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March 18, 2024

The value of DEI in the workplace

Understand why organizations should be working to create meaningful change in the workplace through DEI initiatives.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives should be a core value in every organization and can have a lasting impact on company culture. Organizations have the power to influence and promote a more open and inclusive society. To understand the importance of DEI initiatives, it helps to have a grasp on what each of these terms mean more than just recognizing them as being buzzwords. The Racial Equity Tools Glossary defines diversity as “all the ways in which people differ,” and it encompasses all the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. It is all-inclusive and recognizes everyone and every group as part of the diversity that should be valued. A broad definition includes not only race, ethnicity and gender—the groups that most often come to mind when the term “diversity” is used—but also age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance.”

Diversity alone as a strategy is not enough for organizations to be successful. Equity is closely related and refers to “the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups” as defined by the Independent Sector. The last aspect of DEI is inclusion, and the Racial Equity Tools Glossary describes inclusion as “authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making in a way that shares power.”

Understanding the value of DEI initiatives

The US population, and as a result the nation’s workforce, is becoming increasingly diverse. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the white labor force population is projected to decline from near 85% in 1994 to 77% in 2024, while the minority working population is projected to increase from 15% to 23%. DEI tools and programs give employees the ability to be themselves at work without fear, creating a sense of belonging that translates into positive outcomes in many areas of the organization. Below are some of the benefits of prioritizing diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

  • Increased engagement - When employees feel represented, they are naturally more satisfied with their employer and become more engaged at all levels. While diversity pertains to characteristics inherent to the employee, such as race, age or gender, inclusion relates to the lived experiences of employees, how those experiences are valued, and amplifying the voices of everyone in the workplace. When employees feel heard and included, they are more likely to engage with the organization in a meaningful way. It is not enough for organizations to be diverse if they are not inclusive, understanding that each person experiences the workplace differently. This idea also extends to employee retention because when employee belonging is prioritized through diversity and inclusion in the workplace, turnover is reduced.

  • Increased innovation - For an organization to be successful, it needs talent from diverse backgrounds with different ideas to bring to the table. True creativity is fostered where different worldviews and skills comingle, and increased creativity, in turn, leads to greater innovation. Organizations who prioritize DEI initiatives will always be more effective and adaptable, outperforming organizations that do not invest in these initiatives. The bottom line is that in rapidly changing industries, being a thought leader is important, and it’s impossible to be a thought leader if everyone’s thoughts are the same.

  • Positive company reputation - DEI impacts how an organization is perceived by more than potential hires. Potential and existing clients want to do business with organizations that understand how vital these initiatives are. It sends a powerful message when clients see an organization prioritizing DEI initiatives in a sincere way. Additionally, having a diverse workplace allows organizations to reach a wider client base and have an increased understanding of client needs.

How your organization can prioritize DEI

To benefit from DEI initiatives, organizations must have real, substantial commitment and empathetic leadership. For positive, lasting change to occur, DEI should be a continuous effort from leaders at all levels, not just a single, one-time initiative. Empathetic leaders who listen and take the time to understand employees build the foundation of inclusivity they want within their company. Additionally, diversity and inclusion best practices suggest leaders set actionable, measurable goals, making their expectations for the company clear. Tracking data on information like diversity, recruiting and retention are good steps in compiling concrete information relating to DEI.

When embarking on DEI initiatives within an organization, leaders must be conscious and aware of implicit bias and the tricky nature of biases in the workplace. Sometimes recognizing that the implicit bias exists is the hardest part, as our brains may quickly make judgements about people or situations without realizing it. The first step for leaders is to acknowledge and overcome their own biases, fostering a culture where their employees can do the same. Everyone has biases, and the only way to stop them from negatively affecting a diverse workplace is to take strides to recognize and change those thoughts.

Utilize data in DEI

Having a data-driven approach is critical for successful DEI initiatives, with the data organized in a meaningful way to help organizational leaders understand their employees. DEI tools gather and analyze relevant, real-time DEI data and provide organizations with information relating to their employees such as ethnicity, gender, age and more. Utilizing these tools can aid in recruiting a diverse workforce, help gauge promotion metrics, measure diversity in leadership, and manage engagement with employees.

Overall, leadership must realize that DEI can’t be an afterthought and must be ingrained into the long-term goals and continuous efforts of the organization. Creating a culture of respect, openness and belonging so that all employees feel empowered to be themselves and contribute their ideas in the workplace will only serve to benefit their organization in the long run.

Cognizant Workday Practice
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