When you start researching the term DEI initiatives you will find that this is considered a growing trend in the business community. DEI refers to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace. Take a moment to consider this. How is this a “trend” in the business community, not the absolute standard? Hard to believe this is something that must be implemented into workplace culture. 2020 seemed to become the year that we all were forced to slow down, in turn allowing us to really pay attention to some of the inequities occurring in the world. Our culture has finally decided to shine a light on increasing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace and while we are shocked it has taken this long, we are here for it.
What does DEI Mean?
DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Specifically this term is used to describe how these terms are applied in the workforce. In order to fully understand what this means and why these initiatives matter, we have to take time to define each term separately.
Diversity is simply welcoming people from all different backgrounds into a group. In this article, we are specifically talking about the workplace, but diversity refers to all different situations. Whether personal, social, or business, it is important to make sure we are welcoming all different backgrounds. This can mean race, religious beliefs, economic background, age, gender, all abilities, and learning differences. It is important to remember that not all differences can be seen, so we need to focus on making sure we are really diving into differences and including everyone.
The definition of equity straight from the dictionary is, “justice according to natural law or right
specifically: freedom from bias or favoritism.” For years and years, there was one specific type of person who received most of the growth opportunities within a business. Equity is making sure that all people, no matter who they are, have equal opportunities. This refers to specific organizations and society as a whole.
It is important to consider that equity is different from equality and can look different for different people. The baseball analogy is a great way to describe it. Consider three people are watching a baseball game. One is tall, one is average height, and the last is short. There is a fence directly in front of all three of them. Equality would mean giving each person one box so that they can all see over the fence. This doesn’t make sense for the situation though. The tall person can see over the fence just fine and does not need any accommodations. The average-height person can’t quite see over the fence and needs one box to stand on to see properly. The shorter person still couldn’t see with one box, so they will need two. This will create an equitable situation for all people of different heights to enjoy the game.
Inclusion is making sure that all employees have a sense of belonging within an organization. “Diversity is who we are in a snapshot … inclusion is what we do,” said Dionn Schaffner, chief diversity officer at business software company Aurea. Inclusion is the actions we take to ensure our diverse group of people feel included. It is also ensuring there are systems in place so that all voices are heard. All members of a workplace should have equal opportunity to contribute to work projects as well as the overall culture.
Bringing It Together
Now that we have defined each term separately, let’s talk about how they are put together to create initiatives in the workplace. The party analogy is a very popular analogy being used to describe how they all work together. Diversity is creating an open invitation to a party. Historically, there have been highly curated and exclusive invite lists. Changing that to an open invitation is the key to encouraging diversity. Equity is having easy access to the party. For example, build a ramp so that anyone can enter, not just those that can use the stairs. Another example of equity at a party is inviting everyone to contribute to the music playlist and shuffling through it. Then there is music that everyone can enjoy. Inclusion is making sure everyone is asked if they would like to dance if they want some food, or even asking everyone to help clean up. It is also important to make sure there is room for everyone to dance and there there is food that everyone will enjoy.
Benefits of DEI Initiatives in the Workplace
Bottom Line Increase
According to a study conducted by Mckinsey, companies that place emphasis on developing DEI initiatives are financially outperforming companies that are not. The bottom line is a strong case for DEI initiatives. Many argue that businesses are just that, businesses. Their purpose is to make money so they should focus on initiatives that will help them increase profitability. This study shows us that companies who are investing in DEI initiatives are doing just that. Enough said.
Broader Talent Pool
When we branch out for recruiting, we are tapping into more diverse candidates that we could have previously missed out on. It is hard to recruit top talent these days because the business world has gotten so competitive. The increasing trend of hybrid workplaces gives companies an opportunity to recruit outside of their usual pool as well. Many employees are looking to work for companies that prioritize diversity. As the younger generation comes to the workforce, they require DEI programs. We need to have them in place to make sure we are recruiting and retaining the best and brightest diverse talent.
Keeping Business In Touch with Customer Base
The Academy for Improving HR makes a great observation in that, “hiring for diversity will help you better understand your customers' needs. The more diverse your workforce is, the greater the chances are that your employees will be able to cater to individual customer needs.” Business owners and leaders are becoming more and more diverse. We need to understand everyone’s needs in order to be successful. Recruiting a well-rounded and diverse workforce will only help us reach more customers.
