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DEI, also known as DE&I, is an acronym for diversity, equity, and inclusion—and it’s crucial to your business success.

Two men and two women talking and sitting around a small table with laptops and notepads

Diverse teams experience increased employee engagement, productivity, and offer perspectives that approach challenges in new ways. But to truly understand DEI, you need to break it down into its three distinct parts.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are terms that refer how organizations should view their  programs, policies, values, strategies, and practices as it relates to employees, and customers experiences.  

Each term is connected, but has its own unique meaning on the experiences of any company’s key stakeholder group. The data has shown that companies who prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion are more profitable and have healthier company cultures. 

Each component has something important to add to the entire picture:

Workforce diversity is about understanding, accepting, and valuing the differences between people. Perceptions of diversity are different depending on age, background, and other factors. 

A brief list of common types of diversity includes:

  • Ethnicity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Physical ability
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Religion
  • Socio-economic status
  • Nation of origin
  • Veteran status
  • Education
  • Political affiliation

This is just a sampling of the common types of diversity. As you can see, some diversity traits are visible and some are not. Diversity goes beyond mere demographics. Everyone has their own unique identity that influences their best work practices. 

Think of diversity in terms of understanding and valuing the differences in employees instead of focusing on what those differences are.Many brands hire employees and do business guided by their values around diversity, such as Microsoft, Progressive Insurance, and Hilton.  

In workplace equity, each individual is offered opportunities regardless of circumstance. This means that it’s important to understand the historical impact your policies and practices are having on your employees in key systems (i.e. performance management, promotions, attrition, etc.). This should be built into your organizational framework and be a part of your company’s DNA with a plan for creating, maintaining, and protecting equity.

A company that consistently shows up on lists of brands with workplace equity is Accenture. Their board of directors has individuals from six countries and 42% are women—including the Chair and CEO. They promote equality with multiple programs for groups and allies.

Inclusion is the creation of an environment where every employee is welcomed, respected, valued, supported and can do their best work. Workplace inclusion generates a feeling of belonging for every employee. What is the most important factor in creating an inclusive workplace? If you asked your employees, a majority of them would say “respect.”

One major factor that undermines inclusion is the use of microaggressions. These subtle—and often unintentional—acts of prejudice are widespread. A SurveyMonkey study found that more than 26% of Americans have definitely experienced a microaggression at work and 22% are unsure. 

Common microaggressions include unprofessional behavior, hearing demeaning comments about peers, and having someone’s idea taken by someone else. Encourage employees to report these issues so that you can provide education and resources to curtail the behaviors.

Kaiser Permanente, a provider of healthcare solutions, is unique in that 60% of employees are people of color. 75% of the staff, and half of the executive team, are female. Kaiser Permanente promotes a “speak up” culture and encourages employees to have a voice to enact change.

Encourage allyship to promote actively working for the inclusion of a marginalized group. An ally is a person that actively promotes and hopes to advance the cultural inclusion of a particular group through positive, conscious efforts. To be an ally, you need to act. Intention is not enough to help underrepresented groups.

Tip: To enact meaningful change for your employees, you must address their physical, mental, emotional, and financial wellbeing, along with work-life balance and social equity. 

Together, diversity, equity, and inclusion not only create positive experiences for employees but also benefits your business as well. It’s important to note that all three must be addressed for your company to succeed. 

A recent study by McKinsey & Company found that companies in the top quartile of gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability than peer companies.

Increased profitability is just one advantage of DEI in the workplace. Here are a few more:

Rather than limit your recruitment efforts to a limited number of applicants, use principles of DEI to expand the talent pool of qualified candidates for your company. According to a 2021 SurveyMonkey study, a large portion of of the workforce (78%) says it is important to them to work at an organization that prioritizes diversity and inclusion, and in fact more than half (53%) consider it to be “very important” to them.

Your commitment to DE&I should be evident to job seekers when they research your company before interviewing, when they interview, when they talk with HR staff, and when they meet potential colleagues. Every person a candidate interacts with should own the commitment the company has to DE&I.

Employee engagement is a critical component of a company’s success. Employees who are actively engaged have fewer absences, higher productivity, and fewer on-the-job accidents. Companies with high employee engagement see higher retention rates, better customer service, higher sales, and higher profitability.  

Engaged employees are more dedicated to your company’s success. DE&I increases employee engagement when individuals see others like themselves in a variety of positions—at all management levels—in your company. They can see themselves as having opportunities and commit themselves to work to make it happen for them.

Employees with a diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, thinking styles, and life experiences bring new and challenging ideas to the table, opening the door for innovation. Diverse perspectives can lead to a better product. With a DEI program in place, these employees feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their ideas.

Imagine a company in which everyone just agrees to everything and nobody challenges the decisions of the leaders. Unfortunately, this is the case in some businesses, and it doesn’t yield great results. A diverse, inclusive workforce brings challenges and opinions to the discussion, pressing forward for better risk assessment and ultimately, better decisions.

According to a recent study, employees who work in environments that foster a sense of belonging are more comfortable speaking up without repercussions.

Forbes conducted research on inclusive decision making and found that inclusive teams:

  • Make better decisions up to 87% of the time
  • Make decisions two times faster with half the meetings
  • Make decisions that deliver 60% better results

Effective DEI programs provide a feeling of belonging for all employees. By generating feelings of belonging and respect, employees feel comfortable showing their authentic selves. This gives managers information about what motivates their employees and what they can do to keep them on board. 

Tip: Use SurveyMonkey to measure diversity and inclusion at your company.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are key concepts that equal improved employee experience and increased business success. To make the biggest impact, you need to have measures that address all three components of DE&I throughout the lifecycle of the employee—from recruitment to the end of their time with your company. 

Let’s get started on DE&I for your organization. Read our comprehensive DEI guide now.

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