Human Workplace Index: Getting Real With DE&I

To help employers better understand the thoughts, concerns, and emotions of their workforce, Workhuman® introduced the Human Workplace Index, a monthly poll of 1,000 full-time U.S. workers. Reflecting on the first three months of survey data, trends are beginning to take shape – trends that leaders should take heed of.

For example, employee happiness is trending down for the third month, suggesting that employees are aware of what they want from their organizations, but aren’t seeing changes being made. One area where employee expectations are changing is around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), the focus for this month’s Human Workplace Index.

Here are some of the key takeaways from this month’s survey.

  1. Employees want to feel valued.

Every organization wants productive and engaged employees. Why? Because it’s good for morale, and it’s good for business. For employees to be productive and engaged, however, they need to feel valued by their managers, executives, and company.

Despite the obvious benefits of feeling valued, the data reveal an uneven distribution across the workforce. When asked how valued they feel by their organization, just about 50% of respondents reported feeling “very valued.” Broken down by gender, the majority response from women was “somewhat valued” (47%), while 64% of men reported feeling “very valued.” This trend continues with race; the majority of People of Color (POC) stated they feel “somewhat valued” (46%), while more than half of white employees feel “very valued” (57%).

The future of work is changing how we do things, and this unequal distribution of value must change too. For organizations who are starting to feel the potentially detrimental effects of the Great Resignation, now is the time to focus on improving the experiences of the employees who have stayed. A simple, yet effective way to do this is by showing appreciation on a frequent basis. The more you do, the more valued employees will feel.

  1. Psychological safety is essential.

The survey results show a similar pattern when it comes to psychological safety – or the belief that you are being heard, appreciated, and respected by your employer and coworkers. The good news is that the majority of respondents (73%) reported feeling psychologically safe at work, but when broken down by race we again see an uneven distribution. Of the respondents who reported feeling psychologically safe, only 30% were POC employees. Yet, POC employees represented 50% of the respondents who answered “no” they don’t feel psychologically safe. Of those who weren’t sure, 64% were POC.

Employers not only need to create a psychologically safe environment, but also must ensure all employees understand what can be expected in the workplace, as well as what will not be tolerated. If expectations aren’t clear to employees, it becomes more difficult to feel connected to the company culture – especially if employees do not feel safe bringing their whole selves to work. And as previous iterations of the Human Workplace Index have found, disconnected employees are ready to leave their current positions to find a sense of belonging elsewhere.

  1. Check your DE&I lens.

Along with the changes brought about by the pandemic, last year also shed light on racial injustice in both society and the workplace, leading many organizations to look more closely at their DE&I efforts. Even with this uptick, however, when asked how comfortable respondents felt talking about DE&I in the workplace, only 36% of employees felt “very comfortable.” If this initiative is important to organizations, they must encourage and support their humans to have authentic conversations around it.

Respondents were also asked how much their employer values DE&I initiatives, and the results are telling. While 35% of women believe their employers place a “somewhat high value” on DE&I, 45% of men answered “high value.” Likewise, white employees seem to be more confident in their employer’s efforts, with 42% reporting “high value” is placed on DE&I, while the majority of POC feel their employers place “somewhat high value” or “somewhat low value” on these initiatives (34% and 26%, respectively).

If you want to know if your DE&I strategies are working, ask the people these programs are intended to help. Based on the results of this month’s Human Workplace Index, you might get a very different response based on who you are asking.

  1. Where to go from here.

Overall, 60% of all respondents said their company has made noticeable progress around DE&I since last year. And despite this majority, 40% of POC employees surveyed stated their company has not made noticeable progress. While DE&I is not a one size fits all model, consistently listening and adjusting can help move the needle.

Perhaps most importantly, 66% of respondents stated their company’s DE&I strategy impacts their feelings about how long they plan to stay in their position. So if you want employees to stay, make sure they know you care about them – their whole selves. And with that will come a sense of inclusion and belonging that benefits both employees and employers.

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