Having a robust Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program is crucial for the modern workplace. It allows employees to feel more included and valued, leading to a happier and more productive workforce.
In this resource, we examine DEI in organizations: how it’s impacting them currently, the challenges they’re feeling DEI programs, and where we’re going with the modern diverse workforce.
The Fight for Inclusivity Isn’t Over: The Current State of DEI
Most organizations are pursuing a state in their workplace where everyone can thrive equally. In a recent study by WorldatWork, they found that 83 percent of organizations had DEI initiatives in 2021.¹
However, Gartner found challenges in DEI efforts.² Through employee surveys, they found that 44 percent find out that their coworkers feel alienated by these efforts, and 42 percent view these efforts as divisive or resented by their peers as a result of these efforts.
Despite the pushback, the need for DEI programs remains critical. One out of ten people with disabilities experience discrimination at work after five years of passing the ADA, resulting in a third of these respondents leaving the workforce indefinitely.³
Despite the pushback, the need for DEI programs remains critical. In a survey of 12,000 US adults by the Pew Research Center, the overwhelming majority of those surveyed said that various minority groups consistently face at least some discrimination at work.
The Value of DEI in the Workplace
Here are the benefits of DEI in the workplace:
1. Helps Develop Empathy
Organizational diversity allows people of different backgrounds to work together and share diverse experiences. Through continued collaboration, people exposed to various work environments can see from the perspectives of those with a different lived experience, whether that experience is due to race, gender identity, or even disability.
Related Reading: Set the Right Foundations: What is Belonging in the Workplace?
2. Improve Creativity and Innovation
When you have a wider variety of lived experiences among your team members, you have more perspectives to filter ideas. Additionally, these varied perspectives offer unique sources for ideas and creativity.
This innovation can also allow you to reach wider audiences and address specific needs and perspectives of less visible market groups.
3. Improve Employee Satisfaction
Great Place To Work found that employees, when treated better by their employers, despite their gender, sexual orientation, race, or age, tend to put in more effort in their work, which can result in higher retention as well.⁴ Here are the results of the study where employees are:
- 5.4 times more likely to stay longer with their employer
- 6.3 times more likely to take pride in their work
- 9.8 times more likely to want to go to work
4. Fosters Safer Environment
Employees who can bring their authentic selves to work without fear of being treated adversely are happier and more engaged. Creating a psychologically safe environment also enables people from various underrepresented groups to request the resources they need to be comfortable and productive.
5. Help Organizations Outperform Their Competition
McKinsey found that companies with greater representation can highly outperform others that don’t have this kind of team composition. Organizations with over 30 percent female executives were more likely to perform better at 48 percent than those with fewer female executives.⁵ This can be due to the unique perspectives and leadership styles that female executives bring by having a different lens in understanding the market.
Change Strategies Before People: Addressing Employee Pushback
According to Gartner research, not everyone can support an organization’s DEI efforts, and some may not appreciate these efforts. Here are some steps to address employee pushback.
1. Look around for threats to individual and social identities
The pushback comes from when a person feels that their personal and social identities are being threatened.
Individual Identity Threat
Members of dominant groups may feel shamed or blamed for the DEI-related challenges in the organization. This can lead them to become defensive and push back to restore a positive sense of themselves.
Social Identity Threat
Employees can feel a positive sense of self due to the groups they are part of. DEI efforts may be seen as threats by people from dominant groups. They may fear that DEI efforts can smear their reputation of virtue.
An example is that men may be seen as sexist. Dominant social groups may push back when they experience “reverse discrimination” against their historically advantaged groups.
2. Identify DEI pushback through the language of denial, disengagement, or derailment
While DEI efforts are designed to elevate the employee experience, disadvantages remain. People may deny what’s happening, disengage from the issue, or derail into problems unrelated to DEI.
When employees are in denial, they may not acknowledge the existence of class, caste, or race. This can lead to discrimination or bias. They may say that racism didn’t exist until it was brought into conversations by other people.
Disengagement is a person’s unwillingness to participate in supporting DEI efforts. People in this situation acknowledge the structures and the inequalities that may come with them, but they are uncertain of how to take action due to fear of saying or doing something wrong.
This shifts the focus to the dominant groups’ problems from marginalized groups’ experiences. An example of this is how some people may argue that “All lives matter” instead of agreeing with and supporting the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
3. Communicate transparently
In creating your efforts, clear communication is vital to obtaining more support. Explain to your employees what your efforts are for and what goals you are trying to aim for. Create a communication strategy and anticipate threats ahead of time to address them.
4. Build awareness and foster empathy
Not all employees have the skills to sensitively engage in DEI, and a lack of empathy can increase threat perceptions. You can build a learning space for members of dominant groups that is expert-moderated to allow them to openly ask questions and learn about the situation of marginalized people.
5. Invite employees to be a part of your DEI efforts
Employees who don’t fully understand their role in your efforts may push back. Try to make the most of people’s skills and assign them roles they prefer. You can also explain to them the importance of their role and what the organization can achieve with their help.
PURSUE YOUR DEI EFFORTS WITH THE HELP OF PEAK PERFORMERS
If you are looking to hire more inclusively, Peak Performers can help you find diverse talent, starting with candidates with disabilities. We have 28 years of experience and are dedicated to meticulously matching the person with the right skills to the right job.
We can help you find talent in Engineering, administrative Services, information technology, and finance. We can help you fill temporary, direct hire, or executive roles.
Get in touch with us today to find talent and bolster your DEI efforts.
1. “More Than 80% of Organizations Have Taken Action on DE&I Initiatives in 2021.” World at Work, 28 Sep. 2021, worldatwork.org/more-than-80-percent-of-organizations-have-taken-action-on-dei-initiatives-in-2021.
2. Rai, Trisha, and Caitlin Dutkiewicz. “How to Navigate Pushback to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Efforts.” Gartner, 10 May 2022, www.gartner.com/how-to-navigate-pushback-to-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-efforts.
4. Bush, Matt. “Why Is Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace Important?” Great Place To Work, 25 Aug. 2023, www.greatplacetowork.com/why-is-diversity-inclusion-in-the-workplace-important.
5. Dixon-Fyle, Sundiatu et al. “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters.” McKinsey & Company, 19 May 2020, www.mckinsey.com/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters.