Many companies approach Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) as a tool in response to bad press, employee or consumer complaints, or for positive brand spin, but the importance of DEI in the workplace goes beyond reactionary actions. DEI impacts every area of your organization, from the success of your products and services, the delivery of your goals, to your recruitment and employee retention outcomes.
In this three-part series on DEI, we’ll start by answering questions like “What is DEI?” and “Why is DEI important for hiring?” While these questions may seem basic at face-value, so many companies fail to understand these concepts.
What Is DEI in the Workplace?
More companies are being tasked with understanding and implementing DEI into their workplaces. In a recent survey, 76% of employees and job seekers said DEI was important when considering job offers.1 Before you can implement DEI into your hiring process, it’s important to define and understand exactly what DEI is.
There are three core components to DEI.
The D stands for diversity, which means a balanced representation of demographics and identities within your organization across gender, race, age, ability, nationality, sexuality, neurodiversity, and other demographic identities. Most organizations struggle with an imbalance of demographic representation, with very little representation of certain demographic groups versus other groups.
The E stands for equity, which means providing resources that correct for social and legal inequalities that have disproportionately impacted various identity groups. Equity also means empowering these historically underrepresented individuals to have decision-making authority and to equally benefit from organizational resources. Representation of various demographics isn’t effective if these individuals aren’t also empowered to be leaders and decision makers within your organization.
The I stands for inclusion, which means individuals of various identities and backgrounds feel a sense of belonging, autonomy, and fairness of treatment within your organization. If you recruit a variety of individuals with different identities, but don’t focus on building a welcoming and affirming culture, you’ll likely struggle to retain these individuals long term.
DEI is a series of habits, policies, and practices with the ultimate goal of distributing power so a variety of individuals from different identities can equally participate in and benefit from decision making and goal setting within your organization.
All three components are necessary to genuinely practice DEI within your company. Most companies focus only on diversity and demographic representation, recruiting individuals from underrepresented demographics but not ensuring their culture is respectful and supportive of those individuals’ identities, as well as not aligning opportunities for those same individuals to have decision making power and authority within the organization.
If diversity, equity, or inclusion is missing in your recruitment and culture building process, there’s likely an imbalance of power, poor resource distribution, and unfair treatment across colleagues. All three must be practiced to create the best outcomes for the most people and to improve overall employee collaboration and innovation.
Think of DEI like working out; it’s a series of tools and exercises that should be regularly used to maintain the strength of your organization, and to improve the baseline health of your operations.
Why Is DEI Important for Hiring?
Numerous studies show innovation, divergent thinking, and problem solving are increased through applying the insights and lived experiences of more diverse teams, particularly teams with a broader mix of racial, gender, and other identities represented.2 Organizations that devote time and resources to implementing DEI initiatives are also 2.6 times more likely to increase employee engagement and improve retention, due to a higher sense of belonging and connection among employees.3
Beyond the bottom line, DEI efforts create the best outcomes for the most people. Without practicing DEI effectively, you’ll likely have high turnover, struggle with innovation, and even receive legal action if there are notable discriminatory practices.
So to recap: why is DEI important in the workplace? When we all center DEI in every action we take, we’re creating organizations where everyone of any background can thrive, which in turn creates a better functioning community and better future for us all.
Wrapping Up: DEI Next Steps
Now that you understand what DEI is and why it’s important in hiring, your best next step is to learn how to implement DEI into your hiring process and learn why DEI training is important for employee retention. Look for parts II and III of this 3-part DEI series in the coming weeks.
- Glassdoor.com. (2020, September 30th). Diversity and Inclusion Workplace Survey. Glassdoor.com
- Ely and Thomas. (2020, November-December Issue). Getting Serious About Diversity: Enough Already with the Business Case.hbr.org.
- Bersin and Enderes. 2021, April) Elevating Equity: The Real Story of Diversity and Inclusion.joshbersin.com.