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DEI Efforts in the Workplace: More Than a Trend, It’s a Necessity

DEI Efforts in the Workplace: More Than a Trend, It’s a Necessity

May 16, 20244 min read

"Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance." — Vernā Myers

The Importance of DEI in the Workplace

Remember the tidal wave of corporate statements and pledges towards diversity and inclusion that surged in 2020? It was like the corporate world collectively realized, "Oh snap, we really should care about this!" But here’s the kicker—DEI isn’t just a moment; it’s a movement that needs to be sustained.

Why DEI Should Still Be a Priority

Let’s think of your company as a well-balanced diet. Diversity brings in the variety of nutrients, inclusion ensures those nutrients are effectively utilized, and equity makes sure everyone gets their fair share. Without DEI, you’re left with a pretty bland, unhealthy meal that no one wants to eat. Here’s why keeping DEI efforts alive is crucial:

Innovation and Creativity

Companies with diverse teams are like a mixed bag of candies—each piece brings a unique flavor to the table. According to a study by McKinsey, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians . Diverse perspectives foster innovation and creativity, giving your company a competitive edge.

Employee Engagement and Retention

Employees who feel included and valued are more likely to stick around. Gallup found that inclusive workplaces see a 27% reduction in turnover . It’s simple—when people feel like they belong, they’re happier and more engaged. Think of it like a comfy pair of shoes; when they fit well, you’re more likely to keep walking.

Better Decision-Making

Diverse teams make better decisions—up to 87% of the time, according to a study by Forbes . It’s like solving a puzzle; the more varied the pieces, the better the final picture. Different perspectives can help foresee potential pitfalls and generate innovative solutions.

The Perils of Performative DEI Efforts

Now, let’s flip the script and look at what happens when DEI is just for show. Spoiler alert: it’s not pretty.

Loss of Trust and Credibility

Remember those empty promises we’ve all encountered? Performative DEI efforts are like saying you’ll quit smoking and then lighting up a cigarette. Employees and customers can spot insincerity a mile away. A study by Edelman Trust Barometer found that 58% of employees say their employer is merely “checking the box” with DEI initiatives . This erodes trust and damages your brand’s credibility.

Decreased Employee Morale

When employees see that DEI efforts are just window dressing, morale takes a nosedive. It’s like being told you’re part of the team, but never getting passed the ball. This can lead to increased disengagement and a toxic work environment.

Legal and Financial Risks

Ignoring DEI can also lead to serious legal and financial repercussions. Discrimination lawsuits can be costly, both in terms of money and reputation. According to the EEOC, workplace discrimination lawsuits cost employers millions annually in settlements and legal fees .

Practical Tips to Keep DEI Efforts Genuine and Effective

1. Commit to Continuous Learning

DEI is not a one-and-done deal. Encourage continuous learning through workshops, training sessions, and open discussions. This keeps the momentum going and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

2. Set Clear, Measurable Goals

Define what success looks like for your DEI initiatives. Whether it’s improving representation in leadership roles or increasing cultural competency across the organization, having clear goals helps track progress and accountability.

3. Foster an Inclusive Culture

Create a workplace where everyone feels they belong. This means recognizing and celebrating differences, providing equal opportunities, and addressing any biases head-on. It’s like tending a garden—consistent care leads to growth.

4. Hold Leadership Accountable

Leaders set the tone for the organization. Ensure that your leadership is not only diverse but also actively champions DEI initiatives. When the top brass walks the talk, it resonates throughout the entire company.

5. Encourage Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

Support the formation of ERGs to provide a platform for underrepresented groups. These groups can offer valuable insights, foster community, and drive DEI initiatives from within.

Maintaining a strong focus on DEI is not just a moral imperative—it’s a business one. Genuine DEI efforts can lead to innovation, better decision-making, and higher employee engagement, while performative actions can result in a loss of trust, decreased morale, and potential legal issues. It’s time to move beyond lip service and commit to building truly inclusive workplaces. Because at the end of the day, a diverse and inclusive company isn’t just better for the people who work there—it’s better for business too.

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