All roads lead to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the workplace. But which one do you take?

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It’s been a challenging time in so many different ways. COVID-19, highly publicized police shootings of Black individuals, and the politically charged climate in the United States especially stand out. Amidst all this is a considerable spike in awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as a crucial topic. For many, recent events merely amplified long-standing issues around DEI and brought to light the challenges that hinder DEI progress.

Being a natural extension of society, the workplace is affected as well. So, we surveyed a wide range of HR and business professionals near the end of 2020 to get a better understanding of where DEI stands in companies, what the priorities are at this point in time, the subsequent action items and goals, and the challenges that hinder DEI progress. Nearly 800 completed the survey.

Major takeaways include the following:

  • 63% of respondents have DEI as a priority in their organization, whether it’s some initiatives in place or a permanent part of their mission, vision, and values.
  • An additional 17.6% say they’re interested – but either haven’t started or don’t know how to start.
  • 23.6% of respondents say they started considering DEI in their business strategy in 2020.
  • 96.7% of females say DEI is personally important to them – and 12.3% of males say it is not.
  • 28.8% of those in entry-level / individual contributor jobs think executives, directors and managers should own DEI progress, compared with 22% of the latter who think the same.
  • Moral obligation is a top motivator in prioritizing DEI in a company, according to 50.6% of respondents.
  • Buy-in, lack of diverse talent pool, and know-how are major hurdles in DEI progress.
 

We identified four major themes in the dataset:

The democratic driver

The prioritization of DEI in the workplace is largely a response to an amplified call for action at the grassroots level, especially employees.

We talk, but can we walk?

While the voice for DEI in the workplace is clear and largely unified, there are disconnects in who should be leading it and how.

The gender division

There are stark differences in responses by gender identity – particularly in terms of personal opinion and perceived progress.

Talent pool isn’t broad enough

For many respondents, talent availability is a major limiter in diversifying a workforce – this is especially the case in Manufacturing.

In short, there are optimistic – and very much actionable – lessons here that will help reconcile the chasm between “talking the talk” and “walking the walk” when establishing a tangible and sustainable DEI strategy in your organization.
 

We hope you find our survey results to be useful and interesting to you both professionally and personally. Any thoughts or questions, please feel free to share them with us via Twitter, LinkedIn, or by direct email. You can also download the PDF version of the survey here.

Lead author: Keith MacKenzie
Editing: Alexandra Marinaki, Zinovia Panagopoulou
Data analysis: Dimosthenis Giannigiotis
Design: Rennie Abraham, Vasso Patsiavoudi

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Amy Christenson
Director of People, Second Nature

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Building an inclusive hiring process is one of the first – and most important – steps you can take in your diversity, equity and inclusion strategy. A diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace starts with hiring, which is why we're developing even more solutions to support DEI at every stage of the recruitment process.

Learn how Workable can help boost your DEI strategy

Table of contents

CHAPTER 1

The democratic drive for DEI

—  The moral imperative

—  Personal motivation

—  Progress depends on who you ask

—  Different companies, different priorities


CHAPTER 2

The disconnect in responsibility

—  Who started the conversation?

—  Who’s actually doing the work?


CHAPTER 3

The path is fraught with hurdles

—  Buy-in is a challenge

—  Diversity is limited to available talent

CHAPTER 4

Setting a clear path for progress

—  Areas of priority

—  Measurable data points

—  Action items


CHAPTER 5

DEI in the recruiter’s eye

—  Measurable data points

—  Action items



CHAPTER 7

Conclusion

 

CHAPTER 1

The democratic drive for DEI

Fadjanie Cadet, L.E.K. Consulting's Diversity Recruitment and Engagement Lead, told us in August 2020 that the prioritization of DEI in organizations has evolved over time from being strictly a compliance-based initiative, through to a proven business case for DEI strategy, to ‘it’s the right thing to do’. Fadjanie is right – and our survey results prove it.

