Why do we need Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (or DEI) in the workplace? The fast pace of business and daily life brought on by technological advances has businesses clamoring to be more innovative and agile. While hard skills still prevail, soft skills like creativity and teamwork now share center stage because of their impact on innovation. We also live in a time where Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are extremely important workplace and social issues. Conversations of racial and gender equality are advancing to the forefront in the living room and in the board room.

Because of these changes, DEI in the workplace is crucial for businesses to meet the demands of a modern landscape. Diversity and Inclusion is also important in providing a platform for social dialogue. When workplaces are diverse and inclusive, business and innovation thrive. When companies can become beacons of positive influence for social change, they attract new talent and even market share.

What is Diversity Equity and Inclusion?

Diversity is about perspective and representation. It encompasses tough conversation and supports inclusion, whether of race, gender, age, socioeconomic, or cognitive differences. Representation from all groups sets companies up well toward providing innovative perspectives to vital business solutions. 

While diversity is the act of bringing people to the table, inclusion is the action of empowering people to speak. Inclusion allows all people to be part of the process, creating environments conducive to feedback, supporting diversity, and being open. Inclusion is the catalyst of harnessing our diversity to achieve better innovation.

We define equity as fairness, sameness, and valuing diversity and inclusion. Equity embraces inclusion because it breaks down subconscious and conscious barriers and hierarchies. Lastly, equity must also consider the various factors that have marginalized certain groups in the workplace and actively work to reverse these factors.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are three interdependent practices vital to each other’s success. When leveraged correctly, the practice of DEI in the workplace empowers workplaces, and the people they comprise, to reach new business and career heights.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Matters in Business

Diverse and inclusive teams are more innovative, productive, and even healthier. Diverse perspectives are the ultimate catalyst for creativity and innovation. Inclusion is what helps ignite and harness diversity. With a sense of belonging and collaboration, DEI in the workplace directly correlates to better employee engagement and retention. As a result, DEI in the workplace is attributable to 30% better productivity, 15X more revenue, and even less workforce illness.

DEI in workplace culture

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion thrive in the right workplace culture. Workplace culture is built on the interactions and relationships developed within the workplace every day. DEI practices help people bring their best individual and collaborative selves. Creating an inclusive workplace environment fosters mentorship, teamwork, and relationship building that is crucial to changing representation at the senior leadership level. Achieving DEI in the workplace requires some logistical steps, but overall, true success comes down to our ability to transform and sustain an inclusive company culture.

How do we Create DEI in the Workplace?

DEI in the workplace comes down to building and embedding a strong inclusive culture. Culture transformation is a complex task with many nuanced obstacles along the way. Because of this, Diversity and Inclusion is a long-enduring journey that requires a comprehensive strategy and process. From recruiting, to hiring, onboarding, development, and eventual promotion, inclusion plays a role in every facet of a successful employee lifecycle.

To try and simplify this complex journey and the tasks they entail, let’s condense this into three stages: ASSES, EDUCATE, TRANSFORM. These stages complement each other in unique ways that culminate in a comprehensive process suitable for the challenges of achieving impactful culture change. The right strategy will positively impact leadership, talent development, organizational culture, employee engagement, and overall business performance.

ASSESS – For DEI in the workplace

An important first step for creating a good DEI strategy is getting the lay of the land and understanding areas of opportunity for growth. DEI transformation is a long-term process so having the infrastructure to also assess, analyze, and benchmark progress throughout is crucial. Effective DEI assessments fall into one of two buckets, cultural or logistical. With a good grasp of one or both of these categories, you will be able to plot a strategic and actionable roadmap. When building out and deploying assessments, consider the following:

A 360 Inclusive Leadership assessment: Are your leaders inclusive? Is their inclusion measurable? And most importantly, do their subordinates believe their leaders are inclusive? Leadership is the most important avenue to catalyzing culture change. One leader can have significant impact on hundreds of people by the example they set in how they treat others as it sets the tone for their entire team.

