Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are longtime focuses of HR departments, and they have become increasingly important to potential employees. Job candidates seek companies that can demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusion because they want to be a part of an organization that reflects the broader world.
However, as companies look to cut costs, they’re narrowing the scope of DEI-based programs and focusing on legal requirements related to discrimination and harassment. These cuts can impact both hiring efforts and employee retention. Current employees are more likely to stay with a company that values them and provides opportunities for growth and advancement. And for potential employees, this could make the company a less desirable workplace.
How Committed Are Companies to DEI?
A 2023 Pew Research Center survey found that 61 percent of workers had experience with DEI at their companies. Yet plenty of companies still aren’t practicing DEI, or in other cases, are cutting back due to cost concerns. A 2023 study by Eagle Hill Consulting found that only about 30 percent of employees said their employer had taken any ongoing or additional DEI measures within the last six months.
The Value of DEI for Employees
Supporting the claim that DEI matters during the talent recruitment process, the Eagle Hill Consulting study also found that 53 percent of workers and job seekers in 2023 considered DEI when looking for a new role or deciding to stay where they were. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential to potential employees for several reasons:
- Equal Opportunity: Employees want to work in an environment where they are given equal opportunities and do not face discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, or other characteristics.
- Inclusivity: Inclusive workplaces foster a sense of belonging and acceptance for all employees, regardless of their background. Potential employees are likelier to thrive and contribute most effectively when they feel included and valued.
- Innovation: Diverse teams bring a wide range of perspectives and experiences, which can lead to more innovative solutions and products. Potential employees recognize this and are often drawn to companies where they can collaborate with diverse colleagues.
- Reputation: Companies prioritizing diversity and inclusion tend to have a better reputation in the marketplace. Potential employees may be more attracted to employers they perceive as socially responsible and committed to positive social change.
- Personal Values: Many potential employees have values that align with DEI principles. They want to work for organizations that share these values and are actively working to impact society positively.
- Career Advancement: Employees want to know they have opportunities for growth and advancement in their careers. DEI initiatives often include programs and policies supporting the career development of underrepresented groups.
How HR Can Support DEI in the Workplace
Implementing DEI strategies in HR requires a holistic approach that involves all HR functions, from recruitment to performance management to employee engagement. It also requires strong leadership commitment to drive meaningful change aligned with the organization’s sustainability and social impact goals. Here are some actionable steps HR can take:
- Choose Authenticity from the BeginningA company and its HR department must say what it means and follow through with what it says. Making inclusion and diversity a part of the company’s core values can help embed them into its culture.
- Create Recruitment and Hiring Around EquityCompanies should implement policies and practices that promote diversity and inclusion during recruitment. Use blind recruitment techniques to reduce bias in the hiring process. Seek candidates who align with the company’s sustainability values and goals and consider hiring individuals with environmental and social responsibility backgrounds.
- Onboarding and TrainingInclude DEI-related training and orientation for new employees, emphasizing the company’s sustainability practices and social impact initiatives. Offer ongoing training on sustainability practices, ethics, and compliance to ensure all employees understand their role in DEI.
- Performance ManagementInclude DEI metrics as part of the performance evaluation process. Set sustainability and ethical behavior goals and tie performance reviews to these goals. Recognize and reward employees who actively contribute to the company’s DEI efforts, encouraging engagement and innovation.
- Employee EngagementForm employee DEI committees or groups to brainstorm and implement workplace sustainability and social impact initiatives. Establish feedback channels for employees to share DEI-related ideas and concerns and act on this feedback to improve DEI practices continually.
- Sustainable PracticesImplement green workplace practices, such as reducing waste, conserving energy, and promoting eco-friendly commuting options. Encourage employees to participate in these efforts. Collaborate with procurement teams to ensure ethical sourcing of goods and services, considering environmental and social impact in supplier selection.
- Community EngagementDevelop DEI-focused volunteer programs that allow employees to give back to their communities or engage in sustainability projects. Collaborate with local organizations and non-profits working on social and environmental causes, giving employees opportunities to get involved.
The Bottom Line on DEI in the Workplace
DEI is important to potential employees because it reflects a company’s commitment to fairness, inclusion, and social responsibility. It attracts diverse talent and helps create a positive and supportive work environment where employees can thrive and perform their best work.