The moral imperative

When asked about the current state of DEI in their company, the vast majority of those in our survey cited an active level of interest in DEI, with nearly two-third of respondents (63% combined) saying they have some initiatives in place or that DEI is a permanent part of their company’s overall mission / vision / values. An additional 17.6% say there is interest, and that it’s just a matter of when or how to do it.

What is the current state of DEI
in your company?

 

“We had DEI as a consideration [...] years ago, however, this did not extend beyond hiring. Starting [in 2020], we have made top executive changes and are putting in significant effort to make sure that DEI is not only in numbers but that all employees will have an equitable experience at the company.”

When did DEI become a
consideration for your company?

In terms of DEI strategy planning, two-thirds of respondents (64.1%) say the DEI strategy in their company either started before 2020 or had always been a part of their company strategy. An additional 18.3% say they started considering DEI in 2020, and 5.3% say DEI will be a consideration going forward.

 

“We have just put some initiatives in place, specifically around racial diversity in response to the [Black Lives Matter] movement.”

We found that the number-one motivator in considering DEI as part of a company’s overall strategy is moral obligation, with 50.6% of all respondents picking that as one of their company’s top three reasons for considering DEI. Closely following are employee expectations at 47.6% and talent attraction, engagement and retention (also 47.6%).

Just one in 10 respondents ticked the “compliance” box (10.1%), and one in five selected the “business benefits” box (21.7%). This suggests that many companies have progressed far beyond both as a motivator for having a DEI strategy – and far more into the area of ‘it’s the right thing to do’ in response to an amplified call for progress in DEI. Moreover, DEI is no longer simply an initiative – it is now becoming a permanent strategy for many businesses.

What are your company’s top
motivators in considering DEI?

 

“This started with a walk-out of the company that was organized by an anonymous group of employees, but included a large group of employees.”

Is DEI personally an
important topic for you?

Personal motivation

Our survey dataset also confirms a significant personal interest in diversity, equity and inclusion. When we asked respondents if DEI is personally important to them, 69.9% answered “Yes, and it always has been”. An additional 23.1% answered “Yes, and it became more important to me [in 2020]”. This means a combined 93% of respondents say it’s now important at a personal level.

The responses differ significantly by gender, however. Nearly three quarters (73.3%) of those who identify as female say it has always been personally important to them, compared with 65% of those who identify as male and 69.9% of all respondents. While only eight out of 788 respondents in our survey identified as “Other” – two as gender-fluid and four as non-binary – seven did say it has always been important, with just one “No” answer.

Is DEI personally a
important topic for you? (by gender)

The discrepancy in gender is even more striking when looking at non-prioritization of DEI: A full 12.3% of males say it isn’t personally important to them, compared with just 3.3% of females.

The numbers also differ when breaking down answers by whether a respondent identifies as a minority or not. Three quarters (74%) of those who identify as a minority in any category say DEI has always been a personally important topic for them, compared with 69.9% overall, while 8.6% of non-minorities say it isn’t personally important to them, compared with 7% overall.

Is DEI personally an important topic for you?
(based on respondents identifying as a minority or non-minority in work and home communities)

Progress depends on
who you ask

When we asked respondents if they feel their company is making meaningful progress in DEI – a clear majority (73.4%) answered “Yes”.

However, again, there are significant differences when breaking down the respondents across specific demographics. First, 71.4% of females think their company is making meaningful progress, compared with 77% of males who feel the same way.

Do you feel like your company is making
meaningful progress in DEI? (by gender)

The dataset also finds 71.1% of those who identify as a minority in both their work and home communities think their company is making meaningful progress, compared with 74.6% of those who didn’t identify as a minority.

We also identified differences in answers when breaking responses down by industry. Those in Accounting / Finance are much more likely to answer “Yes” at 85.2%, while those in Business / Consulting Services (67.9%) and HR / Recruiting (67.7%) are less likely to answer “Yes” than overall.

Do you feel like your company is making meaningful progress in DEI? (by industry)

 

“[We’re] currently in a state of exploration. We're investors with a global portfolio, so [we’re] looking at DEI both internally and [...] what it means for the companies we've invested in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.”

