How can businesses follow through with their Diversity, Equality & Inclusion initiatives?

Lip-syncing, also referred to as ‘diversity washing’ or ‘performative diversity’, may become the next trend that sees a host of businesses facing backlash for only giving lip service to diversity, without following it through with meaningful action or progress when it comes to diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives (DE&I).

Businesses often underestimate the consequences of insincere diversity efforts when making half-hearted, inauthentic empty promises, as it can be detrimental to a company’s reputation and result in employee frustration. Employees are more likely to call out their employers on an announcement that does not match their experience, so it is important to exercise caution and avoid saying something without substance or action to support it.

We have put together our top tips for employers to ensure their DE&I initiatives have a genuine impact and avoid the risk of backlash from their organisation.

  1. Find ways to embed diversity into each role within the company by providing adequate training, without asking staff to watch another training video as recent studies suggest that these methods are simply not effective and outdated in their approach.
  2. Embed real and living action towards these initiatives into regular touchpoints as well as daily work. Only then can a business’s actions towards diversity truly be meaningful and stand the best chance of having the most impact.
  3. Senior leaders should ensure that they set an example, by being accountable for the initiatives and transparent in their actions, especially when it comes to living DE&I action via recruitment processes, induction systems, performance criteria, and engaging externally with clients and internally with staff. Middle management and those in intermediate roles frequently report feeling overstretched, so it’s important to establish habits that promote and reflect the values and behaviours that come from the top into these roles. Similarly, junior staff members are more likely to adopt changes when they can see them in action.
  4. Set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that relate directly to DE&I measures. When employees leave the organisation, exit interviews should give them opportunities to openly share their experiences, reasons for departure, and their perceptions of the company. This feedback can provide valuable insights into the company’s internal and external perceptions of DE&I and help improve future efforts.
  5. Collect data through anonymous staff surveys, quarterly, covering different aspects of the organisation. If companies struggle with staff completing the surveys, then consider offering incentives to encourage participation. Don’t overlook gathering data externally too- clients and suppliers will often have a broader perspective and can add to the data you’re collecting.
  6. Diversity reporting, such as ethnicity reporting or disability reporting are also helpful ways to measure DE&I progress. Employers are not required to collect or publish their ethnicity report findings, some do so voluntarily to improve workforce progression. By conducting this reporting, businesses can create a transparent and accountable atmosphere to build trust among employees, while highlighting a willingness to take responsibility for any disparities that may exist and proactively address them.


After these categories within each DE&I framework have been recognised, businesses should then look to set targets for each one and break them down into achievable goals that will become an integral part of the business.  

Overall, businesses must be wary of lip syncing and if they are found taking part in it, they should be open to receiving feedback and take any challenges or questions seriously. If someone identifies a mistake or suggests an improvement, it is essential to acknowledge it with authenticity, which demonstrates that the business is willing to listen, learn, and is open to change. 

Written By

Published: 24th October 2023
Area: Employment

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Cecily joined GL Law as a solicitor in the employment team in August 2017 prior to the merger with Shakespeare Martineau in October 2022. Previously at TLT LLP, Cecily has experience assisting employers, business owners and senior executives on a wide range of employment issues including:

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