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DEI
The summer of 2020 sparked the conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). DEI became a buzzword of the year, and organizations ramped up DEI efforts. As an HR professional, it's your responsibility to lead the charge on this issue. If you are intimidated by it, you are not alone. To learn how you can make a difference, continue reading.

What Is Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI)?

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, commonly known as DEI, are the efforts an organization takes to maintain and increase a certain level of diversity, inclusion, and equity in the workplace.
Nearly 80% of people want to work at companies that value DEI
Hiring Statistics

Why Is Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) Important?

DEI fosters a culture in which employees are more engaged, productive, and creative. In the long run, a DEI initiative helps organizations reduce their turnover, increase profits and boost employee retention, engagement, and decision-making.

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is when employees are more committed to the work vs. just showing up; they are invested in the outcomes of your organization. Organizations with a strong DEI strategy tap into their employee’s potential because employees feel as though their work matters.
Millennials are 83% more likely to be engaged at work at inclusive companies
Deloitte
Studies have found that engaged employees often lead to long-term retention, higher levels of productivity, and improved quality of work. For example, a 2019 Better Up survey found organizations whose employees felt as though they were a part of something saw a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% decrease in employee turnover, and a 75% decrease in employee sick days. The report noted that these organizations promoted both respect and fairness within the workplace as a part of their DEI strategy. Similarly, McKinsey found that employees who feel included within their organizations are about 1.5 times more likely to believe their career advancement is outpacing their peers’. The same study shows that 39% report having turned down or decided not to pursue a job because of a perceived lack of inclusion at an organization.

Innovation

Innovation is discovering a new way to do things, and DEI drives innovation. When teams are more diverse (culture, socio-economic status, gender identity, etc.), they are more likely to explore different perspectives that lead to unlikely ideas. For example, Accenture, a global consulting and professional service team that was named one of the 2018 Top Companies for Diversity, credits DEI for its organization’s creativity and innovation. A 2019 Boston Consulting Group study found that organizations with more diverse leadership saw 19% higher revenue with more engaged and innovative teams when compared to organizations with less diverse groups of leaders.

Revenue

In 2019, McKinsey & Company conducted a study concluding that organizations with more diverse teams outperform less diverse peers on profitability. The study stated, “Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile—up from 21% in 2017 and 15% in 2014.” In addition, "companies in the top quartile [for ethnic and cultural diversity] outperformed those in the fourth by 36 percent in terms of profitability."

Challenges to DEI in the Workplace

There are many barriers to equity in our society as well as our companies. Five foundational challenges include communication, culture, discrimination, and leadership support.

Communication

The inability to effectively communicate with teammates can have long-term effects. It impacts employee engagement as well as the way that others, such as vendors and customers, view your organization. Language barriers, communication style, and generational communication preferences are common communication challenges among diverse teams. For example, diverse teams have different backgrounds, interpretations of languages, and social cues. Be cognizant of these differences by encouraging multiple forms of communication among teams.

Culture

One way that we understand words is based on our experiences. Cultural misunderstanding is when those who speak the same language understand the words differently. For example, hand gestures are one of the most used cultural misunderstandings. Iranians view the okay and thumbs-up signs as offensive, while those in the United States view these signs as a positive gesture. To bridge the gap between cultures, foster a work environment that welcomes feedback from others. You may do so by providing feedback, training, and setting the tone from the top.

Discrimination

It is important to note that diverse teams are not exempt from discrimination. A 2019 Glassdoor study found that 61% of employees experienced discrimination based on their age, race, gender, and/or LGBTQ identity. Discriminatory behavior may be deeply embedded in your culture, making it difficult to change. Consider offering anti-discrimination training as a tool to mitigate the risk of discrimination in your workplace.

