- Employees want DEI initiatives at work to be more than virtue signaling
- Different races, genders and sexual orientations have unique work experiences
- Leaders must create a culture where DEI strategies put people first
When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, today's employees want more than press releases and token gestures of support. They want to see real change -- systemic and structural changes to the way organizations do business every day.
But what does "real change" mean? And how do organizations know when they've achieved it? If we want to move the proverbial needle, what is that needle measuring, and what actually moves it?
The Way We Experience Work
Simply gauging objective measures of diversity or equity doesn't get to the heart of the matter -- the daily encounters and interactions of individual employees.
We may all experience the same workplace, but that doesn't mean we all experience the workplace in the same way. Recent Gallup workplace analyses show that employees of different races, genders and sexual orientations have strikingly different experiences at work.
- Seventy-five percent of Black employees in the U.S. who were discriminated against in the past year say it was due to their race, compared with 42% of White employees.
- Women report higher on-the-job burnout than men, and that gap has widened since the pandemic -- from a three-percentage-point gap in 2019 to an eight-point gap in 2021.
- Seventeen percent of LGBT employees strongly agree that their employer cares about their wellbeing, 10 points lower than for non-LGBT employees.
Clearly, when it comes to measuring true DEI success, leaders need to consider the perceptions, opinions and attitudes of employees. Leaders need to combine objective DEI metrics with subjective DEI metrics to truly capture the employee experience at the team level.
We may all experience the same workplace, but that doesn't mean we all experience the workplace in the same way.
Subjective measures may sound hard to define, but it can be done -- using scientifically validated measurements and methods. More specifically, leaders need to identify those experiences and beliefs with strong ties to real-world behavior change, such as higher performance and retention.
Gallup's new DEI perspective paper, Advancing DEI Initiatives: A Guide for Organizational Leaders, outlines survey items that capture authentic equity and inclusion within organizations. When these items are combined with historical and industry benchmarks, as well as other organizational data, the findings can provide leaders with a clear window into the diversity, equity and inclusion issues within their organization. They can also help leaders identify which targeted practices are likely to be most effective and improve the outcome of ongoing DEI initiatives.
From Check-the-Box DEI Programs to Culture Transformation
Most organizational leaders now realize that one-time, companywide trainings have significant limitations. Culture isn't what happens in a day; it's what happens every day. It's not peripheral to business performance; it's the way work gets done.
In the same way, releasing diversity reports and setting ambitious goals are less important than the long-term commitment of leaders. Measurement is not enough. Leaders must integrate DEI fully into their decision-making in a sustained way.
Culture isn't what happens in a day; it's what happens every day. It's not peripheral to business performance; it's the way work gets done.
When Gallup speaks with CHROs from the world's leading corporations, they mention that the DEI journey is a long one, full of mistakes, detours and learning opportunities. It's not easy, and it's not for the faint of heart. It requires champions, in leadership and throughout the workplace, who are in it for the long term.
For this reason, we believe that leadership commitment is the foundation for lasting DEI success. The best metrics, best policies and "best practices" don't matter without the will of leaders to press on through challenges.
To build an effective, long-term DEI strategy, leaders need to answer the following four questions:
- What is your commitment?
- What changes will you make?
- How will you track progress?
- How will you sustain progress?
There are no quick fixes or easy answers when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. But the rewards are worth it.
Gallup workplace science shows that when employees see people like themselves represented in leadership, they are more likely to trust their leaders. And when they feel respected and included, they are more engaged at work. As a result, they are more productive, creative and satisfied with their organization. A culture that gets diversity, equity and inclusion right is ultimately a more thriving, healthier organization.
Make DEI a priority in your organization:
- Create a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace where every employee can use their voice.
- Download the report, Advancing DEI Initiatives: A Guide for Organizational Leaders, for more information.
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