Buzzwords and trends like DEI in the workplace come and go in business. Sometimes, it can be difficult to figure out which ones to engage with and which ones to ignore. In other instances, the necessity of these trends is quite obvious.
Such is the case with DEI, or diversity, equity, and inclusion. Embracing each of these and creating a strategy to make DEI in the workplace a priority will provide several benefits for your business. As with most business processes, there’s not a single solution to improving DEI and implementing a successful program.
The best thing you can do is to educate yourself. Take the time to learn what DEI in the workplace is, what it means, and what benefits it has to offer your organization. Let’s start by defining the three pillars of DEI: diversity, equity, and inclusion.
DEI in the Workplace Defined
Before you can start incorporating these aspects into your organization, you need to understand exactly what DEI is and what it means. To do that, let’s take a look at each of the elements.
Diversity in the workplace refers to having a varied range of employees with social, psychological, physical, and other differences. It’s an important goal for organizations today. Companies with diverse employee groups see increased revenue, job satisfaction, and employee engagement.
Diversity can refer to:
- Social/Psychological Factors
- Professional Skills and Experience
One problem companies face with diversity is that employees can’t be hired specifically for something like their race, gender or sexual orientation, or other demographics. You can, however, hire the best talent based on a diverse range of skills, experience, and professional backgrounds.
Equity is the highlight of DEI in the modern workplace. The Great Resignation has employees realizing what they’re worth. Today, people aren’t willing to accept that they aren’t treated 100% fairly and equitably on the job. There are many barriers to equity that need to be addressed.
The goal of equity is to ensure all employees in the organization have access to the same opportunities, treatment, benefits, etc. The goal for companies is the elimination of barriers that create inequitable situations in the first place.
Inclusion is all about how people feel within the larger group. Specifically, it refers to your employees with different social or cultural identities and their sense of belonging. Some people mistakenly assume that diversity leads to inclusion, but that’s not the case.
Even in an extremely diverse organization or team, there may be an issue with people feeling valued, welcome, or like they’re encouraged to contribute. Essentially, you can have as much diversity and inclusion as you can manage, and it won’t matter if people don’t feel included or like they’re being treated fairly.
Common Barriers to DEI
There’s a disconnect between the best intentions and the implementation of effective, well-planned goals and strategies related to DEI in the workplace. A lot of companies feel like they have a pulse on DEI and that they’re actually doing well to help advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in their organizations. Many employees feel the same.
Unfortunately, when DEI is looked at more closely, organizations are surprised to find that their efforts may not be as active and successful as they thought.
It’s not the fault of the business, necessarily, but a lot of the barriers to something like DEI are ones that can usually be prevented. There’s a reason business leaders are encouraged to do their homework when embracing new concepts. Otherwise, barriers like those listed here are going to cause some issues.
This happens with a lot of trending topics and buzzwords. Companies try to get on board, but they don’t really understand what they’re doing. They’re just trying to follow suit and keep up with the competition, but they’re not successful because they don’t understand the how and why of the need for change.
It’s important to make sure that company leaders and managers understand the need for DEI in the workplace and how to execute your DEI strategy seamlessly. Companies can’t just copy what others are doing. Each organization has its own goals, changes, and barriers to consider in successfully implementing DEI.
Resistance to change
Change is difficult and scary, even though it’s a normal part of life. In business, it’s easy for companies and their people to get comfortable with “the way things are” and fail to look for opportunities for growth and development. That has to stop.
If the pandemic has taught the business world anything, it’s that change is constant, uncertain, and unpredictable. However, it’s also taught us that being agile and open to change can do more than just keep things afloat. There were plenty of companies that grew during the worst parts of the pandemic, and they did that by being open to change.
Outdated attitudes toward business
This ties in with resistance to change in some ways, but it’s a barrier of its own. Depending on the age of your team, you may be struggling with some old school business mindsets. These attitudes can cost you a lot of money, including when it comes to DEI.
Take the time to sit down with your most resistant employees and leaders. See what they’re struggling with, why they aren’t on board with your DEI strategy, and so forth. This will help you pinpoint the people who need a little more coaching to ensure that your DEI implementation is a success.
Low prioritization by business leaders
Everyone is talking about DEI in the workplace. Unfortunately, talk doesn’t create action. Business leaders haven’t prioritized DEI for one reason or another, and it’s starting to show. Organizations that leave this strategy for last will feel it in their retention, revenue, and even in their reputation.
It’s time to make DEI a priority. Make sure all business leaders are on board and ready to focus on this new effort to ensure its success. When they’re on board, your employees will also see this as a priority.
Budgets and training limitations
Every single company has budget restrictions and concerns. When new topics and trends like DEI come up, the first thing many business leaders think is, “Can I even afford to invest in this new practice?” and rightfully so. This is a major overhaul of the organization, but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Integrating better DEI could be as simple as utilizing remote roles to reach a wider talent audience and hire candidates that might not have been your traditional “type.” A bit of training for leaders should be in the budget, as well as the addition of new training materials, but these aren’t expenses. These are an investment and that’s how you need to see it.
Invest in better training opportunities that align with your new DEI strategy. When you do it right, your employee retention and revenue metrics will show you that it was worth every penny.
The Benefits of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Now that we’ve discussed the barriers that keep organizations from implementing a new DEI strategy, let’s talk about the benefits. For those who can overcome the obstacles and make DEI in the workplace a priority, there are several different benefits to be had. We’ve already mentioned a few of them, but here are some of the biggest perks:
- Diverse organizations see better shareholder returns.
- Diverse teams are capable of making better decisions because they’re more innovative.
- Companies with more gender and ethnic diversity outperform those without (in sales revenue, business profits, and customer base).
- Strong DEI efforts are linked to increased employee engagement and retention.
- Companies also see higher levels of trust within the organization.
Integrating a better DEI program in your organization shows employees and business leaders alike that you care about the future of the company. It allows you to embrace talent and potential team members you may not have considered previously, and deliberately set your company up for success.
Start Building Your Strategy
That’s the key with DEI in the workplace: it has to be deliberate. This means you need a strategy. You can create your own DEI strategy by asking things like:
- What is our diversity, equity and inclusion currently like?
- What areas of improvement are there?
- Is there anything we’re doing successfully?
- How can we make the necessary changes?
- What are the company goals for DEI?
This will help you get a start on your new DEI plan. Remember to make sure that your whole team is on board so that the efforts aren’t wasted. Include different people in the planning process so that you have access to a variety of innovative and unique solutions.
It’s no longer about whether you need DEI in the workplace. It’s about what you’re going to do to make sure it gets the attention that it deserves. That starts with the right strategy.
Let Your People Be Themselves
Essentially, the core purpose and ultimate goal of DEI in the workplace is simple: allow employees to show up to work as not just themselves, but as their best selves. This will foster better engagement, productivity, and retention. And of course, that leads to a better business reputation and an increased bottom line.