Interest in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has seen exponential growth in the last year, according to Laurie Ruettimann, HR expert and author of Betting on You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career.

From corporations to educational institutions, leaders are exploring how their organizations can strengthen their DEI efforts. Ruettimann recently led a SAPPHIRE NOW panel discussion that reinforced how DEI must go hand in hand with business strategy to achieve real results.

The pressure is on. Both consumers and employees expect organizations to take action and demonstrate tangible impact. Fortunately, tracking and supporting DEI efforts is actually possible today through HR technologies that pinpoint bias in processes and provide data-driven insights that demonstrate progress.

Here are the top four tips for leaders to build an inclusive culture:

Capitalize on Increased Awareness to Enlist Executive Support

One of the positive developments from increased interest in DEI efforts is that they’re no longer priorities solely for the CHRO to address. DEI is – and should be – on the CEO’s agenda, according to April Crichlow, global head of Marketing for SAP SuccessFactors.

To enlist executive support, HR leaders should highlight data that shows where organizations can invest in greater efforts to strengthen DEI. With data that provides a single source of truth, HR leaders can make sure chief executives and the entire C-suite have visibility and ownership into progress and areas for improvement.

Influence Key Decisions Across the Employee Life Cycle to Prevent, Detect, and Eliminate Bias

Unconscious bias can hamper the most earnest efforts to promote DEI within an organization. SAP SuccessFactors solutions provide decision-makers with tools to help identify and reduce unconscious bias where it occurs, in every part of the employee life cycle.

But where to start? Lauren Bidwell, senior research scientist in HR Research for SAP SuccessFactors, suggested recruiting as the ideal entry point. That’s where HR leaders can dedicate their efforts, since recruiting from underrepresented groups and checking for unconscious bias can broaden the talent pool.

She pointed out that one of the drivers for ensuring a diverse talent pool can happen as early as the job description. Tools, like the SAP SuccessFactors portfolio, can help recruiters create more effective and fairer job descriptions. Companies can also turn to technology to write skill competencies without conditions that tend to dissuade candidates from applying. The job analyzer feature can assess if the description introduces gender biases, for example, through a language checker, then suggests wording changes.

Activate Best Practices and Enable Current Capabilities within Your Human Experience Management (HXM) Software

Companies should make the most of available tools to tackle the complex, often unconscious challenges to improving DEI. For example, Crichlow said more companies should be thinking about equitably rewarding employees by reducing the pay gap across the demographics of a workforce.

Photo-less calibration tools help HR leaders remove unintended bias and provide a comprehensive view of the workforce to distribute fair and equitable rewards.

In addition, with data showing the benefits of mentoring and sponsorship, more companies should be elevating programs that support a diverse leadership pipeline, said Crichlow. Intelligent mentoring capabilities can eliminate the pain points of a mentorship program by automating key parts of the process. These tools can provide employees with smart recommendations on people they should connect with for an effective match.

Monitor, Report, and Celebrate Progress – and Continue to Innovate

It’s important to celebrate progress, whether it’s doing a better job of retaining a diverse workforce or receiving positive employee feedback about inclusion efforts.

Some executives will say they’ve tried for years to improve DEI in their organizations without progress, despite the best of intentions, said Bidwell. She added that it’s important to remember that culture change is key to growth, but it doesn’t happen overnight.

Instead of expecting one change to “fix” DEI, she said, leaders should approach their efforts on a continuous basis. “Experiment and test,” she said, adding that leaders should share their best practices.

However, organizations could meet every single target they’ve set from a numbers perspective and still fail. If your people don’t feel like they belong, the data doesn’t matter. That’s critical; a strong sense of connection and belonging at work is tied to increases of up to 34% in engagement, 31% in retention likelihood, and 13% in performance, according to the Thrive XM Index.

Employees will feel their best when they can be their authentic selves. It’s on employers to make sure they’re equipped to support a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.

To learn more, check out SAP SuccessFactors HXM Suite or watch the replay from SAPPHIRE NOW.

Kim Lessley is director of Solution Marketing at SAP SuccessFactors.