Different companies,
different priorities

While it’s generally agreed that DEI is the right thing to do, that people are the drivers behind that sentiment, and that progress is being made to some degree, the level of prioritization differs especially across industries or company sizes.

Leading industries who answered
"DEI is a permanent part of our mission / vision / values"
or "We have some initiatives in place"

Leading industries who answered
"It is not a priority for my company"

For instance, those in IT / Technology / SaaS are the most likely of the seven industries with a significant sample size to say that “DEI is not a priority for my company” (13.3% versus 11% overall). Those in Education, albeit a much smaller sample size, are the only ones with a higher percentage to not consider DEI a priority in their company, at 15.2%.

Those in Manufacturing are much more likely (22.4%) to report that they are interested in DEI, but don’t know where to start – more than double the percentage of any other sector.

Leading industries who answered
"We are interested, but haven't started yet"
or "We are interested, but we don't know where to start"

When breaking the numbers down by company size, the disparity between numbers is more striking. Nearly one quarter (23.5%) of those in companies with more than 5,000 full-time employees say DEI is not a priority in their company, while nearly half (47.2%) of those with 1-9 full-time employees report that DEI is a permanent part of their mission / vision / values. This doesn’t necessarily suggest that enterprise-level companies are less interested – perhaps it’s that the approval process for new initiatives takes longer or is more convoluted in a larger organization, while smaller companies are more nimble in making new decisions.

It’s also noteworthy that exactly one-fifth (20%) of those in companies of 5,000 or more FTEs report that they didn’t know what the current state of DEI is in their company, while 22.6% of those in the 1-9 FTE bracket answered the same.

When did DEI become a consideration for your company?
(by employee size)

Local and regional companies (28.1% combined) are more likely to report DEI as not being a priority than their national and multinational counterparts (18.1% combined).

Nevertheless, despite these disconnects, there’s a majority of support for DEI in the workplace and that holds significant weight for companies in considering DEI as a priority. This signals an organic amplification in the voice supporting DEI initiatives – in other words, it’s a democratically driven decision led by people.

 

“DEI helps people to be themselves in the workplace and truly is important for overall productivity outcomes. People can perform better when they can be themselves.”

 

CHAPTER 2

The disconnect in responsibility

While there is overwhelming support for DEI, and “everyone” is responsible in some shape or form, executives clearly bear the brunt of individual responsibility in taking the lead in DEI progress – especially according to those in entry-level or individual contributor positions.

In your own opinion, who should be responsible for overall DEI initiatives in your company, if any? (answers by job level)

Those at the executive or director / manager level are less likely to say that those at their own job level should be responsible at 22%, compared with 28.8% of those in entry-level or individual contributor positions.

Those in higher-level positions (18.9%) are also more likely than those in entry-level or individual contributor positions (14.3%) to say that a dedicated DEI manager / committee / task force should be responsible for overall DEI initiatives in their company.

When looking at overall responses, while two out of five respondents (38.6%) say that everyone is responsible for seeing increased diversity, equity and inclusion in their organization, 26.3% say that executives and management should be responsible. Another 15.9% say it should be led by a dedicated DEI task force or DEI manager.

There are two ways to look at this: first, it could be the tendency to say, yes, it needs to happen, but the actual work should be owned by someone else, or it could be that employees are looking to their leaders to set direction and define the culture of the company.

Ultimately, though, when looking at the very low numbers of those who say no one should be responsible, it’s safe to suggest that our respondents wholly believe we’re in it together and that someone should absolutely take ownership of initiatives to ensure DEI progress. However, we shouldn’t ignore that striking discrepancy between higher-level responses and staff-level responses.

In your own opinion, who should be responsible
for overall DEI initiatives in your company, if any?

Who initiated the conversation that ultimately
put a higher priority on DEI in your company?

Who started the conversation?

Our data clearly shows that the call for greater DEI throughout an organization is being acknowledged at the decision-making level, with formal action items being established in many cases. As for who started that conversation on DEI in the first place, 47.4% of respondents say executives and management initiated it, compared with 15.5% who say it was non-HR employees who prompted that conversation.

