialogue and receive feedback about current practices. In this step, the executive teams can better evaluate their current employees, identify gaps in their DE&I strategy, and create initiatives to address possible challenges.
  • Facilitate both internal and external communication to share their new DE&I strategy. “By discussing positive changes with current employees, the company can establish a strong sense of inclusion,” Ghawi says.
  • Integrative and engaging training sessions can create a lasting, positive change in the company environment. By providing the entire organization (especially the leadership team and hiring managers) with DE&I training, general practices will grow more inclusive.

Tracking Diversity

Taking that first step toward measuring the data is critical.

“If you don’t measure it, then it doesn’t happen,” according to Kaushal. Manage DE&I like a business unit, he advises. “If you launched a new business unit within your organization and you got 2% year-over-year growth, I think you would probably be let go from your organization. And so why aren’t we managing how we measure diversity that way?”

But before companies measure, they have to collect the data.  Different companies do it in a variety of ways. Thomson Reuters started to collect diversity data on placements by partnering with its payroll provider and its project management office team. “We felt that at the placement moment there is very little risk to be able to report on that information because the recruitment has already happened and it gives us a place to start. It’s a baseline,” said TR’s Wendy Stenger, senior manager, strategic sourcing, external workforce programs, in SIA’s webinar. That information is then analyzed against information from the US Census Bureau to provide an important comparison. This process of “smart goaling” allows for setting strategic and measurable, attainable and realistic goals that align with the workforce population in the targeted region.

Real Accountability

Many past initiatives to advance DE&I have fallen short of real accountability, according to Mercer’s 2021 talent trends-US report. “In 2021, clear, consistent and quality data will be essential to shoring up positive trajectories and answering the mandate to report publicly on DEI,” the report states. Equally, companies that want to pay more than lip service to diversity are considering linking DE&I goals to executive incentive plans, although few have taken action yet. While 58% of US companies have set up a DE&I council or taskforce to promote inclusivity, only 7% measure DE&I performance in incentive compensation plans today.

Diversity as a statistic can be evaluated through demographic analysis. By examining the number of minority individuals at each organizational level, leaders can create DE&I strategies that targets difficult areas.

However, this vision of diversity is not the end goal. “Without a sense of inclusion, the talents of minority team members remain hidden due to unconscious biases, workplace discrimination, and even harassment,” DE&I expert Dima Ghawi told SIA. “The final goal is to create an inclusive workplace for all.”

This process may seem more challenging to track, but it can be accomplished with employee engagement surveys. By sending out intentional questionnaires asking current members about their workplace experiences, executives can analyze and track the progress of inclusion in the workplace.

At the end of the day, however, for an organization to truly improve DE&I within its work environment, the strategy must incorporate everyone affiliated with the company — from the executive suite to the contingent workforce.


SIA is committed to continuing the discussion around DE&I and the contingent workforce ecosystem. The report, “The Future of Diversity and Inclusion in the Contingent Workforce,” produced by SIA in conjunction with HireTalent and ConsciouslyUnbiased, and with the support of Beeline, is available online for free to CW Council members.

In addition, SIA is accepting nominations for the 2021 Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) Influencers — US and Canada list. The list aims to recognize those leaders in organizations who are heading up the charge to not only make diversity, equity and inclusion a focus, but to make real change in their organizations and the ecosystem. Nominations are open through March 5