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

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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 and increase profits.

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. 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.


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.


In 2015, McKinsey & Company conducted a study concluding that organizations with more gender and racially diverse teams saw increased revenues and increased customer satisfaction. The study  also stated, “Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, and those in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity were 35% more likely to have financial returns above national medians.”

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.


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.


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.


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

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

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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?