Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are not foreign concepts in today’s workplace. Managers seek to hire inclusive teams, leaders feel a sense of urgency to remain competitive, job seekers value a workplace where they feel a sense of belonging. They have certainly evolved from buzzwords into essential pillars of organizational success. This article will delve into the different lenses of DEI and their impact as strategic imperatives in an organization.
Defining Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
At the basic level, DEI refers to concepts aimed at acknowledging and valuing differences among individuals with respect to lenses such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, abilities, religion and more. These principles promote equitable treatment and strive to meet the needs of employees from different life experiences.
The terms diversity, equity and inclusion are used individually or in some combination. DEI practitioners may add the additional dimension of belonging to create DEIB (at Strasity we call it DIBE). Each term describes important interconnected concepts that when understood, create valuable return.
Diversity refers to the presence of a variety of attributes within an organization or group. It encompasses various demographic attributes that impact and shape an individual’s perspective and experience in the world. Further, an individual’s attributes may intersect to create barriers and experiences, a concept called intersectionality. These attributes include:
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- Physical ability
- Religious beliefs
- Socioeconomic status
- Educational background
Equity describes an environment when everyone is provided the opportunities and resources according to their diverse needs in a way that enables everyone to participate to the same extent
Inclusion refers to the deliberate effort to create a culture where all individuals feel respected, wholly accepted and the diversity created within the group is valued.
Belonging describes the sense of acceptance, support, inclusion and connection that an individual feels within an environment. It is tied to feeling valued and accepted for who one is. It encompasses creating a space where individuals feel they have a meaningful connection and contribute to the group.
The DEI landscape encompasses many more terms covered in our other insights. As the space evolves, the array of terms, concepts and strategies grow to ensure a comprehensive understanding and discourse of the dimensions that make individuals unique. Grasping these DEI concepts are crucial to meeting the needs of individuals who interact with or work within an organization.
Applying DEI in Business
The application of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in an organization is not limited to HR operations. Prioritizing DEI within a company is to hold it as a core value; a day-to-day commitment that drives behavior and decisions to achieve business goals. Every business function can and should implement initiatives as part of the larger DEI strategy. For example,
- A company’s sales and customer success team may increase their cultural diversity and awareness, bringing a variety of perspectives and ideas to connect with potential customers as they expand into new markets.
- A marketing team may evaluate the inclusivity in their copy language or the storytelling of their advertisement to not alienate a segment of their target market.
- Partnering with diverse suppliers increases competition among suppliers and thereby improving product quality and reducing costs. Additionally, companies supporting traditionally underrepresented groups create economic opportunities for disadvantaged communities.
On a macro-level each industry faces its own DEI related challenges and dynamics. For example, the retention of women in male dominated industries or retail consumers with an increasing awareness of a brand’s inclusive consumer journey efforts (and missteps). As such, businesses need to tackle the unique internal and external challenges with a comprehensive and a company-wide strategy to create organizational transformation.
The Impacts of a DEI Strategy
DEI is an investment and like many strategies, takes time and resources to cultivate. However, its return is worth the effort and not only benefits the wellbeing and productivity of its workforce but also a company’s bottom line.
The business case for diversity is growing as the correlation between DEI and financial performance has been shown time and time again. For example, McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity within their executive teams were 25% more likely to outperform and have above-average profitability.
The effects of a DEI strategy create a positive feedback loop which directly impact an organization’s profitability and long-term success. Other impacts and benefits on a company’s performance include:
Employee Retention and Talent Attraction
Building a culture of inclusivity creates an environment where employees feel valued, respected and psychologically safe. Employee engagement and satisfaction with their employer increases when they feel their needs are met. Further, studies have shown that candidates, particularly younger ones, are looking for employers that share their values and prioritize DEIB. Leaders not only wish to do right by their employees, but retaining and attracting more top talent helps companies stay competitive in an ever-changing business environment.
A focus on diversity and inclusion helps improve an organization’s reputation. Public relations and the ethical commitments of an organization matter in the eyes of stakeholders such as investors, consumers, candidates, vendors and employees when they decide how to interact with the organization. This can be particularly important for organizations that have a long history in a community, as they may be more closely associated with the community’s values and culture.
Innovation and Improved Decision Making
When an organization’s workforce is diverse, it delivers a wider range of ideas and perspectives from various backgrounds. Further, top talent who feel psychologically safe are empowered to share their ideas, improving their productivity. In a fast-paced, competitive business environment innovation and creative solutioning are drivers of success.
Building a DEI Strategy and cultivating diverse and inclusive workplaces take time and resources. To be successful, DEI must be a commitment and core value of the organization’s internal brand, a value that drives behaviours and decisions. Leaders can start with this internal checklist to examine, improve and expand their diversity efforts.
As organizations navigate the diverse landscapes of DEI, they engage in commitments that extend beyond HR operations. The strategic integration of DEI in every face of business is not just a corporate strategy; it is an enduring investment in the well-being of individuals and the lasting success of the organization.