In this article, we define Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), explore the benefits of creating a diverse and inclusive workplace culture, and learn strategies to successfully promote DEI in your organization thanks to insights from a live discussion with two HR pros: Courtnie Barret-Parks, VP of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Strategy at Randstad Sourceright, and Grace Lim, Senior Inclusion Manager at MongoDB.
“Organizations that don't embrace equity, diversity, and inclusion will be left behind.” - Courtnie Barret-Parks, VP of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Strategy at Randstad Sourceright
Defining Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Diversity refers to the differences that exist within a group of people, including differences in race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, and much more. Equity refers to fairness and equal treatment for all individuals, regardless of their differences. Inclusion refers to creating a workplace culture that values and respects the differences that exist among employees.
“Remember, diversity just means different,” says Barret-Parks who has 10 years of experience in talent sourcing and is VP of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Strategy at Randstad Sourceright.
The concept of diversity is often associated with factors such as race, culture, and origin. However, a deeper understanding of the term includes how we think, work, and communicate. An effective DEI strategy recognizes the value of this uniqueness and supports each employee in achieving their full potential.
"DEI allows for equal opportunity. Equity means it's good for all, not just for a certain group of individuals." - Grace Lim, Senior Inclusion Manager at MongoDB
The Importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace
In today's workforce, candidates prioritize working in an environment where they feel valued and respected. Additionally, a diverse and inclusive workplace can lead to increased innovation and creativity, as employees from diverse backgrounds bring different perspectives and ideas to the table.
An inclusive workplace that supports diversity also helps attract and retain top talent. Lim, former Talent Sourcing Lead for Google and Stripe, states that "Candidates want to work in an inclusive environment where they can bring their authentic selves to work and have psychological safety. And two, they do want to see themselves represented in leadership. Knowing there is a pathway for people that look and talk like them is incredibly important. High wages and cool benefits, these don't keep them at a company long term."
Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is essential for creating a positive, supportive, and productive work environment. When employees feel valued and respected for who they are and can see with their own eyes that they have an opportunity to grow and level up in the company, they are more likely to stay engaged and motivated.
The Business Case for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
There is a strong business case for embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, companies with more diverse workforces are more likely to outperform their less diverse peers. Additionally, companies with diverse leadership teams are more likely to make better decisions and achieve better financial results. Not to mention its link to increased employee engagement and productivity as well as improved innovation and creativity.
Barret-Parks shares more statistics, “There was a recent survey by Deloitte that found that 80% of workers consider how inclusive an organization is when making a choice on employment and 39% would leave their current employer for a more inclusive one.”
In a talent-scarce market, recruiting and retaining top talent has become more crucial than ever before, and both cost companies valuable time and money. Companies that are ahead of the curve pay attention to the needs of employees and candidates.
“The millennial and Gen Z job seekers are looking at the values and the social responsibility of companies. It costs a lot of money to recruit and to draw people in and it costs even more if they leave. So all the great work that you're doing on the front end to draw diverse talent in doesn't matter if you can't retain them, if they don't feel safe, if they don't feel valued, and if they don't feel like they align with the mission and the goals of the organization,” Barret-Parks adds.
Is there a conflict between DEI and Equal Opportunity?
When discussing the importance of DEI initiatives in the workplace, a common criticism is that they are at odds with the principle of Equal Opportunity. However, this perception is based on a misconception of what DEI actually entails. DEI and Equal Opportunity are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary concepts that, when implemented effectively, can reinforce and enhance each other.
Lim clarifies, “DEI allows for equal opportunity. When we define the term equal opportunity, it also means equal access and treatment. DEI work centers around the fact that we acknowledge and recognize there are historically marginalized communities in certain sectors and companies and we want to have intentional efforts so that every single individual–regardless of their background, race, or gender–has the opportunity to succeed.”
“We have to be careful that when we think about diversity, we aren't equating that to a lack of quality or decrease in performance. That thought process leads to a lot of biases and challenges that we see especially in the hiring process. Sometimes leaders feel that diversity means the quality of candidates will suffer, but that's not the case, right? We'll always hire and advance and advocate for the best candidate for the role,” Barret-Parks affirms.
