Five Steps to Adopt and Maintain Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

by Brianna Wilson Jan/Feb 2024
Monitor’s Best Companies in the DE&I category share examples of how establishing a companywide definition of diversity, equity and inclusion and maintaining best practices that truly matter to and benefit their employees and communities have led to organizational success.

Brianna Wilson,

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) has made its way into news headlines again for a mix of reasons. There seems to be an even split between continual advocacy for DE&I initiatives and the complete opposite — eliminating DE&I funds and programs in various states and companies throughout the nation. In some cases, legal backlash has pushed companies to quietly eliminate or go “under the radar” with DE&I practices.1

With this type of pushback from powerful entities, now is a vital time to kickstart conversations about what it means to be a company that emphasizes DE&I, and why this is so important. Monitor’s Best Companies in the DE&I category — Arvest Bank, DLL, Eastern Funding, Pitney Bowes and Stearns Bank — took on this conversation to discuss what DE&I means, why it’s important and how other companies can begin to adopt the intentional practice of it.


Often times, DE&I fails before it even begins. Some major misconceptions about DE&I are the reason large and traditional entities tend to push back on it. Some of these myths include DE&I only benefiting minority groups (the goal is actually to benefit everyone in the company and increase overall employee engagement) and that DE&I leads to hiring underqualified candidates (it’s actually meant to eliminate biases, even unconscious ones, and offer equal opportunities to all qualified candidates).

This is why it’s important for companies to adopt DE&I as more than a concept. The textbook definition of DE&I is a framework that promotes the fair treatment and full participation of all people, with an emphasis on those that have historically faced discrimination due to their identities and backgrounds.

While this is a great foundation for understanding DE&I, it’s not enough. It’s imperative for organizations practicing DE&I to have a companywide definition of the initiative, otherwise risking misconceptions and resistance. For Monitor’s Best Companies in the DE&I category, diversity, equity and inclusion is: the foundation of company culture and continuous growth; a fundamental asset to creating long-term value; a precondition for employees to reach their full potential; and more. Positioning DE&I in these ways allows all employees to understand that it’s simply a business operation that allows a company’s culture to thrive.


In 2020, when the nation experienced a spike in conversations about DE&I following a surge in the Black Lives Matter movement, Forbes published an article about the major benefits of DE&I in an organization, citing better morale, increased productivity, higher social consciousness, positive paradigm shift and a better bottom line as examples.2

Additionally, research by McKinsey shows that “companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians, [while] companies in the bottom quartile in these dimensions are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns.”3

And that is just the diversity makeup of a company. If you add equity (ensuring all employees receive fair and just treatment, as well as the resources needed to succeed) and inclusion (ensuring all employees have a chance to speak up and contribute majorly to a company’s operations), the next logical assumption is that employees will feel safe, respected and valued, and therefore much more willing to champion around their company’s success.

As part of its goal to be a diverse, equitable and inclusive company, Arvest Bank has monitored its employees’ engagement with its various DE&I initiatives. The bank reports the following:

  • Employees want to learn more about DE&I. When they learn more about different groups, they build empathy and expand innovation towards solutions.
  • Employees seek representation. They naturally want to engage in spaces and organizations where they feel represented, understood and valued.
  • Engaging the entire organization is important. Employees value the DE&I team not talking “at” them, but that the organization as whole learns and advocates together.


Once DE&I is behind the wheel, it faces a lot of bumps on the road. Eastern Funding reports that the main obstacles for companies adopting DE&I are a lack of support from leadership and a lack of resources in terms of time, labor force or financial investment. DLL sees it as a challenge to continuously keep leaders and employees engaged in their various actions and behaviors to support DE&I.

While the ultimate goal is to adopt DE&I as an operational part of the business, every company can take small steps to either begin adopting DE&I as a business practice or to further enhance its current initiatives.

1. Hire with diversity in mind. Eastern Funding undertakes this initiative by ensuring a diverse group of employees make up its interview team. The company also engages nontraditional recruitment resources by building relationships with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority serving institutions.

