A culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is the key to creating a healthy and collaborative work environment for employees. Employers play an important role in implementing policies and encouraging a culture that makes employees feel safe, welcome, and valued at work. However, employers must take the time to consider the challenges they face and actions they can take to effectively improve and turn their company into a great place to work.
What is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are three essential aspects of a collaborative environment with equal opportunities. While each dimension has a different meaning, they are built upon a shared foundation that actively opposes discrimination and values individual differences.
Diversity in the workplace refers to having a variety of characteristics among individuals within a group of employees. Building diverse teams of people of different backgrounds, races, genders, cultures, etc., helps to facilitate empowerment and appreciation for these differences.
Equity means treating every employee with fairness and equal access to opportunities for success. For instance, whether employees are full-time, remote, or part-time, each team member should receive fair treatment that allows them to fulfill their roles and equal opportunities for progression.
Similar to diversity, inclusion also creates a sense of belonging and welcomes a wide range of skills and perspectives to the table. It is a culture that values the different characteristics, worldviews, and talents brought by those from various backgrounds.
Why are Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Important?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are important because together they facilitate healthy relationships among colleagues and companies can benefit from having representation from various backgrounds. DEI not only leads to more innovative business solutions but it also improves employee satisfaction and overall business outcomes.
A culture that advocates for DEI can help increase company revenue compared to companies that do not foster an inclusive environment. According to a BCG study, “companies with diverse management teams had a 19 percent increase in revenue compared to their less diverse counterparts.”
An organization that welcomes individuals of all backgrounds is positioned to build a workplace optimized for success. When a company values every employee’s input and gives everyone an equal opportunity to participate, employees demonstrate more engagement and trust in their employer.
Challenges of DEI in the Workplace
DEI has become a crucial topic for employers and HR professionals, especially after the spike in social justice events in 2020. According to a survey of HR professionals conducted by Workable, “63% of respondents list DEI as a priority in their organization,” and ensure that it will become a permanent part of their company mission, vision, and values. However, creating a work environment that meets these standards has become a challenge for many employers.
Knowing Where to Start
Every company is at a different stage of achieving a diverse and inclusive workplace. So, when it comes to implementing initiatives, how do you know where to start? According to Builtin, “a lot of people immediately jump to trying to figure out how they can make their company more diverse, but you can’t underestimate the importance of inclusion and equity.” Without proper balance across the multiple aspects of DEI, employers may find themselves with more problems than at the start. The challenge is figuring out which issue takes priority and dedicating time to research, understand, and resolve it.
Controversy Around Affirmative Action
Equal opportunity is an important factor in building a better place to work. Affirmative action, which refers to policies or practices designed to increase the representation of those from underrepresented groups, can be an effective way to improve diversity. However, some employees view it as an unfair practice, thinking it undermines meritocracy rather than counters privilege. The controversy surrounding affirmative action can put some employers in a difficult situation when trying to improve and potentially lead to increased hostility in the office.
Expectation vs. Reality
Some employers believe their existing practices and values meet DEI goals. However, the reality may be that your employees do not feel that the workplace has achieved the goals to the same extent that you do. This can cause miscommunication, backlash, and an increase in employee turnover. The majority of today’s workforce do not want to work for an employer who doesn’t sufficiently advocate for an inclusive and diverse workplace.
How to Improve DEI in the Workplace
Being proactive and showing your employees that you are advocates of diversity can demonstrate that you care to build an inclusive work culture. However, making improvements requires more than a simple company-wide email or announcement that talks about change. Employers will need to evaluate where their organization stands, be strategic about their methods, and take action to make a real and lasting difference.
Assess Your DEI Policies
Unsure of where you begin? Start by looking at your existing values and the current state of DEI.
Evaluate your company’s performance by taking stock of your team, your recruitment strategies, and your existing policies and programs, if any. Do your teams live up to the values you want to uphold? Is it a living representation of your policy or stance on DEI?
If the answer is no, then work to uncover the root of the problem to identify your next steps towards change. You can begin by analyzing your employees’ perceptions and experiences with internal employee surveys for a deeper understanding.
Taking a step back can help employers understand what is working and what needs to be fixed to move forward.
However, employers should keep in mind that not every strategy is going to work. Therefore, analyzing how your employees feel and understanding their beliefs towards the current state of your company’s values can help develop new and balanced ideas that everyone feels the same towards.
Incorporate a Diverse Recruiting Strategy
If you recognize homogeneity in your team when assessing the current state of DEI, look at your recruitment strategy first. Without realizing it, you may be recruiting from a narrow pool of talent, missing out on candidates with a wide range of skills who may not meet your standard recruitment criteria. It can also indicate that you’re not evaluating candidates by inclusive standards.
To start, employers should consider looking beyond qualifications like hard skills and formal education. According to Recruitee, incorporating a diverse recruiting strategy can “provide many tangible benefits for performance, innovation, and productivity.” Try looking outside of your usual sourcing demographics and targeting job ads that give a clear understanding of what you’re looking for in a potential candidate – one who can collaborate with people from different backgrounds, bring a unique perspective, and treat coworkers with respect. In return, this can help you recruit a diverse range of candidates outside of your usual talent pool.
Plan DEI Programs
Organizing in-office and virtual programs to educate your employees about the importance of DEI is a simple strategy for creating a more inclusive culture. Whether they are lunch and learns with guest speakers, team presentations, or cultural heritage month celebrations, these programs can encourage your employees to engage in collaborative projects and understand how to work with ideas that come from colleagues with different perspectives.
However, when planning these programs, ensure you build a foundation that defines your goals, mission, and purpose. This foundation will help you put together programs that create meaning, influence change, and align with your company values.
Hold Employees Accountable
Regardless of job title, every employee should be held accountable for their actions with appropriate consequences. Accountability plays a role in educating the individual on what is and is not acceptable in the workplace. This gives people the opportunity to grow into better colleagues that understand the importance of respecting diversity. It also reinforces to the rest of your employees that your company takes these violations seriously and will uphold your values of equality and respect.
Change Starts with Leadership
Building a strong sense of diversity, equity, and inclusion will take more than a few days. It will require time and a willingness to influence workplace change as a team, starting with leadership. Your leadership team has the power to change your organization’s culture, inspire your employees, and reshape the workforce to ensure equitable treatment. This will encourage the rest of your employees to participate and work together to see the difference.
Barometer can help your team evaluate your company’s current DEI standing by analyzing your internal employee surveys. We can provide you with insight into your employees’ experiences and perspectives on how you can build an inclusive workplace. To learn more about how you can create a culture that values diversity and inclusion at work, click here!