Four strategies around DEI to ignite employee productivity.
By Josh Jones
In addition to all the other challenges the current market has brought, American employers are facing an engagement crisis. A 2022 study from Gallup found that only 32% of US workers were actively engaged at work, and that number has been dropping steadily over the past few years.
Given this trend, many HR leaders and managers are focused on developing and implementing strategies that encourage participation, productivity, and communication in the workplace. But it turns out, many are overlooking an opportunity that’s right in front of them: diversity initiatives.
A New View of DEI
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have become central to operations for many organizations, but few leaders recognize the profound impact effective DEI programs can have on employee experience and performance. Gartner research finds employees perform up to 30% better in diverse and inclusive environments. However, in a recent report on the state of HR, DEI did not come close to being a top priority for HR leaders in 2023, and only 1% of those surveyed said they engaged in diversity efforts.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that U.S. workers are less engaged at work. Leaders have sent the message (whether directly or indirectly) that fostering environments that make workers feel seen, heard, valued, and respected for who they are as employees is not a priority. It’s time for HR leaders to heed this call and implement DEI policies focused on creating inclusive environments for their employees—not just for the benefit of meeting representation goals.
Luckily, there are proven strategies that can help them get started.
A report from Jobvite found that 80% of job seekers have reviewed a company’s website to better understand a company’s position on DEI prior to submitting their application.
Make Your Efforts Known
In today’s unique work environment, it’s important to remember to prioritize what employees need to be happy, healthy, and productive at work. More than ever before, employees want a work experience that brings them diverse perspectives to engage with, an inclusive culture that makes them feel belonged, and equitable opportunities for success.
A report from Jobvite found that 80% of job seekers have reviewed a company’s website to better understand a company’s position on DEI prior to submitting their application. Furthermore, around 57% of workers inquire about organizations’ DEI cultures during their interviews. So don’t be shy—let both candidates and existing staff know about diversity efforts. After all, getting diverse workers into the organization is critical to ongoing DEI initiatives and communication around them can help with that too.
Revamp Learning and Development Options
HR leaders can begin driving employee engagement with learning and development opportunities tailored toward DEI goals. Learning and development opportunities not only educate employees but can also spark curiosity that can drive change within an organization.
Getting started can be as easy as asking employees to provide input on the types of training they’d like to see be made available and starting conversations that remind employees of the importance of DEI both to their communities and the organization. Leaders may want to share information about current events, global and local news, and company milestones related to DEI. These can all be beneficial places to start. Additionally, developing employee resource groups (ERGs) can help develop safe spaces to encourage advocacy and make resources more accessible to employees from underrepresented groups.
Appoint a Chief Diversity Officer and Supporting Team
According to McKinsey, 53% of Fortune 500 organizations now have designated a chief diversity officer (CDO) or equivalent role, and 60 of those organizations have appointed their first-ever diversity leader since 2020. These actions were no doubt in response to the increased focus on DEI that arose in the wake of social unrest, as appointing a CDO shows employees that leadership is truly invested in their engagement, well-being, and success at work.
Making it someone’s job to continually ask, “How can this organization be more inclusive?” throughout the decision-making process helps create an environment where employees feel they have a seat at the table. Furthermore, CDOs can play a huge role in employee engagement, helping to oversee equitable practices, facilitate ongoing DEI initiatives, and recognize DEI champions within the company’s ranks.
They can also support ERGs, help employees learn inclusive language, and lead initiatives in the office that improve employees’ relationships with clients and with coworkers. Most importantly, though, CDOs can ensure that an organization’s DEI goals are on track.
Gartner find employees perform up to 30% better in diverse and inclusive environments.
Create Internal Mobility Opportunities
Internal mobility allows companies to grow their best asset: their people. Thankfully, 76% of organizations already see internal mobility as critical to their business strategies, so creating internal mobility opportunities is a win-win for HR leaders.
Building an internal mobility program focused on DEI provides traditionally underrepresented voices with access to new positions by helping them explore options and have new experiences. These programs can also help address skill gaps while ensuring institutional knowledge stays within the business.
Implementing the above strategies sets talent acquisition teams up for success by encouraging job seekers of different backgrounds and statuses to reach out, confident in the fact that the organization will work to make them feel welcome and supported—no matter where they come from or what accommodations they may need. By implementing robust learning and development opportunities around DEI, designating a diversity leader to drive organizational change, prioritizing internal mobility, and making their efforts known, organizations will likely begin to see improvements in employee engagement, as well as a strong inclusive company culture.
Josh Jones is manager of talent acquisition of Employ Inc.