2. Take all forms of discrimination seriously. Pitney Bowes has various avenues for employees to voice concerns beyond speaking with their direct supervisor. They can contact human resources, PB Resolve (the company’s multi-step alternative dispute resolution process) or call the Ethics Helpline, which is staffed by an independent third party, is available 24/7 in multiple languages and accepts anonymous inquiries.

3. Create a volunteer group or program. DLL’s ‘Allies for Inclusion’ program encourages members to become an “ally,” which DLL defines as any person who actively promotes and aspires to advance the culture of inclusion through intentional, positive and conscious efforts to make the company an environment of inclusion. Through this program, DLL members can go ‘all in’ by completing training consisting of several DE&I elements.

4. Start with a day, a week or an event. Arvest has eight Associate Impact Groups that each focus on a specific, diversity-niche segment to drive community impact. These groups have engaged in several events, such as: Diversity Week; a virtual job fair focused on how to hire qualified and diverse talent; the Power of BIPOC Dollar event; and the Arvest Million Meals campaign.

5. Engage in DE&I training. Stearns Bank provides a robust training program for its team and continuously expands its list of educational opportunities. The bank has engaged in a long-lasting partnership with a consultant that provides extensive training on topics including microaggressions, allyship and unconscious bias. Through additional partnerships, Stearns Bank’s employees have taken part in various training centered on understanding Islamic cultures; diversity training for the leadership team; and companywide DISC (dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness) training.


Setting short and long-term goals helps keep any business operation alive. DE&I is no different, and Monitor’s Best Companies in the DE&I category have set and achieved their goals in various ways.

Arvest Bank maintains an open-door policy and creates inclusive spaces in which associates and customers alike are safe from judgment or retaliation. The company emphasizes open communication and trust at both the leadership and workforce levels, which Arvest reports has led to greater understanding and relationship-building.

DLL strives to create a work environment that is free from harassment, discrimination, bullying and any other form of disrespectful behavior. The company is working on a global policy against harassment and discrimination. DLL also has a “Speak Up” point, encouraging members to start a dialogue, ask questions and address issues as part of its drive to build a strong, ethical core with transparency and trust.

Eastern Funding has committed resources, identified internal DE&I champions, sought out external experts for guidance and created a baseline for DE&I initiatives. “It’s not enough to just create a DE&I committee; you must take steps to ensure that DE&I is deeply engrained in the company culture,” Nancy Robles, president of Eastern Funding, says. “Having leadership support and accountability throughout the organization will drive meaningful and lasting change.”

Pitney Bowes believes inclusivity leads to higher levels of production and, in turn, more value to its stakeholders. The company’s global population is more than 40% women in its global population, and nearly 50% of its U.S. population is people of color. The company’s commitment to inclusivity extends across the organization, from the diversity of its board of directors and supplier base to its accessible product design.

Stearns Bank achieved its goal of building DE&I into the fabric of its identity through a variety of steps, including the creation of an advisory committee comprised of board members and executive leaders. The bank also established a dedicated diversity committee consisting of team leaders from across the company, with a primary focus on promoting education, raising awareness and driving actionable change. One of the committee’s recent initiatives involved creating informative content emphasizing the importance of pronouns and extended an invitation to all team members to include their gender pronouns in both their Zoom names and email signatures.


Equipment finance companies have the opportunity to be leaders in DE&I. As a company that positions DE&I alongside innovation, customer experience and strategic planning as essential to its overall success, Pitney Bowes strongly advocates for the industry’s potential. “DE&I is just like any other business operation in that you must continuously focus on its importance for all employees, keep learning and work to enhance your effectiveness,” Christopher Johnson, senior vice president and president, global financial services at Pitney Bowes, says. “I believe in our opportunity to set an example for other enterprises of how to do the right thing the right way.” •

1Goldberg, Emma, “Facing Backlash, Some Corporate Leaders Go ‘Under the Radar’ with D.E.I.,” The New York Times, Jan. 22, 2024

2Pierre, Keda Edwards, “Five Major Benefits of Increasing Diversity & Inclusion In Your Organization,” Forbes, Oct. 12, 2020.

3Hunt, Dame Vivian et al., “Why diversity matters,” McKinsey & Company, Jan. 1, 2015.

Brianna Wilson is editor of Monitor

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