January 18, 2022

Diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace: Five ways to make the most of your DEI initiatives

Futurist, author, and speaker Alexandra Levit explores employee perspectives on DEI in the workplace, as revealed by Ceridian’s 2022 Pulse of Talent survey, followed by tips for employers to optimize their DEI initiatives.

For most organisations, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals are aspirational. Businesses, and the leaders within them, want to be as inclusive as possible. However, they often languish at the stage of simply getting a diverse group of employees into the room.

In Ceridian’s 2022 Pulse of Talent survey of more than 6,800 workers from around the globe, we see some positive news about the state of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace today. Fifty-four percent of respondents described their organisations as very or extremely diverse, and only 2% said their organisations aren’t diverse at all. Sixty-eight percent rated their employers as being good or excellent at fostering a culture of belonging.

However, there is still room for improvement. Just over half (53%) of this year’s Pulse of Talent respondents said their organisations are committed to addressing inequities in the workplace, and only 49% reported knowing that their employer has a DEI strategy.

Of those respondents who said their organisations have a DEI strategy, less than one-third (32%) felt they are making progress towards diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. Only 14% said their employers are leaders in DEI.

This data may indicate that efforts to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace are occurring behind the scenes but aren’t impacting the employee experience.

Also of note in the latest Pulse of Talent survey findings is that an overall lack of alignment between employer and employee values – which may include DEI – is driving some turnover. Twenty percent of respondents who are seeking a new job cite it as the reason they’re leaving.

So, how can employers move beyond just paying lip service to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and ensure their DEI initiatives have a meaningful impact on their workforce and culture? Here are five tips.

Set appropriate DEI metrics

Unfortunately, some efforts aimed at achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace are undertaken for optics, with little intention to change an organization’s culture. But DEI programs are only as valuable as the degree to which they sufficiently motivate a diverse group of employees to join and stay with your company, which means accurate progress tracking is essential.

Many organisations already have representation metrics, meaning they measure whether the number of diverse employees in a department or job level is suitable given overall demographics. However, your DEI initiatives should also move the needle on metrics such as a diverse group of employees interviewed, a diverse group of employees promoted, a diverse group of employees retained within the company, and a diverse group of employees in senior leadership positions.

Perform a DEI analysis

Here’s where employee listening, or the process by which you capture and understand the employee experience, can get you started on taking your DEI initiatives to the next level.

Just because you’ve taken actions to focus on DEI or set up employee resource groups (ERGs) or committees already doesn’t mean you shouldn’t regularly revisit your strategy. You can engage a third-party expert to perform a DEI analysis to understand how various programs, messaging, and measurement techniques fit together and where you stand compared to your competitors.

People analytics platforms can also help you understand what marginalized groups experience throughout your employee lifecycle and identify any issues, how these came about, and what to do about them.

Your best source of information, however, may come from asking people directly. By surveying or interviewing diverse employees about what they think of workplace DEI efforts to date and what else they feel needs to be done, you will gain a more accurate picture of the true impact of your efforts.

Revamp your materials, systems, and customs

In recent years, many organisations have adopted a “culture-add” philosophy (as opposed to culture fit, which values familiarity and sameness) and equity statements as part of their talent acquisition strategies. An equity statement can be as simple as encouraging candidates from all backgrounds, with all types of employment experiences, to apply to your open positions. Other companies have used artificial intelligence (AI) to mitigate unconscious bias in resume review and interviewing protocols.

In addition to talent acquisition, take stock of other areas of the employee lifecycle and determine if your materials are as inclusive as they could be. For example, does your employee handbook include gender neutral language? Do compensation and benefits, including PTO and paid holidays, resonate with all employees? Do new technology implementations and skills assessments consider the needs and preferences of diverse employees?

You should then create and communicate guidelines for advancing and supporting diverse employees. Promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace by sharing your pledge with all employees, making certain to emphasize why the commitment is so critical.

Improve feedback vehicles

While employee listening strategies like surveys, internal social media, and focus groups are useful for keeping tabs on sentiment, DEI in the workplace requires extra sensitivity. Employees may understandably worry about sharing negative DEI feedback with leaders, so be sure your system can collect it anonymously.

Employee listening vehicles like the ones listed above, as well as employee resource groups, are excellent tools for encouraging employees to speak up. These methods have powerful potential, given that 40% of 2022 Pulse of Talent respondents said they are comfortable expressing their opinions to their employers.

Ask what is and isn’t working for different groups, and when you hear concrete suggestions based on firsthand perspectives, make a concerted effort to implement feasible ideas.

Market your progress

If a DEI initiative gains support and is successful in driving key metrics, you want to increase its momentum. If very few people know about it, that’s difficult to do. Therefore, you should devise an internal marketing campaign to promote your DEI endeavors, engage more employees in them, and create a groundswell of excitement.

Designated senior stakeholders can validate and advertise initiatives from the top down, including program announcements in their company-wide communications. You can regularly feature DEI news on your homepage and social channels, and host online or offline training sessions that can serve as kickoff events for new initiatives.

In your marketing efforts, which may also include external outreach, if you can tie an initiative to a tangible DEI outcome such as an increase in diverse employees hired or promoted into senior roles, so much the better.

Whenever an organisation addresses diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace head on, there are bound to be hiccups. And in fact, the more inclusive your culture is, the more likely you are to hear dissenting opinions and passionate debates. Your goal is not to squash conflict so that the environment is always harmonious, but rather to provide a safe space for every employee to share their unique perspective.

Your current DEI efforts may not be enough for your employees right now, as some of our Pulse of Talent respondents indicate about their own employers. But if you can acknowledge this and put time and resources behind sincere efforts to improve, your workforce is likely to respond positively.

Alexandra Levit

Alexandra Levit is an author, consultant, speaker, and workplace expert. She has written several career advice books, and was formerly a nationally syndicated career columnist for The Wall Street Journal. Alexandra is currently a partner at organisational development firm PeopleResults.

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