DEI, which stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion, is top of mind with employers, who recognize the business and moral imperative of trying to level the playing field. Such leaders realize having employees with diverse perspectives gives them an edge because it is a factor in effective problem solving, creative brainstorming, and richness of experience.
Before organizations can benefit from DEI, their leaders have to commit to making these initiatives a tenet of their values. They must invest the necessary resources to ensure different groups are properly represented, there is equity in opportunity and pay structures, and all people feel welcome and included in the organization.
DEI strategies are always works in progress because organizations can almost always do better. They must check in with their employees to make sure everyone knows his or her value, and they should audit their processes regularly to ensure fairness.
Priorities in DEI
In the most recent State of HR report, 13% of respondents said they would invest in new DEI initiatives in the next year. In addition, they shared what they would focus on:
Representation matters. Even before the pandemic put a spotlight on social issues that triggered a national awakening to DEI in the workplace, businesses were working to increase representation of different groups. After all, studies have shown that having a diverse team is connected to arriving at positive business outcomes.
McKinsey’s 2020 report on diversity showed the strong business case for gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity in corporate leadership, for instance. In addition, the same research demonstrated that the business case continues to strengthen.
“The most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability,” according to McKinsey.
Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile, up from 21% in 2017 and 15% in 2014.
As a result, many companies have been improving the diversity among their teams. To maintain diversity, companies must consider different pipelines of talent, audit their processes to ensure qualified candidates from different groups are getting consideration when hiring, and train hiring managers to recognize and remove bias as much as is possible.
Equity has been described by some as the forgotten middle child between diversity and inclusion. However, equity is vital to achieving inclusion and belonging, which is sometimes included in the acronym DEIB. If employees feel as though they are being treated unfairly, they will never feel as though they can fit in.
This means that HR leaders must audit their pay structures frequently to determine people are getting paid equally for equal work regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. Equity is not just about pay. People also deserve equal opportunities and access to learning and development, mentorship, and opportunities to take on projects, earn rewards, and get promoted.
“From the time you hire and offer the salary to how you promote and how the hiring manager is thinking about compensation, you should consider the gap, so that the team mitigates biases,” said Nichelle Grant, Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Siemens USA, in an interview for International Women’s Day. “Look at evaluations and compensation systematically, so you don’t have a gap years later. Then you end up saying, ‘Oh, the gap’s back.’ We should change it, so it changes permanently and not just for the time being like a band-aid.”
In the last year, many HR leaders have put a spotlight on the inclusion portion of DEI. With a historic labor shortage, they have been trying to engage all employees and ensure people are happier at work. They hope that improving employee experience all around will translate to improved retention.
In addition, Gen Z workers have begun to join teams, and they have put a priority on working for employers who support strong DEI strategies and social justice issues, too. In fact, there is a great rise in employee activism, which was largely sparked by the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement after the world watched a police officer kill George Floyd, an unarmed black man.
Political divisions and the great class divide have also pitted people against one antoher. As a result people leaders are intent on uniting their teams and bringing people together. Frankly, if people feel as though they are included in the group and that they are valued for their work, they are more productive and get better results.
Inclusion and belonging are also related to one other HR trend: mental health and wellness. As more HR leaders come up with ways to tend to the wellbeing of their employees, they begin to recognize how DEI fits into mental health and wellbeing. Toxic workplaces that divide people or allow microaggressions contribute to the stress that drives people away from jobs and breaks down their mental health.
What’s Next for DEI?
HR leaders will continue to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. DEI, after all, is an essential part of growth and a necessity to remain relevant well into the future. Diverse teams learn from one another, gain different perspectives, and can often come up with unique solutions to problems. They also experience the richness that comes with having cultural exchanges with those who come from different places and have different backgrounds. These relationships can help creativity bloom and have been proven to help teams achieve business goals.
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