Taking DEI initiatives to the next level
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is important for human progress. Of course, it’s critical because of the inherent need for more equality, fairness, and representation. But diversity isn’t just a social good, it’s a must-have for businesses that want to stay competitive.
The term DEI often conjures images of a workplace consisting of people of different colors, sexual orientation, cultures and genders. While those things certainly explain a component of diversity, it’s only part of what diversity includes. Physical and social aspects only make up half of diversity. The remainder lies in diversity of thought construct.
Numerous studies have shown a clear correlation between companies with diverse teams and business success. It’s pretty simple: diverse companies are more likely to financially outperform their peers. Research has shown a significant correlation between company financial outperformance and diversity, on the dimensions of both gender and ethnicity.
Employers expect to put greater emphasis on DEI in their workplace culture and policies, as well as their benefit programs. The number of employers promoting DEI in their benefit programs and workplaces is expected to jump sharply during the next three years. Four-fifths of employers will take steps to promote DEI in their workplace culture.
Additionally, seven in 10 employers indicated they would promote DEI-related aspects of their benefit programs (72%) and well-being programs (69%). Half of respondents have acted on their maternity benefits, family planning, and fertility programs; another 33% plan to do so this year or are considering doing so within the next two years.
46% have acted on transgender benefits; another 30% plan to do so this year or are considering doing so within the next two years. 55% have addressed employee resource groups and 53% have addressed leave of absence programs; one in four plans to do so this year or is considering doing so within the next two years. 27% have evaluated the affordability of benefits, and another 29% are planning to do so.
DEI is among the top five priorities for employers surveyed. They are committed to finding the top strategies to implement DEI measures, evident in diversity recruiting efforts. And employers are thinking outside the 9-to-5 box — flexible policies and accommodations stood out as a significant change employers made.
To achieve greater diversity in hiring, the most common tactic is using an online platform to evaluate applications at scale (45%), followed by eliminating bias in job postings (43%), besides posting jobs via non-traditional outlets (37%), replacing educational requirements with core competencies (36%) and standardizing interview questions (34%).
Six in 10 employers said they provided accommodations, opportunities and tools for employees based on their specific needs, and more than half said they introduced flexible policies. 52% also worked to make sure employee pay was equal across titles or positions.
More than half have formalized a DEI strategy for their organization, while 47% have created or reviewed their existing DEI policies and communicated them to employees. In addition, 44% have made actionable changes to hiring policies.
To convey their ongoing DEI initiatives to employees, employers are adding descriptions of their DEI efforts to their homepage (64%), making changes in companywide channels (51%) and updating their employee handbooks to reflect changes (45%).
Most employers reported that managers and HR teams are splitting the burden when it comes to DEI inquiries from employees. 67% of organizations instruct employees to discuss questions with their direct manager, and 73% urge employees to reach out to the HR team.
Organizational leaders play a critical and often underestimated role when it comes to fostering an inclusive workplace. Management buy-in is essential and senior leadership and HR must authentically commit to building a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion. This includes setting the example for the rest of the organization to follow.
Having diversity in leadership doesn’t just mean hiring a Director of Diversity. It requires that all relevant stakeholders – from finance to HR to operations – be treated with equal respect. A diversity and inclusion committee works together on creating a code of conduct, cultural programming, employee education, and management training.
Many companies believe they already are providing a diverse and inclusive culture, but that may not be the case when it comes to benefits. Benefits also need to be looked at through the lens of DEI. Unfortunately, not all benefits programs are created equal, and it’s not just what is offered, but how information is communicated.
There is never going to be a day when a company can “check DEI work off a list” – instead, better DEI practices need to be woven into the fabric of a company’s culture by the right habits and reflection. As Alexis Herman stated: “Inclusion and fairness in the workplace… is not simply the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.”