July 6, 2022

Achieving organizational agility through workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion

The power of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) extends far beyond fairness and instilling a sense of belonging in the office. Today, DEI goes hand in hand with organizational agility, innovation, and being change-ready through challenging times.

Workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). It’s on the lips, minds, and roadmaps of most business leaders today. Your organization might be embracing DEI to create psychological safety for your employees, to foster a more engaged workforce, and to instill a sense of belonging.

But did you know that championing DEI principles can also make your organization more agile, innovative, and resilient? Let’s take a closer look at how DEI can be an essential part of helping organizations prepare for future disruption.

DEI as a catalyst for organizational agility

In Ceridian’s 2022 Executive Survey, 2,000 global leaders were polled on their experiences pivoting their businesses through the pandemic. Their responses told a compelling story of triumph over disruption, new confidence out of chaos, and fresh directions in workforce management and cultural transformation. It also revealed DEI’s important role in navigating change. Just under half of our survey respondents (46%) indicated that DEI was the leading strategy used to ensure change readiness in their workplace cultures.

In our Executive Survey, we probed into the reasons why organizations implement diversity and inclusion programs in the first place. The answers suggest that leaders are starting to catch on to the full potential of DEI. The top three motivators for implementing a DEI strategy were: “It reflects our company values” (36%), “It allows us to be more innovative” (35%), and “It allows us to be more adaptable” (34%).

An Aon survey of HR professionals further demonstrates DEI’s perceived power to propel organizational agility. The survey asked its 1,500 plus global respondents what is needed today to build and maintain an agile workforce. Using the power of DEI to attract and retain culturally diverse employees came in at the top of the list, with 86% responding it was an extremely important or very important factor. Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace significantly outranked other important initiatives like teaching new digital skills, offering new career paths, and providing competitive compensation. 

Many HR professionals appear convinced that a culturally varied talent pool will bring new perspectives and different working styles and skills to help their organizations adapt, transform, and thrive.

Ensuring DEI initiatives are impactful

These survey findings signal a new way of understanding and benefiting from diversity. It extends beyond recruiting employees from different ethnicities or under-represented groups. Leveraging DEI consists of tapping into employees’ identity-related knowledge, unique experiences, and diverse viewpoints to empower teams and support future readiness. 

But our Executive Survey data shows that DEI intentions don’t align with actions. Ninety percent of respondents report having a DEI strategy, yet only one-third say that progress is being made in this area. And only 19% say their organization is a leader in DEI.

It’s hard for DEI to help make an organization change-ready with this lack of meaningful progress. Here are four ways you can ensure your DEI initiatives make an impact and further your workforce’s agility.

Require accountability

DEI initiatives can’t be the sole responsibility of one person within an organization. While an individual within HR or operations may lead these strategies, the most impactful DEI programs involve entire organizations. But this doesn’t mean that individuals aren’t accountable for their specific contributions.

Take the time to outline roles and responsibilities for your DEI initiatives. Who will do what and when? And how will they be measured? Be sure that the answers to these questions address the long-term, treating DEI as a journey not a one-off program.

Make real investments

Many organizations make the same mistake when it comes to implementing and maintaining DEI initiatives. They fail to provide these programs with essential resources like money, time, and people.

Conversations about DEI are important. But to truly move the needle towards workforce agility, resources are necessary. Companies should expect to make financial and staffing investments in DEI. These investments need to be revisited over time to ensure that they are adequate and are keeping pace with the evolving needs of DEI programs.

Think broadly

When building diverse teams that can support change readiness, it’s important to be broad in how you define diversity. DEI initiatives should seek to ensure that organizations are diverse in every way.

Representation matters for all people within an organization. DEI programs should be designed to understand the gaps in representation and correct them. For example, an organization could have a lack of older employees, or it may not have considered neurodiversity. Achieving proper representation starts with data – you can’t change what you don’t measure.

Give everyone a voice

Much like how everyone in an organization has a part to play in DEI initiatives, so too is there a role for everyone when measuring these programs. While someone at the senior level may be best qualified to lead DEI efforts, that person alone can’t proclaim them a success. Don’t assume that you have made an impact – find out how your people perceive things.

Ask your employees: Do they feel safe? Do they feel like they belong? What does inclusion mean to them? What is working and not working with current DEI initiatives? Are they even aware of those initiatives? Survey throughout the organization to ensure accurate sentiment is captured and, ultimately, that agility can be supported through diversity.­

When it comes to deploying DEI programs in the post-pandemic world, the latest data speaks loud and clear. An equitable, inclusive workforce with a diverse talent base is among the greatest assets a company can possess. By supporting and growing DEI programs, not only will you unleash greater agility, you give your organization the best chance to thrive in an uncertain future.

Donnebra McClendon is the Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Ceridian. She is an innovative thought leader and strategic business partner who focuses on cultivating consciously unbiased and intentionally inclusive leaders.

Donnebra McClendon

Donnebra McClendon is the Global Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Ceridian. She is an innovative thought leader and strategic business partner who focuses on cultivating consciously unbiased and intentionally inclusive leaders.

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