A vast majority of global organizations recognize that strengthening workforce diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) is vital to their long-term success, with 95% saying they want to improve workforce diversity over the next 12 to 18 months.1 However, businesses are at different stages along the journey and widespread agreement on how to accomplish DEIB objectives can be difficult to achieve.
According to Coqual, a global nonprofit, one of the major hurdles in accomplishing DEIB goals is addressing the common refrain, “What about me?” Focusing on one identity group, such as Black or Latinx employees, can make others feel it comes at the cost of their own wellbeing and career growth opportunities. The ultimate goal in implementing an effective DEIB strategy is to create a culture of belonging in which every employee feels they have a central role with equal access to opportunities.2
Building a strong DEIB culture takes time and commitment. Here are four steps to consider on the journey.
Understand what DEIB really means
The first step is to understand the roles of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging and how they interact with each other as core principles. For instance, having a diverse team does not guarantee every employee will be treated fairly or feel respected or welcomed. But companies that navigate DEIB effectively are more likely to have employees with higher job satisfaction, increased trust levels, and feel more engaged.3
While many organizations understand the value of DEIB, most still struggle with the belonging part of the equation since it can be harder to define, according to Dr. Syneathia LaGrant, VP of Global Learning & Development for ManpowerGroup. “Much more than a feeling, belonging represents the intentional ways a company ensures that it is actively seeking out and engaging diverse employee voices.”
Dr. LaGrant notes that onboarding offers a critical opportunity to foster belonging. Instead of just a basic “tick the box” orientation style, companies should demonstrate from Day 1 how much they value an employee’s perspective. “Shift the language from, ‘Welcome to the company’ to ‘We’re so glad you choose us. We know you could have taken your talent anywhere.’”
Set realistic, multi-year DEIB goals
While most organizations have good intentions when it comes to planning DEIB initiatives, some find it hard to move beyond the occasional social media post reacting to a recent tragedy instead of creating real, substantial change. One way to drive this forward with accountability is to set and measure goals.
“Doing the right thing is important for companies, but leaders also need to look at the ROI that DE&I brings, says Ashish Kaushal, CEO of HireTalent and co-founder of Consciously Unbiased. “Manage your DEIB goals like you would for any business unit.”
In 2020, global IT powerhouse Accenture did just that by publishing a series of ambitious goals to become a gender-balanced organization and diversify its workforce significantly by 2025. The company has pledged to increase its Black, Hispanic, and Latinx employee base in the U.S., UK, and South Africa by at least 60% over the next few years. To accomplish these goals, Accenture developed a robust set of best practices and focused on key actions including a focus on skills vs. education, prioritizing recruitment in urban areas, weighing internal goals against external benchmarks, and building their own pipeline.4
Ellyn Shook, chief leadership and human resources officer at Accenture, notes that it’s important to look beyond the numbers. “Every organization must work to understand what representation truly means for its people. Without a vibrant culture that supports and sustains the desired change, there’s a very real risk of creating an atmosphere of divisive diversity.”
Embrace the challenges of DEIB
Without leadership buy-in to diversity, organizations are doomed to struggle. The good news is that 75% of organizations are aware that more diverse and inclusive decision-making teams will help them exceed their financial goals.5 Keeping pace with the extreme shifts in the economy and workforce requires establishing a solid leadership framework that helps executives assess and meet challenges head-on. This can be done by focusing on areas of impact, including creating a more inclusive culture and supporting employee career growth.
Having a well-constructed foundation also helps companies address a top diversity challenge: attracting diverse candidates.6 In many cases, this issue stems from aspects of the hiring process and application criteria that are not aligned with diverse candidates’ needs, according to Liz Wessel, CEO and co-founder of WayUp, a New York City-based jobs site and resource center for college students and recent graduates.7
Companies need to review every aspect of their recruiting process from avoiding biased language in applications and job posts to scheduling fitting interview times, which can impede engagement with certain candidates. DEIB training and specialized tools for managers can help reduce inherent biases. But it’s also crucial to establish inclusive policies and support structures to address all workplace interactions from childcare and health and wellness to persons with disabilities.
Engage outside expertise in DEIB outcomes
When starting any new initiative, it’s important to enlist outside experts who can help your organization overcome primary challenges and set metrics. Eighty-four percent of human resources leaders are open to receiving external help to build their DEIB culture.
Because DEIB impacts every part of an organization, conducting research at the outset, including examining the current employee experience, is crucial. This kind of analysis can be time-consuming and may require a consultant who can view your current structure from an objective perspective. External experts can also help refine your current recruitment process and language as well as updating assessments that don’t filter out neurodiverse candidates. All of this will help companies build a stronger pipeline of diverse candidates.8
To learn more about building a DEIB culture, read the Future of Work Report II: Who Will Do the Work?
1. Everest Group Future of Work Report – Who will do the work 2022
5. Leading with Impact Framework, ManpowerGroup 2021
6. Everest Group Future of Work Report – Who will do the work 2022