Leadership Support

Leadership plays a pivotal role in the success of your organization, and their support is just as important to the success of your DEI strategy. When your organization’s leadership has not bought into your strategy or lacks a vision of what DEI provides, your strategy becomes difficult to execute. For example, you may not be provided the resources, monetary, or employees to implement.
“In my experience, the most common pitfall in establishing DEIB practices is believing it's a one-size-fits-all solution. There isn't a checklist you can pull up and apply to any organization. To create any culture change, especially DEIB, it requires beyond-the-surface work and a senior leadership that supports it. It's not the work of just HR or a single DEIB practitioner.” — Kiy Watts, former VP of people and culture for the Atlanta Hawks
Gartner surveyed 181 DEI leaders between September and October 2022, and the results highlight the challenges faced by organizations in driving diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. The biggest challenge identified was business leaders not taking ownership of DEI outcomes, emphasizing the need for leadership support. Other challenges included limited decision-making power, ineffective coordination of DEI efforts, limited staff, and employee resistance. The survey emphasizes the need for organizations to prioritize DEI efforts and provide necessary support and resources to DEI leaders to drive meaningful change and create diverse and inclusive workplaces.

How to Promote DEI

When implementing a DEI strategy, there are several steps your organization can take. We will explore a few below.

Step 1: Define Your Goals

Define your goals. What is it you are trying to achieve? For example, are you trying to diversify your board, executive leadership team, and/or your entire workforce?

Step 2: Determine Your Benchmark

Determine what your benchmark would be. What will your organization’s standards be? Who/what will you compare yourselves to? How will you define success?

Step 3: Help Leadership to Buy In

Determine the commitment of your leadership team. As in any other strategy, leadership buy-in is critical. It increases employee participation and is a determining factor in how many resources will be allocated (e.g., funding, staff) to the program.

Step 4: Conduct a Survey

Develop and conduct a DEI survey. If you can, survey your entire workforce. If that's not possible, be sure to include as much diversity as possible in the participants. Your survey should focus on the participant's opinions and their level of engagement. In addition, the survey should ask participants to identify themselves by race, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, etc., so you can understand the demographic makeup of your study.

Step 5: Communicate the Results

Share your survey results with the entire company. What good is a survey if the results are not shared and acted upon? Sharing the results shows your organization’s commitment to cultivating a culture of transparency and accountability.

Step 6: Create a Program

Identify those who will be tasked with driving this change in your organization. Make sure this group is diverse as well. In collaboration with that group, create your DEI program. Your program should include a vision and mission statement, training and development activities, a communication strategy, and partnerships with both internal and external customers.
62% of people say they would turn down a job if the company culture didn’t support diversity and inclusion
Hiring Statistics

Step 7: Measure the Effectiveness

What tools will you use to measure if your program is effective? How will your organization implement changes if you are not achieving the results you set out to accomplish?

Keep Learning: ISO Standard Aims to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

The International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, is a non-governmental organization that develops and publishes standards for various industries and fields. This helps to ensure that products, services, and processes are safe, reliable, and of high quality. ISO standards are used by businesses, governments, and organizations around the world to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase customer satisfaction. In May 2021, ISO 30415:2021—Human Resource Management: Diversity and Inclusion—was published. This standard provides guidelines for human resource management with a focus on diversity and inclusion. The standard provides guidance for creating a diverse and inclusive workplace culture, including recruitment, hiring, and retention practices that promote diversity and eliminate biases. Additionally, it outlines strategies for addressing discrimination and promoting equal opportunities for all employees, regardless of their backgrounds or characteristics. Let's take action to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace by utilizing the guidelines provided by the new ISO standard. By implementing policies and practices that promote DEI, we can create inclusive workplace cultures where all employees are respected, valued, and able to live up to their full potential.
Topics
Wendy N. Kelly, MSHRM, PHR, SHRM-CP

Wendy N. Kelly, MSHRM, PHR, SHRM-CP

Wendy is an HR professional with over 10 years of HR experience in education and health care, both in the private and non-profit sector. She is the owner of KHRServices, a full service HR management agency. She is also SHRM and HRCI certified, serves as a HRCI Ambassador, and voted 2021 Most Inclusive HR Influencer.
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Paula Muñoz

Paula Muñoz

Paula is a profesional with extensive experience in multinational companies, in different sub-sectors of Human Resources; Organizational Development, Talent Management, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Internal Communications, and Corporate Social Responsibility. She is certified as ISO 30415:2021 Diversity & Inclusion Professional (DIPs). She is passionate about contributing to the achievement of organizational goals through the development of positive and inclusive work environments, with committed and high-performance teams, and she is always interested in continuous improvement and constant learning.
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Frequently asked questions
Other Related Terms
Belonging in the Workplace
DEI Training
Employment Discrimination
Workplace Equity
Workplace Inclusion
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