A visible commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) has become an important recruitment tool. But DEI&B is about more than just hiring from a diverse candidate pool. Increasingly, today’s employees see inclusion and belonging as an essential part of the employee experience—and are willing to change jobs for it. Read on for insights on this trend and tips for integrating DEI&B into the everyday work experience.
Employee engagement is declining…and it seems DEI&B may be part of the problem.
Gallup reports that after trending up in recent years, employee engagement in the U.S. has declined from 36% of engaged employees in 2020, to 32% in 2022. The study notes that “feeling cared about at work” and “connected to an employer’s mission” were among the engagement elements that declined the most, particularly for women and younger workers.1
This is consistent with recent research we conducted that found:
- Nearly three-quarters of employees want to work for organizations who place a high value on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B);
- 62% percent of respondents did not believe their company is currently doing what it needs to do to be truly committed to creating this type of workplace;
- 54% would be likely to leave their company if given a competitive offer; and
- 57% of employees said their companies fell short in making sure they felt included and valued.
A commitment to DEI&B ranks high in whether employees choose to stay with an organization.
Several recent studies suggest that a lack of inclusivity in the workplace may have an effect on turnover. A 2022 EY US Generation Survey found that 76% of millennials would leave an employer who did not offer DE&I initiatives. The same survey found nearly three in 10 millennials are planning to leave their company within a year because it doesn’t match their values.2 And, research done by QuestionPro and EQ Community, found nearly 40% of employees said they would switch jobs to be part of a more inclusive culture.3
So while there are certainly many factors that influence employees’ decisions to remain with a current employer or seek employment elsewhere, the extent to which an employer truly walks the talk of DEI&B is playing a role.
So, what can employers do to create a more inclusive culture?
For starters, DEI&B policies that mainly focus on diverse and equitable hiring policies are missing the mark. Today it’s clear that DEI&B is more than just hiring from a diverse candidate pool, it’s about fostering an environment that integrates DEI&B into the everyday experience and considers how employee well-being is impacted by an inclusive environment. As we work with clients who have healthy DEI&B programs in place, we’ve noticed that these elements can make a difference:
Robust employee networks and champions to nurture DEI&B efforts.
Employee resource groups (ERGs) are a great way to weave DEI&B into the fabric of the organization. They give employees a forum for sharing their unique interests, skills, talents and diverse perspectives and increase feelings of belonging. ERGs can also help leaders better understand what employees need to be able to bring their full selves to work every day and perform at their best. One of our clients sponsors “diversity champions” who receive rigorous training and agree to serve as a DEI&B ambassador for two years.
A variety of ways to become more informed about DEI&B.
Organizations who recognize that everyone is on their own personal journey when it comes to DEI&B and provide opportunities to learn and grow at different paces and in different ways do best. Some clients create hubs of information employees can access; others offer coursework, training, and even certifications; while some offer speakers and leverage testimonials from actual employees to broaden perspectives.
Inclusive well-being benefits.
Companies with a true commitment to DEI&B actively seek out ways to make their health and well-being benefits more inclusive. Culturally sensitive mental health support, benefits coverage and fertility support for same-and opposite-gender partners, floating holidays that allow employees to celebrate what’s important to them, and even financial wellness benefits can help to meet the needs of a diverse workforce.
Strong onboarding experience.
Companies spend so much time and money on talent acquisition, but the same effort needs to be applied to onboarding so that a new employee can feel engaged and included in the organization from day one. Assigning a buddy or mentor right away and planning structured activities during their first week, including meetups with senior leaders, is crucial. Education about the corporate mission and how their work fits into it is essential to creating a sense of purpose. Regular check-ins for at least the first 90 days are also recommended.
Special support for managers.
Sixty-six percent of respondents in our survey felt that managers and supervisors, rather than higher-level corporate leaders, bear responsibility for and should be held accountable for DEI&B. It makes sense, since managers are the face of the organization and have the most day-to-day contact with their people. It does mean, however, that managers need more support, education, and training to be able to deliver on the DEI&B goals that the organization sets.
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In the wake of a global pandemic and a general reevaluation of work and life, it’s understandable that employees are looking for employers to strengthen their efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. And it seems that employers who do focus on creating this type environment will reap the benefits of higher engagement and better attraction and retention of key talent.