The debate between DEI and Equal Opportunity is largely unfounded. By implementing effective DEI initiatives, companies can enhance their commitment to equal access and treatment for all individuals. By dispelling these myths and embracing the power of DEI, companies can create a more inclusive and equitable workplace for everyone.
“Remember, diversity just means different.”
Overcoming Challenges in Embracing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace can be challenging, especially if a company has a history of homogeneity. Some of the challenges that companies may face include resistance to change, lack of understanding of different cultures and backgrounds, and unconscious bias. We asked our passionate DEI pros about the biggest challenges that arise and the ways to overcome them.
To ensure organizational success, Barret-Parks emphasizes the importance of securing buy-in from top-level leadership. However, this support must also be extended to all leaders and influencers throughout the organization to achieve widespread adoption and implementation. She says, “I think buy-in at the executive level is a huge one. But what I found is that you can have buy-in at the executive level but then it doesn't trickle down to that middle management layer where a lot of issues or concerns happen.”
“If your executives are saying one thing then when you get down to the middle management layer, people are experiencing things one-on-one and don't align with the values of the organization, don't align with the message that the executives are saying, that's because there's a disconnect somewhere in that chain,” she explains.
Making the case
With buy-in being a major challenge to overcome, we move on to the next step: making the case to win them over. As with any communications campaign, it’s important to know your audience. So we asked who would normally oppose a move to DEI. In Lim’s words:
- Those with a very limited working experience with groups
- Those that see it as a quota to hit versus actual long-term efforts needed to fight against systemic problems
- Those that believe that hiring underrepresented talent is lowering the bar and it's not top talent.
To get these stakeholders on board, both Lim and Barret-Parks suggest understanding your audience and what matters to them.
“One thing I learned about engaging with executives, and it took me a while to understand this, is that you have to speak in a language that impacts what they're looking for, what their needs are,” shares Barret-Parks.
Chiming in, Lim suggests asking, “What is top priority for that individual or that group? Is it increasing revenue quickly since they're a sales leader or is it improving employee satisfaction because their scores have been really bad year over year? Then I tie it to that business impact.”
Another pro tip from Lim is asking for help from someone that the stakeholder trusts and respects to get them on board your initiative.
“The other thing that's also helpful is influencing by having other senior executive sponsors be able to show that positive impact as well. Not just coming from a “diversity leader”, but someone that they respect and also they see as like a peer or a mentor to be able to articulate that impact,” Lim suggests.
You earned buy-in from leadership and the whole organization. Now what? Accountability is a big barrier to success according to both our HR pros as well as the audience.
“I think the number one (challenge) is lack of accountability. How is everyone in the organization held accountable to DEI progress and commitments and are we all centering our work around the same objectives and priorities,” says Lim.
To make sure everyone is held accountable, she suggests being crystal clear about the commitments and the reasons why the organization is committing DEI. Lim drills it down to specifics, “Is it more representation within leadership? Is it more equitable policies or processes for promotion? Employees should understand the direct, the strategic direction the organization is taking and why.”
Beyond crystal clear commitments and strategies, are ultra clear and measurable goals. She says, “Setting really clear measurable goals can hold leaders accountable because you can monitor the progress.”
A mindset change
A key challenge in the DEI initiatives within organizations is to make a fundamental mindset shift. As Lim explains, this requires a deep understanding of what DEI truly means and entails and goes beyond simply adding diverse candidates to a team. She says it's crucial to start with education and awareness around the importance of DEI, its benefits, and its challenges. Leaders must be willing to challenge their own biases and assumptions and foster a culture that values and prioritizes diversity and inclusion. By doing so, organizations can create an environment that allows all individuals to thrive and succeed, regardless of their background or identity.
This shift in mindset cannot solely rely on the efforts of a single DEI program manager or leader. Organizations must make sure their diversity strategy aligns with their overall strategy and that there is buy-in and support from all parts of the organization. As Barret-Parks warns, simply hiring one person to oversee DEI initiatives without providing adequate support or alignment with the organization's goals sets them up for failure.