When breaking down the numbers by industry, there are differences. We found that 58.5% of those in Manufacturing and 61.3% of those in HR / Recruiting say executives and management ultimately started that conversation – significantly higher than the 47.4% of all respondents who responded the same as stated above.

Who initiated the conversation that ultimately put a higher priority on DEI in your company? (by industry)

Who initiated the conversation that ultimately put
a higher priority on DEI in your company? (by gender)

Of those in IT / Technology / SaaS, 25% say HR representatives initiated the conversation, compared with 16.5% overall, while one quarter (24.5%) of those in Healthcare say they didn’t know, compared with 17.9% overall. Education (7.1%) and Manufacturing (7.5%) are more likely to say their customers initiated the conversation, compared with just 2.7% overall.

That is, of course, not to say that customer opinion isn’t important – it is. It’s possible that DEI is viewed through an internal lens (DEI in the employee base) as opposed to a customer-facing lens (DEI in product/service). There are, however, overlaps – the customer-facing component of your workforce can influence buying habits in both positive and negative ways.

Male versus female answers also turn up interesting findings. Those who identify as male are more likely to say executives and management started the conversation (46% vs. 40%). Those who identify as female are more likely to say that HR representatives (17.1% vs. 16.7% overall) or that non-HR employees (16.7% vs. 9.6% overall) started that conversation.

Who’s actually doing the work?

Ultimately, when asked who is actually tasked with executing on DEI initiatives, nearly one quarter (23.9%) say Human Resources owns that area – compared with 11.6% who say HR should be responsible (as indicated above).

Who is tasked with executing
on DEI initiatives in your company?

 

“Our HR [department] drives initiatives, supported by the executive team. [At] the same time, we have an employee resource group that serves as a I&D [inclusion and diversity] committee, which brainstorms / discusses / evaluates ideas monthly. We are also training our managers and relying on them to act upon our goals during hires, promotion cycles, etc.”

Are you tasked with executing on DEI initiatives
in your own work capacity? (by gender)

We also asked respondents directly if they are tasked with executing on DEI initiatives in their own work capacity. Overall, 61.6% say yes. Again, the numbers differ when breaking that down by gender identity, with 66% of females answering “Yes” compared with 57.4% of males.

Those who identify as a minority in both their work and local communities also disproportionally answered “Yes” at 65.6%, compared with 61.6% overall.

This indicates that the work of informing and educating others on DEI is disproportionately borne by females and minorities.

Are you tasked with executing on DEI initiatives in your own work capacity?
(based on respondents identifying as a minority or non-minority in work and home communities)

 

CHAPTER 3

The path is fraught
with hurdles

We’ve determined that while the statements in support of DEI are clearly defined, there are some disconnects in terms of who should be carrying out DEI initiatives.

Now, let’s look at the challenges that make it difficult to pursue DEI targets.

Buy-in is a challenge

While the number of respondents saying that DEI is not a priority in their company is relatively small (just 11% overall), we did ask them why it isn’t a priority. The vast majority say there is no interest or buy-in from the executive level (45.3%) or from anyone in general (41.9%).

Why isn’t DEI a priority at your company?
Please select up to three reasons from the list below.

Of those who answered "Executives aren’t
interested / there’s no executive buy-in"

We also found that those who identify as female are much more likely to say lack of interest from executives (60.5%) was a reason for non-prioritization of DEI in their company, compared with those who identify as male (39.5%).

Again, there’s a major discrepancy here. Is it due to a correlation with a greater proportion of employee-level respondents identifying as female? Or is it due to underrepresentation of females in executive / senior-level / managerial positions? Or is it because when DEI is emphasized as a topic by a respondent, there’s more resistance to someone who identifies as female? There are numerous potential variables here that deserve to be explored in greater depth.

 

“I've never seen any minority or female candidates denied or taken less seriously, but the simple fact is that there just aren't as many female, Black, and Hispanic CS [computer science] grads as there are male, white, Indian, and east Asian CS grads.”

