diversity equity and inclusion in the workplace

Why DEI in the Workplace is Essential for Progress in the Long Run

In the complex, dynamic and diverse world we live in today, the more interconnected we seem to get, the more polarised or segmented our communities have seem to become. Which makes it standard for HR policy to state, “We are an equal opportunity employer. We believe in diversity and believe in creating inclusive cultures.” While these buzzwords are casually used in daily corporate lingo, actively incorporating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace is crucial for enterprises to succeed. 

“Diversity is being asked to the party, Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

– Vernā Myers, cultural change thought leader and DEI educator

Around 78% of employees in the tech industry shared that DEI initiatives are very important to them when considering whether or not to accept a job offer. For Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), this number jumps to 88%. Organizations can no longer afford to only showcase inclusivity statements.

Leaders need to live it – build diverse workplaces, create equal opportunities, and inclusive work cultures. Companies with more inclusive business cultures and policies see a 59% increase in innovation and are 62.6% more likely to see increased profitability and productivity.”

Understanding Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion (DEI)

Diversity is defined as the presence of differences within a given setting. This includes gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, communities, sexual orientation, place of practice, and practice type. An organization creates a diverse workforce by recruiting employees from various social and cultural backgrounds. This ensures that varied voices, experiences and opinions contribute to building the company.

Inclusion refers to the intentional, ongoing effort to ensure that people with different identities can fully participate in all aspects of the work of an organization, including leadership positions and decision-making processes. It refers to the way that diverse individuals are valued as respected members and are welcomed in an organization and/or community. 

Equity refers to an approach that ensures that everyone has access to the same opportunities. It recognizes that advantages and barriers exist and that, as a result, everyone does not start from the same place. Equity is a process that begins by acknowledging that unequal starting place and works to correct and address the imbalance. Equity ensures that all people have the opportunity to grow, contribute, and develop, regardless of their identity. 

What Should Leaders Know?

Understand that what are advantages for some may become barriers for others. These barriers could range from gender prejudices to racial bias or community favouritisms. Thus, it’s essential to recognize unconscious biases, overcome them, and create a workspace that leverages skill and talent alone. Organizations must constantly review processes, systems, and work culture with a microscopic lens to eliminate barriers of any form. From hiring processes to exit formalities to promotions or training, leaders must assess every aspect to create equal opportunities in the workplace. 

Why diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace are central to organizational success?

As per a McKinsey Global Institute report, it has been estimated that closing the gender gap would add $28 trillion to the value of the global economy by 2025 – a 26% increase.

1. DEI affects financial viability

Besides the fact that building inclusive environments helps employees feel a sense of belonging and increases empathy among teams, DEI companies are doing financially well. 

Credit Suisse’s CS Gender 3000 report offers unique insight into the gender diversity mix among 30,000 senior executives at over 3,000 companies across the world. The 2019 report findings show that Companies with women occupying 10% or more board seats outperformed those with fewer than 10% women or with no women at all.

Companies in which women represent 20% or more in management have enhanced their share price performance compared to companies in which women are 15% or below in management. 

2. Welcoming skills and talent 

Organizations that build strong HR policies around diversity and inclusion attract the right talent. Glassdoor’s D&I workplace survey reported 76% of job seekers and employees consider a diverse workforce as an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. To this effect, Glassdoor added a new workplace factor rating for companies in 2020 called – Diversity & Inclusion Rating. Salesforce has the highest D&I rating at 4.6, with Google and Accenture not too far behind. 

3. Millennial workforce

Tapping into the millennial workforce – almost 75% of the workforce – requires organizations to be ready with strong DEI in the workplace. Millennials have a different view of DEI. About 86% of millennials feel that differences of opinion allow teams to excel. Around 83% of millennials are actively engaged when they believe their organization fosters an inclusive culture. Millennials expect their leaders to create supportive work environments that respect their identities and opinions. 

4. Balanced teams thrive in crises

Covid-19 changed the way teams function worldwide. Remote working provided leaders a window to look through the lives of their teams. Organizations that created diverse groups and inclusive leaders, found that this diversity in the workforce enabled them to solve complex problems. Companies with inclusive cultures leveraged skills across teams to mitigate risks and identify new business opportunities. Read More 

Some Inspiring Brands

Leading tech companies such as Apple, IBM, Airbnb, Netflix, and Google have solid DEI manifestos. They have built DEI strategy teams that actively work towards adhering to them. The State of DEI in Tech 2021 report by Built-in shows that 46% of companies have a DEI manifesto in 2020 and is expected to be around 56% by the 2021-year end. 66% percent of tech companies plan to implement DEI metrics reports in 2021 to measure the credible DEI efforts. (Source)

  1. Netflix inspiring cultural change: It lives by its manifesto of diversity. The Netflix Fund for Creative Equity is committing to invest $100 million over the next five years in organizations that help underrepresented communities train and find jobs in TV and film. Earlier in January, the streaming giant released its first-ever inclusion report – Inclusion Takes Root at Netflix: Our First Report. The report takes you through the numbers and D&I initiatives in Netflix. Inclusion recruiting programs, equitable pay, flexible parental leave policy, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), and more.  
  2. Slack: The collaboration and project management tool app keeps its DEI initiatives close to its core values. As per its 2019 DEI published reports, women constitute 45.8% of their workforce and 50.2% of the managers (employees with direct reports) are women, globally.
    The Slack for Good initiative aims at increasing the number of historically underrepresented individuals in the technology industry. Few of their initiatives include: pledging 1% of company equity, time and product to the community, offering grants to local organizations. They also have a pilot programme that aims to help ex-offenders find long-term skilled employment in the technology sector
  3. Interpublic Group (IPG): Driving D&I since 2005: A leading advertising company IPG has close to 55,000 employees with 22% in People of Color in total management. For the last 15 years, IPG has actively worked towards building diversity, equity and inclusion. This has resulted in IPG earning a 100% rating on the Corporate Equality Index.
    They’re also the first global marketing services holding company to be included on the HRC’s list of ‘Best Places to Work’ for LGBTQ+ people. In 2021, IPG was named to the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index for the second year in a row. (Source)

What can you do to adopt diversity equity and inclusion in the workplace?

First, start asking the right questions and begin the introspection. What are the unconscious biases we need to unpack? Where can the organization start with its DEI efforts? Can the organization assemble employee resource groups (ERGs) to create more inclusive language within each department?

Secondly, analyze the human resources data. What have been the hiring practices? Is the job posting language inviting hires from diverse communities? What demographics is the talent acquisition team working within? Are we creating balanced teams at the top and across the hierarchy? 

Additionally, tailor DEI programs as per departments, demographics, and regions. Not every team faces the same challenges. Developing a curious approach and empathy towards employee experiences will enable leaders to create personalized yet leveled initiatives for diversity equity and inclusion in the workplace. 

And finally, don’t restrict to just diversity hiring – trying to fit an employee into the organizational culture. Change the hiring lens to recruit employees from diverse backgrounds as contributors to the culture instead.

Judith Williams, Global Head of People Sustainability & Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at SAP shares, “In tech, we often hire for culture fit. Instead, we should hire for cultural contribution. Ask: ‘What does this new hire bring to my team that I don’t already have; what skills, background, and perspectives?’

Getting started with DEI initiatives: learn with Emeritus

Learn how to design DEI strategy in your organization with Cambridge Judge Business School – DEI certificate program offered through Emeritus. Through the program, leaders and HR professionals study biases and practices that hinder diversity in organizations. Learners can also learn about strategies to diversify the workforce and the role of data in planning DEI initiatives.

By Janice Godinho

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