An integrated business-driven strategy to DEI and true lasting culture change requires significant behavioral shift and leadership accountability.
In fact, DEI training should take learners on a journey. The desired impact sought by many organizations simply won’t occur with a one-and-done training approach. A 2016 meta-analytic research study on diversity training evaluation found that "the positive effects of diversity training were greater when training was complemented by other diversity initiatives, targeted to both awareness and skills development, and conducted over a significant period of time."
The good news is that a strategic, long-term approach to DEI yields great benefits for individuals and organizations:
- The Center for Talent Innovation found that, at large companies, employees who perceive bias are 3x as likely to disengage, 3x as likely to make plans to leave, and 2.6x more likely to withhold ideas. But, at large companies with inclusive team leaders, employees are 87% less likely to perceive bias and 39% more likely to be engaged.
- A 2009 study, by the American Sociological Association stated, "companies reporting the highest levels of racial diversity brought in nearly 15 times more sales revenue on average than those with the lowest levels of racial diversity."
- Fast Company reports companies with above-average gender diversity and levels of employee engagement outperform companies that are below average by 46% to 58%
- A Cloverpop white paper concluded inclusive decision-making leads to better business decisions 87% of the time, with decisions being made in half the meeting time.
- A study by Harvard Business Review showed that inclusive leaders achieve: 17% increase in team performance, 20% increase in decision making quality, and 29% increase in team collaboration
Be intentional about visible and invisible diversity
In the workplace, all types of diversity can strengthen a team. There are two primary types:
Visible diversity - anything that can be seen, such as race, gender, age, physical ability, or physical disability, etc.
Invisible diversity - anything you cannot see, such as ethnicity, education level, religious beliefs, cognitive ability, etc.
Some have defended a lack of visible representation in their organizations by highlighting their "diversity of thought" or invisible diversity. But visible diversity, also known as identity diversity, is important to acknowledge. The addition of identity diversity ensures different cultures, experiences, and perspectives are included in the organization’s decision-making and innovation– making these processes much more robust and fruitful than they would have been had the organization relied on thought diversity alone.
Organizations must be intentional in this work—setting their goal to have visible diversity while also continuing to engage in invisible diversity.
We know that what gets measured in an organization is what gets done. DEI is no exception.
1) Before they can measure, though, organizations must acknowledge where they are. To begin this process, it’s helpful to consider the degree to which they are currently living The 5 Rs of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion:
Real Conversations – Does organizational leadership look at DEI as part of the business strategy and have conversations with employees, specifically those from underrepresented groups? Are there discussions about how to improve the business from a DEI lens and address cultural nuances (e.g., ads that appeal to a specific culture group, language choice used in communications, etc.).
Representation (Leadership and Employee) – Has the organization reviewed the demographic makeup of its leaders? How might looking at the employee lifecycle (job description, hiring, onboarding, development, promotion, etc.) or capturing the employee perspective be combined with other organizational data to assess needs in this area?
Respectful Relationships (Connectivity & Belonging, Pre-Hire, Post-Hire) – Does the organization ensure that all key stakeholders – including both the employee population and leadership – are aligned and connected? Does every person in the organization feel that (s)he belongs? Do they feel connected to the work? Do they believe in the values/mission/vision and feel the organization lives up to them, or does it appear to employees that the organization makes promises about equity and inclusion (particularly when recruiting) but fails to deliver?
Research (Workforce Trends, Workplace Trends, DEI Trends) – Does the organization use insights to inform action? For example, a 2019 Harvard Business Review article, revealed that leaders saw recruitment as the biggest obstacle to racial and ethnic diversity, while employees of color ranked advancement as the top obstacle. If an organization’s strategy has been focused solely on the perspective that “recruitment is the problem”, the lived experience of employees of color who feel thwarted when it comes to opportunities for advancement have been negated. Outside information can inspire and enable new ways to improve inclusion.
Results (Systems and Structure accelerate business results and reinforce values and brand.) Has the organization created ways to measure the degree to which they are achieving desired levels of diversity and inclusion? Is the organization tracking the impact DEI is having on other business results? Are positive outcomes promoted and celebrated throughout the organization?
2) There are ample ways to measure DEI, and we have several listed here: