It is more than a trend or hashtag, it’s a reality: the active presence of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is essential for workplace success. Organizations with diverse workforces have happier and healthier employees, customers who feel more respected, and consistently stronger performance results. According to a recent Forbes survey, nearly 80 percent of talent managers now prioritize DEI to ensure hiring is unhindered by bias — unconscious or otherwise.
If you’re skeptical, consider that companies now have added incentive to be good citizens. You may have noticed the currently trending term “ESG,” which refers to a company’s performance on environmental (E), social (S), and governance (G) issues. It’s basically corporate responsibility with real consequences, and the world is watching. Socially conscious stakeholders are increasingly focused on employers’ ESG progress, including their advances in building workforces with a DEI profile that reflects all communities.
Almost 60 percent of HR leaders responding to the annual Findem Recruiting Trends study say attracting diverse candidates is their top focus in 2023. The report notes that “diversity is virtually a superpower for all key performance metrics,” explaining that “more diverse experiences and backgrounds can increase innovation [and] creativity, improve financial performance, and so much more.” The bottom line: In a highly competitive job market, workplaces that value DEI are in, and the rest are out.
That means gender diversity too. The latest Women in the Workplace study by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org found that women have continued to leave the workplace at higher rates than men. In the wake of the Great Resignation, many businesses are at risk of rolling back progress on gender equity, with wider talent gaps between men and women in STEM roles. Businesses are also working to address the compounded discrimination faced by women from traditionally marginalized communities, correcting course with new initiatives to level the playing field.
Diversity in hiring is only the “D” in DEI. It’s essential that employers practice equity in their recruiting practices as well as in the opportunities they offer people to grow in their careers. Top workplaces invest in the “E” with equitable employee development so people build their skill sets and advance to roles that offer more responsibility as well as more earning power. According to a WorldatWork and Fidelity Investments survey released in January, nearly three-quarters of organizations took action to improve pay equity in 2022, up 4 percent from 2021 and 1 percent since 2019.
Then there’s the “I.” Inclusion is the critical underpinning of diversity and equity because it speaks directly to the culture fostered by an employer. In inclusive workplaces, you’ll see transparency in hiring practices, initiatives that celebrate equity milestones, and groups like ERGs (employee resource groups) that champion dimensions of diversity. These employee-driven, executive-sponsored networks — which include employees from underrepresented populations and their allies — contribute to a sense of belonging and have a voice in the direction of their companies.
For DEI to last in any organization and make a meaningful difference, the conversation about it can never really stop. People will always be speaking up, creating new ways to come together, and driving greater change. As the best employers understand, it is vital work in progress — and progress worth celebrating in our Top 50.
— Susan Biemesderfer
*More top workplaces among tribal and Native-owned enterprises will be featured in the Fall issue of Winds of Change.