On stage in San Francisco, from left: Antoinette Hamilton of Lam Research, Miriam Warren of Yelp, Caitlyn Metteer of Lever, and Komal Chokshi of the University of California (Photos by David Coe for From Day One)

Diversity strategies have transformed from lofty concepts to more focused and effective policies, carried out with attention to metrics. Leaders are reporting increased transparency and accountability when it comes to tracking the impact of their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, as well as attracting the future workforce.

“There’s been a real push to quantify and report on how you’re doing as a company,” said Caitlyn Metteer, director of recruiting at Lever, a recruitment software company, “which is definitely pushing things in the right direction.”

“I would not join an employer that didn’t have some kind of outward-facing information about their DEI efforts,” said Komal Chokshi, chief DEI officer and principal counsel for UC Legal at the University of California. “What are they hiding if they’re not able to be accountable and tell the public what they’re doing?”

As more companies incorporate DEI initiatives, workplace culture is evolving. Diversity is more integrated and at the forefront, but differentiation is key to making an impact with inclusion efforts. During From Day One’s conference in San Francisco last month, a panel of experts discussed a shift from visible diversity to diversity of thought in “Making Your Company a Magnet for a Diverse Workforce,” led by moderator Spencer Whitney, digital editor at KQED, a public broadcasting company for Northern California.

“There are a lot of dimensions of diversity,” said Antoinette Hamilton, global head of inclusion and diversity at Lam Research, a supplier to the semiconductor industry. “There are dimensions of diversity that matter as it relates to innovation, as it relates to productivity. But some dimensions don’t matter. We have to ensure that we’re looking at our organizations and understanding those differences that matter to the work that we do.”

Other panelists agreed. “Previously a lot of the focus was how many diverse candidates applied for the job, how many interviews for the job,” said Chokshi. “It’s much more nuanced than that now.”

For example, search committees or recruiting teams at the University of California receive anti-bias training. They then work with the institution’s equity advisor program, which includes people who are not part of the search committee, to review resumes and conduct interviews to ensure implicit bias doesn’t sneak in.

Said Chokshi: “I always think about who’s counting on me. In the legal industry, I think about the types of people who are languishing, people who are not getting promoted”

Issues of diversity are integral to other areas of work, as well. “We have become the people who are crisis communicators,” said Miriam Warren, chief diversity officer at Yelp, the crowd-sourced review platform. “We help to determine when a company is going to speak out on a particular issue. We have become strategic advisors to our executives in order to help them understand how employees are feeling and what their sentiment is.”

A corporation may know the demographics of its workforce, but demographics are a lagging indicator. Panelists advise going a level deeper, beyond just visible differences. How are people moving throughout the organization? What are promotion rates? How is attendance for employee resource groups (ERGs)? Don’t measure just to measure.

“You measure these things so that you understand where you need to focus on your policies and practices within your organization to enhance those things so that your culture really does become inclusive,” said Hamilton, “and you’re giving folks benefits that matter to them.”

Look for consistent results of engagement surveys as one measurement of an inclusive culture. Surveys also provide good opportunities to investigate where people are engaged, and where they are not engaged. There’s not one singular metric or workstream around DEI; engagement surveys, promotion rates, retention rates, and recruiting rates all present a picture of workplace diversity.

“In order for it to feel authentic and holistic, [diversity] has to be a lens that you take to every aspect of your company,” said Metteer. “Otherwise, if it’s just an initiative it can feel really flat and not very engaging.”

Diversity initiatives require intentionality and a holistic strategy, influencing recruitment efforts with things like removing biased language from job descriptions and performing equity reviews for salaries. “The best way to attract people from underrepresented groups is to be a company where people from underrepresented groups want to work,” said Metteer.

“You want to make the immediate impact, but you have to realize that at its core, inclusion and diversity is a change-management initiative,” said Hamilton. “And we all know change is really hard. So, stay focused.” Key in on one or two things where you want to have big change, where you feel like it’s going to have the biggest impact in the organization and do that work.”

Spencer Whitney, digital editor at KQED, moderated the conversation

A more integrated diversity strategy helps companies recruit and retain a diverse workforce. But how and where the company invests its dollars also matters. Workers want to know where companies stand on social issues. So how do companies decide when to speak out?

“We’ve broken it down into three areas that we look at when we think about whether or not we should speak out on an issue,” said Warren. “Are our values consistent with this issue? We’re looking at our various community constituencies. And can our platform actually help to push this issue forward?”

“I always think about who’s counting on me,” said Chokshi. “In the legal industry, I think about the types of people who are languishing, people who are not getting promoted, people who are not making partner at law firms. And that’s something that really keeps me motivated because there’s just so much need out there. It emboldens me to speak up in my role.”

Companies need to be prepared to take action beyond mere platitudes. Leaders can utilize ERGs to ensure they’re getting a diverse set of perspectives, and to get buy-in from everyone in the company, not just DEI officers. Panelists advise being consistent and realistic with diversity efforts. And to stay focused, since it’s a long game.

“You really have to understand your organization,” said Hamilton. “We have to move from best practices to right practices for our individual organizations. One size does not fit all with inclusion and diversity. We have to be really crisp and clear on where you want to affect and impact change.”

Samantha Campos is a freelance journalist who has written for regional publications in Hawaii and California, with forays into medical cannabis and food-justice nonprofits. She currently resides in Oakland, Calif.