If you have not heard the acronym DE&I, you may be living under a rock. Just kidding! But seriously, what is DE&I? Diversity, equity, and inclusion are the initiative to recognize input from a diverse group of individuals who otherwise feel silenced based on several demographics such as: age, race, gender orientation, socio-economic background, physical characteristics, religion, ethnicity, and disability.
First, let us define and breakdown the meaning and definition of each area.
Diversity creates more ideas, more collaboration, and more points of view leading to a better product. When companies open themselves to the possibility of new ideas and innovative thinking, not only does the company get a better product, but it also builds a stronger company culture.
“Diversity is the presence of differences within a given setting. In the workplace, that can mean differences in race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and socioeconomic class. It can also refer to differences in physical ability, veteran status, whether you have kids — all of those are components of diversity.” www.builtin.com, 2022
Diversity begins when companies purposefully and intentionally hire individuals of different races, genders, ages, disabilities, along with individuals of different experiences and skill sets. Diversity is relational, based on a group, team, and company. A diverse group of employees will create an environment of safety and belonging.
Equity within the workplace is the accessibility to opportunities that takes diversity into account. It is the process to ensure all companywide policies and programs are fair and impartial to every individual. It is important to note the differences between equity and equality. Equity means there are no barriers while equality could still hold barriers from reaching an ultimate goal. When you treat equally, you are treating everyone the same. But we know, not everyone can be treated the same. Equity focuses on individual needs to ensure all opportunities are reachable.
Inclusion is about holding value for each individual. People have a desire to feel valued and wanted. A safe working environment starts with inclusion. An employee should not feel like an outcast due to a different hair color, tattoos, or fashion. Companies need to create a culture that welcomes all individuals. Companies need to show their employees that they are valued and appreciated and to encourage them to show up as themselves. Inclusion is the employee experience companies create.
Now that DE&I has been defined, lets discuss how to develop a DE&I culture.
Companies must gather data. To create change or implement new policy, companies first need to know how their company feels in relation to DE&I culture. Most demographic data will be self-reporting from the employee and may be challenging to gather. Many employees are skeptical as to how personal information will be used for what purpose. Data will reveal areas needing to be addressed such as more males vs females in departments, promotion variances based on demographic data, or males being promoted with less experience than females. Companies may want to consider outsourcing the collection of data to give a sense of trust to the employee.
Data will also reveal if current policies or company culture need to be changed or added to ensure there are no obstacles hindering opportunity and employment.
If cultivating a strong DE&I culture is important to your organization, DE&I must be identified as a strategic business objective and aligned with company values. It must start at the top with 100% buy-in and support from top executives and managers. Leadership must understand how a strong DE&I culture aligns with overall company strategic goals. Implement trainings, DEI committee, and town hall meetings are great tools to begin building a culture strong in DE&I.
Accountability is key in any successful DE&I culture. Like all values, regular evaluation of current initiatives and practices is necessary as companies continue to grow and evolve. Open communication and dialogue will hold teams and companies accountable.
DE&I is not a set it and forget initiative. It is a constant reviewing and starting from step one often. Gathering and reviewing data should be an on-going strategic way to grow and evolve your company. By creating a culture of diverse opinions where employees feel valued and safe is by far your number one strategic goal. With a shared understanding of DE&I, companies will be better equipped to win and succeed.