10 DEI Initiatives You Need
- Publish Support from Executive Leaders
The most important initiative you can possibly have is to get buy-in from the top. The highest level of leadership must commit and believe in DEI initiatives in order for them to work and trickle down to the rest of the company. One example of CEO support comes from Marc Benioff of Salesforce. He said, “Diversity is an important part of our culture of equality. Our employees are telling us that they want to work for a company that cares about diversity, and it helps us recruit people whose values align to ours.” You will also need budget approval for some of the programs which will come directly from top leadership. Once you establish support from the top leadership, it is important to get a statement released publically. Social media is a great tool to use here. You want the world to know you are prioritizing DEI Initiatives so they know you are a company committed to social change, and to providing accountability to top leadership.
Another great dei initiative is the creation of ERG's. ERG stands for Employee Resource Group. According to Gartner.com, “an employee resource group (ERG) is a voluntary, employee-led diversity and inclusion initiative that is formally supported by an organization”. These groups are a place for like-minded people within an organization to gather and find support. There are many different categories for such groups including, gender, military veterans, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and working parents. ERG's are great for providing a safe and inclusive company culture. It is important to let your employees form these groups as they see fit. If they are created by leadership or HR, they can seem manufactured, and the possibility of missing the mark on what your employees actually need will increase.
- Celebrate Diverse Holidays
Awareness of holidays celebrated by different cultures and communities is an important part of DEI in the workplace. It is important to make sure that all employees have access to time off for important days to them. We need to look outside of the standard holiday calendar. A great way to do this is to ask your workforce what days are important to them. It is also great to recognize said holidays. Ecards send to the entire company with information about the holiday are a great way to let your workforce know you care about days that are celebrated by all cultures and communities.
- DEI Training
Providing dei training for all employees at all levels is a great tool to increase DEI in your workplace. Train employees on what discrimination looks like and how they can contribute to a discrimination-free workplace. Make sure you train managers on disparate treatment and this will make a big difference to changing the culture in your workplace.
- Mentorship Programs
Mentorship is when a more seasoned employee takes the time to work with a newer employee. The goal is to help them grow professionally and personally. It is also a great way to make sure each employee is aware of the options at their disposal for further development. Mentors can also advocate for their mentees and can call out any disparity they see in how they are treated. This will go a long way to achieving dei goals. They are also a safe space for employees to express their concerns without fear of repercussions.
- Talent Development Programs
Training to encourage professional development within your workforce is an extremely valuable way to encourage DEI in your company. It is an added bonus to target programs for specific traditionally underserved communities. It is also important to evaluate how inclusive your talent development programs are by making sure there are no barriers to entry for any group of people.
- Financial Wellness Programs
Financial awareness and wellness is something that often creates distance between different groups of people within a work environment. We often think about supporting the physical and mental health of our employees, but financial burdens affect our employees as well. Financial wellness programs can help employees who are under significant financial stress and may not have experience or education in handling finances. This dei program can go a long way to ensuring equity in the workplace. Examples of such programs would include providing access to financial advisors or educational finance programs.
- Diverse Hiring Practices
According to the Human Capital Institute, “Diversity hiring is hiring based on merit with special care taken to ensure procedures have reduced biases related to a candidate's age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and other personal characteristics that are unrelated to their job performance.” Blind resume screening is a great technique to increase diverse hiring. The requirement of a college degree can sometimes be limiting to finding diverse talent. College is expensive and there may be very talented people out there that we are missing because they could not afford college. Consider if the job truly needs a college degree. Many software developers are now self-taught for example. We could really be increasing our diverse candidates if we try to take down barriers to entry. Diverse hiring ahsould be a key dei strategy in any company.
Measure Your Success
It is one thing to start implementing DEI initiatives, but it is equally important if not more, to check in occasionally to make sure you are making progress within your company and achieve your dei goals. You really want to make sure the initiatives you have invested time and money into are making a difference. There are many HR dashboards you can use to measure stats and progress on dei goals, but the most effective way is to have open and honest communication with your employees. Ask them if they are seeing a difference with the dei efforts. Ask for their input and be willing to listen and accept responsibility for any failings.
Moving forward, we can all contribute to making diversity, equity, and inclusion the industry standard in the workforce. This should not be a trend, it should be mandatory. The hope is that we get to a place where DEI is not something we need initiatives to achieve.