The imperative for implementing diversity initiatives has become clear to nearly all employers. In addition to accommodating our changing demographics and the ethical considerations involved in promoting inclusivity across hiring and culture within organizations, companies have also learned that providing access to individuals within diverse groups gives them superior access to the talent pool at large.
In this article, we’ll outline some of the dynamics within the experience of companies striving to be more inclusive, statistics around demographics and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) practices as they relate to companies, and how organizations—and recruiters themselves—can identify and overcome deficiencies in these areas.
Diversity and Inclusion Statistics
According to the 2020 Census, those who identify as “white, non-Hispanic” in the US fell for the first time on record. What this means is that groups once considered to be “minorities” will ultimately attain majority status. A 2020 survey by the employer ranking website Glassdoor revealed that 76% of job seekers and employees believe that inclusion efforts were important to them when choosing a company to work for.
This reflects a growing solidarity amongst people who aren’t members of diverse groups for members of diverse groups, as well as between those in different groups. It also reflects a clear majority of job seekers. It can be presumed by extension that this majority is more likely to look with disfavor upon companies that ignore the growing trends and fail to consider diverse groups in their hiring practices and corporate culture.
The benefits of organizations taking advantage of increasing diversity within the talent pool by implementing DEIB efforts have also been well-documented. The Glassdoor survey showed that diversity in management areas has been shown to increase companies’ revenue by an average of 19%, and that gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to beat their industries’ median financial returns. This was supported by a recent report released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which indicated that organizations with formalized policies of inclusion are more likely to see higher financial performance than those that do not.
Perception Problems Persist
Despite this and the increasing efforts of many companies across nearly all industries to be mindful of the need for inclusion, there are still deficiencies and diverse groups that “fall through the cracks” with regard to inclusion. According to one 2020 study, only 17% of workers supported the increased recruiting of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, the rationale being that the employees surveyed believed that their companies were already diverse. In the same study, only 20% valued hiring women in leadership positions, and only 14% valued a focus on LGBTQ awareness and sensitivity.
Based on data published by Black Enterprise, many of the deficiencies we’re seeing arise from employees harboring a superficial view of diversity, and/or of what inclusivity represents. For example, an organization may have a healthy balance of male and female employees and people from a range of races, leading to a perception that it is diverse. However, if the company doesn’t employ workers of varying ages or sexual orientations, it may not be quite as diverse as it is perceived to be. In many cases, employees may identify a single colleague from a diverse group (e.g., LGBTQ, a foreign national, atypical) and determine that their business is diverse due to the presence of that one employee.
Black Enterprise also said that around 19% of workers polled were unsure if their companies were committed to diversity, with 8% believing their companies were not.
Establish What Diversity & Inclusion Are
Based on the above statistics and the aggregate of anecdotal information, it seems clear that there is still some work to be done with regard to establishing parameters around diversity and inclusion. Clarity in these areas will go a long way toward helping organizations determine what they need to do in order to craft meaningful diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), diversity is defined as “any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another.” In the context of the workplace, this means perspectives, work experiences, life styles and cultures. HUD defines inclusion as “a state of being valued, respected and supported… focusing on the needs of every individual and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve his or her full potential.” They recommend that inclusion “should be reflected in an organization’s culture, practices and relationships that are in place to support a diverse workforce.”
In the operative sense, when we speak of diversity and inclusion, we’re talking about those from diverse ethnic backgrounds (black & brown), as well as women, LGBTQ+, neuro (neurodivergent, atypical or on the Spectrum), Generation Z to Baby Boomers, veterans and those with disabilities. Given the statistics above, we can now see the real difference between diversity and inclusion: diversity is a fact of life, wherein inclusion is a response that employers can choose to make, or not to make.
Closing Those Gaps
According to a 2018 Forbes article on this very topic, the first step toward identifying diversity gaps in an organization is to dispense with the aforementioned superficial views around DEIB and to think more expansively. In this respect, top-down cultural initiatives within a company will foster more enhanced perspectives within its workforce, as well as maintaining them in the long term. The magazine further admonishes companies to take the imperatives for DEIB to heart, as opposed to simply responding to trends for the sake of optics. Such insincere efforts, they say, will only bring about short term, unsustainable results.
Sincere efforts, on the other hand, project authenticity, which Forbes also strongly advocates. This not only attracts diverse talent, but gets them to stay because they feel genuinely included.
Other recommendations covered these areas:
Engaging employees: The best way to gauge the culture of your organization is to ask rank-and-file employees, rather than relying on your own (or managers’) subjective assessments. Focus groups and surveys are great vehicles for making these determinations.
Incentivizing individual efforts: This not only will project sincerity, but will get employees to really think about how to enhance the organization’s culture in the area of DEIB, because people tend to respond positively to what they are measured on and recognized for.
Promoting DEIB from top to bottom: If yours is a diverse and inclusive company, then executives and senior leadership should reflect this. Some companies have made efforts to promote a diverse workforce in their warehouses and call centers, but not amongst their leadership. This may be great for short-term optics, but it doesn’t foster inclusivity.
Learning from others: There’s nothing wrong with emulating organizations that have authentically inclusive cultures. Identify companies, whether in or outside of your industry, and take up similar initiatives and strategies. Most of these readily showcase their efforts and successes in these areas.
As an example, Accenture is a multinational professional services company specializing in information technology services. They’ve earned the top spot more than once on the Refinitiv Diversity & Inclusion Index, which recognizes companies with the most diverse and inclusive workplaces. Some of the initiatives which garnered the company that recognition include a diverse board of directors, a Pride Ally program, a 27,000-member Disability Champions network, and a $973 million investiture in talent development.
Key ingredients shared by companies with healthy recipes for DEIB typically include:
- Ongoing efforts in evaluating corporate culture in the areas of DEIB
- Helping all workers understand the benefits of working with diverse teams
- Working to help leaders manage diverse teams
- Targeted professional development that enables women, LGBTQ people, ethnic minorities and the members of other underrepresented groups to build skills and thrive within the organization
At this point, it’s become clear that promoting diversity and inclusion is good business as well as reflecting good citizenship.