How to make D&I goals doable: Involve managers

Ruby Dark

Jan 11, 2022

Targets for diversity and inclusion set the agenda for change and focus energy on getting to where you want to be. But if goals are too unrealistic, they don’t drive action. To set motivational goals for diversity and inclusion in your company, involve managers in the goal-setting process.

Our previous post in this series covered how to set specific and motivational diversity goals for your entire company. These goals anchor your diversity work and focus attention on what needs to change. But if goals seem unrealistic, managers may be worried about how to apply your company-wide goals to their teams.

To overcome this worry and set everyone up for success, you need to set clear responsibilities and break down goals together.

Checklist of actions:

  1. Decide who is responsible for meeting goals
  2. Adjust goals for each team with input from managers

Notion (the VC) analysed the diversity measures of 20 Unicorns in North American and Europe to find out what really moves the needle when it comes to improving gender balance. They found that the most powerful measure was setting diversity goals.


Unicorns that set goals for D&I had on average 10% more female staff and 8% more women in leadership than those that didn’t set goals.

1) Set responsibility for achieving your D&I goals

At this point, you’ve developed your diversity and inclusion goals and have a clear vision of where you want to be. (Or if you haven’t – check our first post.) Without a clear plan of how you’re going to get there, you’ll struggle to reach that finish line.

Ownership is key — who exactly is going to be involved in reaching your targets? And who will be keeping track of progress? You need to name individuals responsible for meeting your goals.

Be as specific as possible. If you want to improve diversity in the Engineering team, identify the people responsible for hiring technical employees. Come up with a list of the recruiters, heads, and talent managers who need to be involved with your diversity goals.

Find the person with final responsibility for hiring in each team and make sure that they report on progress towards your diversity goals.

5 white arrows pointing up - set D&I goals to propel you forward!

2) Break down your D&I goals with managers

Now you’ve identified who needs to be involved, work with them to break down the company diversity goals – your north stars – into digestible and achievable targets for their teams.

Extra tip for small companies: It doesn’t always make sense to break down overall goals into team targets. If hiring happens centrally, just stick to 1 overall set of diversity goals.

Every team should:

  1. Consider the diversity progress made so far. Over the last 12 months, what proportion of the team’s hires are from minority groups?
  2. For the coming 12 months, what could be a realistic yet aspirational target for diversity? What seems feasible but still motivational?
  3. If you’ve made little progress so far, don’t set your sights too high. Start small and if your goals are too easy to achieve, adjust them next time.

Here’s an example to show how this works in practice:

Your company-wide diversity goal is to achieve 30% people of colour representation at every level by 2025. The Engineering team currently consists of 8% people of colour. In the previous 12 months, they’ve increased this figure by 3% points.

The team struggles to attract people of colour to niche roles, and hitting 30% representation (the overall company goal) would be a 10x increase – not quite feasible. The Head of Engineering meets with talent managers to set a realistic target.

They decide to aim for 13% people of colour in the Engineering team in the next 12 months. That’s a 5% point increase, and with several initiatives underway, this feels both feasible and aspirational. The target is set! ✅


Involving managers in setting their own targets is a wonderful way to get buy-in across the team and keep the finish line in clear sight. In the next posts, we’ll cover how to monitor your targets and how to set accountability to keep everyone on track.

Backing it up

Notion (2020) ‘Which diversity measures work?: What are North America & Europe’s Unicorns doing to improve their gender balance, and which measures correlate with the best results?

The Behavioural Insights Team (2021) ‘How to improve gender equality in the workplace: evidence-based actions for employers’ How to improve gender equality toolkit

The Behavioural Insights Team (2021) ‘How to set effective targets’ How to improve gender equality toolkit

Whelan, J., & Wood, R. (2012). ‘Targets and Quotas for Women in Leadership: A Global Review of Policy, Practice, and Psychological Research.’ Centre for Ethical Leadership, Melbourne Business School.