A Talent Development Audit: We keep reinforcing that companies and culture only go as far as the people they comprise. Our ability to attract, retain, and advance our talent is a huge indicator of the success of our culture. Diversity and Inclusion must become a leading influencer in the recruiting, hiring, development, and promotion efforts within your company. This is no small task. It’s often and we recommended this be executed in cooperation with a third-party entity.

EDUCATE – Unconscious Bias awareness and actionable inclusion

Unconscious Bias Awareness: Most people are extremely well-intentioned to be kind and equitable to their colleagues, but even those most educated in the DEI field carry unconscious biases. Our biases affect our daily interactions with others. If you have a brain, you have bias; it’s human nature, but it is our responsibility to understand our biases and learn how to adjust our perspectives. Additionally, this awareness is virtually useless if people do not have the context and tips to learn how to adjust their perspectives and actionably change. By giving context to ways that unconscious bias manifests in our lives and providing actionable tips to being more inclusive in these same situations, people will have the tools to be more inclusive tomorrow.

Courageous Conversations: Like we said before, Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace is a crucial platform for workplaces to host dialogue around key social issues. Workplaces are tremendous incubators for allyship and advocacy around serious topics pertaining to gender and racial equality. Training leaders to host and participate in courageous conversations is another example of actionable training with far-reaching positive impacts. Since the debate is unavoidable in today’s world, we benefit from mastering communication skills that guide constructive conversations.

TRANSFORM – Workplace culture at scale

After assessing company culture and processes and educating the workplace with the necessary knowledge and skills, we reach the transformation stage. We achieve transformation when we create actionable and demonstrable change that is sustained over a long period of time. We also must build change at a large enough scale to make noticeable change in the workplace culture. If we do not achieve this, our DEI strategies will not have a company-wide impact.

Here’s the problem. Sustaining learning and behavior change is extremely difficult. Doing so at a large scale is that much more daunting. In 2019, companies around the world spent over $70B on professional development training, 80% of which is wasted because it is not retained by employees. Only 12% of learners say they apply the skills from the training they receive to their actual jobs. Habit formation is achieved when people receive daily, even real-time, training. If a Diversity and Inclusion learning experience is delivered daily, it makes an impact daily. Doing so at scale effectively seals the transformation process.

Employee Resource Groups and frequent Diversity meetings are popular and effective tactics being utilized today, but technology holds the key to the future. Technology and AI are tackling traditional obstacles to achieving DEI in the workplace. DEI technology is helping deploy Diversity and Inclusion training at scale, but AI is also allowing this digital training experience to be optimized over time such that it fits individual learning styles and preferences. These new and quickly evolving technologies are exciting developments in the industry.

Ultimately, when mapping out a Diversity and Inclusion strategy make sure it is:

  • Engaging
  • Consistent
  • Timely
  • Scalable  

DEI Looking Forward

Many companies are looking for new, more effective ways to attract, retain, engage, and enable a diverse workforce. By identifying a few key actions based on their context and needs, organizational leaders can fast-forward positive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion outcomes and begin to fully see, appreciate, and engage all their talent. In doing so, workplaces become more creative, agile, and innovative.

When people are equipped to contribute the best versions of themselves, business thrives. This success continues to strengthen morale and culture which, in turn, strengthens a company’s external brand and its future ability to recruit rising talent. To conclude, DEI in the workplace will be an influencer of HR, talent acquisition, learning, and leadership development.

About Lead Inclusively

Lead Inclusively is a full-service Diversity Equity and Inclusion division of RevWork, Inc. supporting all aspects of DEI, People Experience, and Leadership Development. With a behavioral approach to Diversity and Inclusion, Lead Inclusively is revolutionizing the way companies foster an inclusive company culture. With assessments, workshops, and AI-powered technology, Lead Inclusively works to harness the nuances of culture change to foster DEI in the workplace which stimulates business success.

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