This is the eighth and final excerpt from our survey report titled All roads lead to diversity, equity & inclusion in the workplace. But which one do you take?, which was published in January 2021. Nearly 800 business and HR professionals filled out the 30-question survey, resulting in numerous compelling insights both for business and recruitment interests.
The voice in our survey data is clear – there is considerable support for DEI initiatives both at a personal level and at an organizational level. We have a destination in mind – but we just don’t know how to progress in DEI-focused areas in the same way that other business operations are carried out.
In this chapter, we address the following questions:
- What are the top takeaways from Workable’s DEI survey results?
- Which DEI initiatives are top priority, and which ones are not?
- What’s the difference between diversity, equity and inclusion?
- How do you build a DEI action plan?
Your DEI action plan
Including a DEI action plan as part of a company’s overarching vision, mission, and values is fairly straightforward in abstract terms, but it gets murkier when you get down to the granular details that are so critical to all areas of business: Who should own that strategy? How should they carry it out? What are the DEI action items? What are the target metrics? How do you measure those metrics? And so on.
That lack of deeper understanding of DEI actionable steps – and the lack of a clear road map, even – is confirmed by significant numbers of respondents saying that they don’t yet have a plan in place or don’t know how to proceed, and even larger numbers saying that establishing a sustainable, long-term DEI action plan and strategy is a leading challenge.
Also, our survey found that diversity and demographics are a clear area of focus for many respondents. Equity and inclusion aren’t as highly prioritized. We also noted the higher percentage of respondents who say there are no plans in place for affinity networks and mentorship programs as action items. We also recognized the lower scores placed on inclusive teams, inclusive leadership, and inclusive benefits and perks as areas of focus in DEI initiatives.
We also saw that some segments in the dataset feel more strongly than others about DEI progress – as indicated in the answers for male vs. female and minority vs. non-minority categories. Perhaps personal experience is a factor in their answers. Perhaps some segments do not feel as included as others think they are.
“From my understanding in my workplace and some of my peers in other organizations, DEI only became a priority after the current events in the media. Previously, there have been a handful of executives all over the media that have been removed for not being compliant with DEI standards […]. But it was not until the more recent events that every company now has some kind of DEI in place. Overall, as a minority, I felt like it should have been addressed a long time ago and now it feels disingenuous, just a reflex to what is happening across the United States.”
Finally, a fifth of respondents say their company only started considering DEI in 2020. It’s uncharted territory for many, and it may be that the surge in interest means a much steeper learning curve in building a thoughtful, sustainable, long-lasting strategy around DEI. Perhaps the spirit of English business mogul Richard Branson’s quote applies here: “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.”
“As important as DEI is to organizations, most are just giving lip service to it. It’s the cool thing to say currently and it’s certainly more acceptable than it was 18 months ago. Companies are still under the illusion that it’s a position for White women or a position that pacifies people of color, and so they’ll put a powerless person in as a figurehead. This survey proves a bit of what I’m saying with all of the softball questions.”
Our own lesson is that we must understand diversity, equity and inclusion as three separate elements of the bigger DEI picture, and that we should establish specific metrics and action items for each, while understanding that there will be many overlaps between them:
Diversity is tangible and measurable – X% of your company’s workforce is A, while Y% of your workforce is B, Z% of your workforce is C, and so on, based on protected characteristics as well as other areas including class, academic history, etc. This is relatively easy to identify and track through company audits, recruitment strategies, and candidate / employee surveys.
At its most basic level, equity is also measurable in a DEI action plan in terms of salary, advancement, benefits and perks, and so on. However, when we start looking at individual contribution, distribution of responsibilities, assignment and ownership of tasks, and treatment of colleagues, that becomes a little harder to concretize and track – but not impossible. One can establish action items here such as targeted development and mentorship, management training, a more diverse and self-aware leadership, and operation audits.
Unlike diversity and equity, inclusion is more abstract than concrete. It’s the sense of belonging, value, support, and respect that one feels in society and in a company – and that’s largely impacted by individual behavior and collective company culture. While difficult to tangibly measure beyond employee surveys, inclusion can be augmented through inclusive leadership, psychologically safe work environments, affinity networks, sensitivity and management training sessions, company language audits, and other items in a DEI action plan.
The explosion in DEI as a topic of interest in 2020 has resulted in a vastly publicized wealth of actionable lessons from experts and influencers in the space that we can and should start working on right now to truly define DEI in tangible business terms. This means thinking about your company mission, vision, values, and positioning statement, followed by identifying areas of priority and defining data points to monitor progress, and finally, implementing clear action items to hit those goals.
The commitment is clear. The information is readily available. There is work to be done – and it involves every one of us. Real, tangible action speaks louder than words and statements, and your employer brand may depend on it. With time and business smarts, and a well-thought-out DEI action plan, we’ll all get there.
“I believe  will be pivotal in future talent attraction success. Companies will be challenged by candidates with the question; ‘How did your company change after the [Black Lives Matter] Movement in 2020?’ and they better be ready with a game-changing answer! Similar questions are to be expected around LGBT, the #MeToo movement and how we treated parents during COVID who had to deal with juggling lockdown, WFH, and childcare.”
Frequently asked questions
- What are the key insights from Workable’s DEI survey results?
- The survey results indicate a strong support for DEI initiatives at both personal and organizational levels. However, many respondents expressed uncertainty about how to advance DEI in the same way as other business operations. There's a clear need for a roadmap to guide DEI action plans.
- Which DEI initiatives are prioritized and which ones are not?
- The survey found that diversity and demographics are a primary focus for many respondents, while equity and inclusion are not as highly prioritized. Affinity networks and mentorship programs, as well as inclusive teams, leadership, and benefits, received lower scores as areas of focus in DEI initiatives.
- What is the difference between diversity, equity, and inclusion in a DEI action plan?
- Diversity is tangible and measurable, referring to the representation of different groups in your workforce. Equity involves fair treatment and opportunities for all employees, which can be measured in terms of salary, advancement, and benefits. Inclusion, while more abstract, refers to the sense of belonging, value, and respect that employees feel in the company.
- How do you build a DEI action plan?
- Building a DEI action plan involves defining your company's mission, vision, and values, identifying priority areas, defining data points to monitor progress, and implementing clear action items to achieve your goals. It's important to understand diversity, equity, and inclusion as separate elements of the bigger DEI picture, with specific metrics and action items for each.
- What are the challenges in establishing a sustainable, long-term DEI action plan?
- Many respondents indicated that establishing a sustainable, long-term DEI action plan is a leading challenge. This is due to a lack of deeper understanding of DEI actionable steps and a clear roadmap. It's also a relatively new area of focus for many companies, which means a steeper learning curve.