Measuring the Success of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts
Measuring the impact of DEI initiatives can be challenging but it is crucial to track progress and identify areas for improvement. According to Barret-Parks, there are different ways to track the impact of DEI initiatives, including hard concrete numbers such as representation, numbers of promotions, and attrition.
Additionally, engagement and employee experience can be tracked through surveys and other tools. However, tracking the impact of outreach can be challenging. She says, “There is and always will be a little bit of manual tracking and I know we hate to hear that. But you have to be tracking where you're posting, who you're connecting with, and in which outreach sources were fruitful and returned something.”
In terms of tools that automate the process, Barret-Parks mentions TalentRadar, “It's like a data analytics tool so we're able to kind of track all of our metrics. So if we're working with the client account, we can track things like time to fill, we can also align with our applicant tracking system and look at the diversity of the candidate pool.”
Lim recounts using Gem as the tool to measure diversity in hiring efforts when she was working at Stripe and shared initiatives from her time at Google. But ultimately, Lim says that measuring success depends on the exact program or initiative being tracked. She says, “I think number one is the representation of the hires and the pipeline, retention, and the progression within the company. If you just look at the representation of the hires and the pipeline, what you might see is… you bring in exceptional talent but they are leaving rapidly.”
Measuring the success of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts is essential for ensuring that companies are making progress in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace culture. We’ll list some of the metrics to help you:
- Employee engagement surveys
- Diversity and inclusion metrics, such as the percentage of candidates and employees from underrepresented groups
- Employee retention rates
- Employee satisfaction rates
- Employee sentiment on inclusion and the ability to bring their true self to work
Best Practices for Embracing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Our conversation with our two DEI advocates was an eye-opening experience that left us with a wealth of knowledge. While we wish we had more time to delve deeper into the topic, we managed to gather these 10 best practices for embracing DEI.
- Establish diversity and inclusion goals and metrics.
- Communicate the DEI strategy clearly, from whats to whys.
- Win the buy-in of all stakeholders by showing them how DEI can help them achieve their goals.
- Provide diversity and inclusion training for leaders and all employees.
- Encourage employee resource groups and affinity groups.
- Ensure that all job postings are inclusive and free from bias.
- Recruit from a diverse pool of candidates.
- Provide accommodations for employees with disabilities.
- Track metrics through automated tools and manually to measure impact and ensure success.
- Hold leaders and teams accountable for meeting diversity and inclusion goals by tracking metrics and using your voice to celebrate wins and call out deficiencies.
Creating a work environment that is inclusive and equitable is crucial to allow all individuals to thrive and bring their best ideas to the table. We all have a responsibility to foster an environment where everyone feels welcomed and valued. It's essential to contribute to DEI in our day-to-day activities to create a sense of belonging, especially since we spend the majority of our day at work.
To close, Lim emphasized the importance of speaking up when an opportunity arises to create an inclusive environment. For example, in meetings, team communication, collaboration, processes, and daily language usage, we should prioritize making everyone feel heard and supported.
Barret-Parks highlighted the importance of empathy in contributing to DEI. Empathy is not innate; it requires effort to understand others' perspectives genuinely. Listening to understand and fostering open communication and dialogue is crucial.
In conclusion, we are all responsible for creating an equitable and inclusive work environment. We should contribute to DEI in our day-to-day activities by being empathetic, speaking up, and fostering open communication and dialogue. We should also hold organizations accountable by ensuring their actions align with their DEI commitments. Genuine DEI prioritization is visible through leadership commitment, diversity in executive teams, and consistency in defining progress and success.
When asked whether Barret-Parks has encountered any roadblocks among hesitant clients when it comes to implementing DEI initiatives, Barret-Parks says, “Honestly at this point I haven't come across any client that's needed to be convinced. At the end of the day, organizations that don't embrace equity, diversity, and inclusion will be left behind. And I think companies are realizing that more and more.”
Are you moving forward with DEI in mind?