How OKRs and Goal-Setting Support DE&I

by Carly Clyne | Aug 23, 2021

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It feels like the whole world is talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) — and for good reason. There’s no question that an equitable and inclusive community approach is mission-critical to building environments where people are happy, healthy, and thriving. And the world of work is no exception.

But let’s be honest: Today’s issue isn’t whether or not we should make DE&I a priority in the workplace. It’s how to actually make it happen.

Many well-meaning DE&I efforts focus on passive training videos and trivial task lists that ultimately stop short of moving the needle toward lasting impact. Without a clear picture of what success looks like, any strategy will become disjointed and lose momentum over time. 

But when leaders cast a vision for a new way of being, then create org-wide accountability by having teams measure and track real progress, we believe they can make their DE&I dreams a reality.

So how do we decide where to go, and how to know when we’ve arrived? Let’s jump in!

Defining OKRs

In John Doerr’s brilliant TED talk on OKRs, he describes the Objective (the “O” in OKR) as the “what” you want to see happen: the lofty goal, or the future reality you desire. Think “Be a thought leader in our industry” or “Have a more engaged team than our competitors.” 

Objectives make it possible for teams to align themselves around shared aspirations, rather than drifting in different directions. They determine how time, energy, and money gets spent. Objectives filter and focus new ideas and competing priorities. 

How will you know if you’re on track to meet your objective(s)? The Key Results (the “KR” in OKR) break down these lofty goals into measurable results, identifying outcomes that offer proof of progress. Think “Average of 80% Employee Net Promoter Score each quarter” or “Turnover reduced by 10% by end of Q4.”

Applying OKRs to DE&I

When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion, it’s just not enough to issue statements about perspectives and policies. Actual results are what really matter.

So how do you apply the concept of OKRs to DE&I?

First, create objectives that are clear, concise, and compelling. Objectives should feel inspiring to your team, and reveal what’s important in your company culture, painting a picture of the transformation that’s possible. Start by defining what “diversity” means for your company. In what aspects is your organization looking pretty homogenous? Race? Gender? Age? Ability? Education level?

Then, set 3-5 key results for each objective. Aim high, but be realistic, and (because your objectives are so ambitious) consider meeting 60-70% of your key results a success.

Objectives shouldn’t change often, so think of them as long-term commitments. Key results, on the other hand, may need to be tweaked every few months as circumstances and priorities change.

Examples of OKRs for DE&I

Still feeling stuck? Here are a few examples to help get you started:

Objective: Everyone on our team experiences equitable career advancement opportunities.

Key Results:

  • In our employee survey, XX% of employees agree that opportunities for mentorship, projects, training, and advancement are based on skill and capabilities, not subjective criteria
  • XX% of employees agree that performance reviews are fair and well calibrated
  • XX% of employees agree that they are supported in their career goals
  • XX% of employees agree that they have access to senior leadership

Objective: Team members from all backgrounds feel equally valued and psychologically safe.

Key Results:

  • XX% of employees report feeling valued by both colleagues and managers
  • XX% of employees agree that they can approach colleagues and/or managers with constructive feedback when appropriate
  • XX% of employees have completed unconscious bias training
  • Less than X% of employees report experiencing microaggressions or exclusion due to racial, gender, age, or sexual factors

Objective: Diversity of race, gender, ability, and background is represented across departments, and at all levels of the company workforce.

 Key results: 

  • All hiring managers are trained and calibrated on best practices for hiring diverse workforces.
  • The diversity of our candidate pools meets or exceeds the mix needed to achieve our goals.
  • At least one candidate from an under-represented group is in final consideration for all senior and executive leadership roles.

When you know where you’re trying to go, why you want to get there, and how you’re going to measure it, you’re already ahead of the game. (Plus, simply writing down your goals regularly makes you 42% more likely to achieve them!)

Remember, focus on outcomes rather than actions. And before you know it, your team will have made real headway on game-changing DE&I.

About the author:

Elizabeth Yarbrough is the founder and lead consultant of TALENTality, an HR consulting firm specializing in the employee experience. Nearly a decade of running her own business taught her that if you’re not nailing your employee experience, you don’t have an “HR” problem; you have a business problem! Today, she builds training programs that make employees happier and more productive; systems that make entrepreneurs better managers; and develops growth opportunities for the people that power business.

About Kazoo:

The Kazoo Employee Experience Platform brings together everything you need to create a high-performing, connected culture. By combining Goals & OKRs, Recognition, Feedback, Conversations, and Incentives within a single, easy-to-use platform, employees become more engaged, managers become better leaders, and productivity and business performance soar. Let’s make work better. Learn more at