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The Future is Inclusive: What a Culture of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging Looks Like

We recently released details of our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEI&B) research, which found that employees feel their employers’ efforts to support DEI&B in the workplace are falling short. To discuss the results and learn about tangible actions employers can take to improve DEI&B efforts, we invited a key WebMD Health Services client to talk with us about how they create an inclusive workplace. If you didn’t have a chance to join our conversation live, download a replay or read the highlights here…

Checking the pulse on employers’ DEI&B efforts

In September 2022, with the help of Blue Research, WebMD Health Services conducted a blinded survey to better understand employee experiences and perceptions of their employers’ DEI&B efforts, and whether those programs and policies had made a positive difference in their work life.

More than 70% of employees said they want to work for a company that supports DEI&B in the workplace, and nearly two-thirds said they would benefit if their company were truly committed to DEI&B policies. ​

But, when asked how employers are doing in this space, employees feel their employer’s efforts aren’t measuring up:

  • More than 60% said their company is not doing enough to foster DEI&B in the workplace.
  • Nine in 10 said their company has DEI&B programs in place, but they question their employer’s commitment.
  • When asked whether they would likely leave their company if given a competitive offer, over half responded yes.
  • Belonging – or feeling included and valued – was called out as the aspect of DEI&B that needed the most improvement: 57% of employees cited belonging, compared with 43% citing diversity, 53% equity, and 48% inclusion.

As expected, we found that some groups of employees feel more strongly about their company’s DEI&B efforts than others. Two-thirds of employees also indicated that managers and supervisors, rather than higher-level corporate leaders, should be responsible for DEI&B, and held accountable when they fall short. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll delve into more specifics of our survey.

But, for this week, we’d like to share the highlights of our recent client conversation to show what working on DEI&B looks like in practice.

How one client creates an inclusive workplace

Our client is a large home building products manufacturer with over 12,000 employees in more than 30 locations. Its employees are a diverse group with roles in manufacturing, distribution and retail. The company is regularly named a Forbes World’s Best Employer, Best Large Employer, Best Employer for Diversity, and Best Employer for Women.

But they’re not resting on their laurels. They work hard at continually ensuring that all employees feel respected, valued and driven to realize their full potential.​ Here are a few insights from our client’s experience for you to consider if you are looking to do more than “check the box” on DEI&B at your organization.

First, recognize that everyone has a role so begin with a commitment from every level of the organization to “do the work.”

Our conversation and research leads us to believe that everyone has a role to play in ensuring the success of their DEI&B strategy, including the company itself, Human Resources, leaders, and employees. Even our client outlines these roles and the specific actions that each group can take to contribute.

Second, be very clear on the DEI goals you want to achieve in three distinct areas:

  • Workforce – Attract, recruit, and promote top talent representing diverse backgrounds, identities, experiences, and perspectives.​
  • Workplace – Foster a culture of inclusion that engages, develops, and retains talent, leveraging diversity as a competitive advantage.​
  • Marketplace – Engage partners, communities, and customers in dialogue and actions that drive equity. ​

Third, elevate your DEI&B goals by providing employees with opportunities to become more educated about issues of diversity, equity and inclusion through:

  • Building organizational capabilities;
  • Creating a culture of inclusion;
  • Owning the work and driving results; and
  • Designing inclusive practices and policies.

Here’s an example what that looks like on the ground:  

Active employee resource networks (ERNs) or groups (ERGs)

These networks or groups are voluntary, employee-led groups that encourage personal and professional development, promote diversity, and drive company and individual growth by allowing employees to leverage their collective range of skills, talents, and diverse perspectives. ​

  • Groups may include different cultures (Asian, Africa Descent, Latin), gender, as well as organizational such as Military Connections, STEM, Women Leaders, and Young Professionals.
  • Be sure your networks or groups are open to every employee, regardless of background.
  • Even more valuable is if each ERN is sponsored by a member of your Executive Committee.

Access to education

To help employees become more informed about DEI, our client created an Inclusion Hub, where people can go to learn about DEI, get involved with ERNs and activities, and share their thoughts with the DEI team. It’s important to be sure employees can access any information, trainings or materials you have available regarding you DEI&B program.

​The organization has also certified 60 employees in various business functions to serve as diversity champions through the Institute of Diversity. They also offer curriculum, which includes content on equality, being an ally, generational stereotypes, cross-cultural communications, and understanding the needs of the transgender .​ Many employees have completed this activity and earned a well-being incentive for participating.

And, while we are on the subject of education, the company recognizes that access to education is a big barrier to equity in our society, so they offer free onsite ESL classes and a free onsite GED completion program.

Incorporating DEI into the culture of well-being

Our client understands that allowing employees to be authentic and bring their whole selves to work has a huge impact on corporate culture. It also greatly increases employees’ sense of belonging and identity and, by extension, their mental health and overall engagement at work.

The company actively seeks out ways to make their health and well-being benefits more inclusive. They regularly conduct a DEI benefits audit to identify gaps and program needs, and collaborate with the PRIDE+ ERN on LGBTQ+ benefits, including gender transition. Their current benefits feature:

  • Culturally sensitive mental health support in more than 30 languages.
  • Expanded benefits coveragefor same-and opposite-gender​ partners.
  • Flexible bereavement leave for a relationship that does not specifically fall within the guidelines.​
  • Floating holidays that allow employees to take time off and celebrate holidays that are important to them. ​
  • Financial well-being benefits promoted regularly through ERNs.
  • Onsite/virtual benefits sessionsand classes for employees who may not be familiar with benefits or lack an understanding of how benefits work.

Why all this matters

To sum up, diversity, equity, inclusion and more recently, belonging, are intrinsically linked to the strength, vibrancy, and overall well-being of employees and the workplace culture. The workplace benefits from the unique insights and perspectives of a diverse team, while employees who feel included and valued are far more likely to be healthier, stay engaged, committed and want to contribute the best of themselves. Our client is proof of that. If you would like help creating a workplace that values diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, please visit our website or contact us at connect@webmd.net.

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