Diversity is limited to available talent

Diversifying one’s workforce often starts with sourcing, recruiting and hiring more diverse talent – and that is cited as a significant hurdle in a company’s DEI strategy. Respondents say that the available talent pool in their industry (37.1%) and their location (25.7%) are major challenges in attaining stated DEI targets.

Overall, what are the major challenges your company
faces in meeting stated DEI targets?

 

“As a White woman working on a team with 90% men, most of whom are White or non-Black, DEI is an extremely important initiative that needs to be nurtured and facilitated actively. From a hiring perspective, it can be difficult to make progress on DEI efforts when the talent pool largely consists of non-Black & White males. We do make an effort to seek out individuals who would diversify the workplace as this is something we value greatly, however the hiring decision normally comes down to talent, experience, and fit.”

"Talent Pool in Industry" selected as a major challenge
in meeting stated DEI targets (by industry)

 

 

"Talent Pool in Location" selected as a major challenge
in meeting stated DEI targets (by industry)

While diversification efforts are limited to talent availability across the board according to our respondents, Manufacturing led other industries here. For those in Manufacturing, the available talent pool in their industry (48.3%) and in their location (34.5%) are cited as major challenges.

One explanation might be that the manufacturing sector appeals to a specific demographic of the population that isn’t as diverse as the status quo. Perhaps it’s a more male-dominated sector for a variety of reasons – traditionally assumed physical labor requirements, for instance. An explanation for location-based challenges is that manufacturing may involve more physically present work than other sectors – and thus limiting the option to hire remotely to broaden one’s available talent pool.

The ability to operate remotely with distributed teams deserves attention here. Two out of five respondents (39.7%) did say that hiring remotely is a DEI initiative introduced in 2020 – which coincides with the significant shift to remote work in 2020 as a result of COVID-19. We’ll come back to that point later on.

Overall, the limitations are clear. To actively pursue DEI, you need people on board, both in opinion and in availability.

 

CHAPTER 4

Setting a clear path for progress

Stating intent and amplifying the importance of DEI is significant in itself, but a common refrain is that it’s not enough. Talking the talk is easy enough, but people want to see action and results.

That means in order for an organization to see progress in a DEI strategy, there needs to be clearly defined and attainable goals, and tangible action items to reach those goals. That’s the nature of running a business. So, in our survey, we wanted to learn what those goals and action items are for our audience.

From the list below, select up to three areas
of priority in your company’s DEI strategy.

Areas of priority

When it comes to areas of priority in a company’s DEI strategy – which can help a company define measurable targets – two thirds of respondents (64.8%) highlighted diversity throughout the entire company as an area of priority in a DEI strategy, followed by equity in opportunity, contribution and advancement at 45.3%. One quarter (25%) of respondents listed diversity at the executive / management level as a priority.

In terms of inclusion, inclusive teams is the third-most popular area of priority at 26.4%, while inclusive leadership (16.8%) and inclusive benefits / perks / policies (12.4%) are further down the list of areas of priority in DEI strategy. Just 6.4% cite having an inclusive product or service as a priority.

 

“[It’s about] creating a company culture that provides an equitable work experience for everyone including employees in minority groups.”

Measurable data points

When respondents were asked about measurable data points used to track progress, demographics throughout an entire company (53.4%) far outranked demographics at the executive / management level (23.6%) as leading metrics.

Adding to the earlier point that the prioritization of DEI is democratically driven, 34.7% of respondents cited employee feedback as a leading data point to measure progress towards DEI goals.

From the list below, select up to three measurable data points your company uses to measure progress towards DEI goals.

Action items

To ensure progress, it’s essential to have clearly defined areas of priority and measurable data points. So we asked about the actual action items in our survey respondents’ DEI strategy, and when they started to apply them.

First, 61.6% of respondents say having DEI-friendly benefits / perks / policies – i.e. flexible working hours – was already established prior to 2020, and 51.5% of respondents say sourcing and recruiting more diverse candidates was an existing practice in their company before 2020.

The most popular action items introduced during 2020 are training sessions (25.7%) and sourcing and recruiting more diverse candidates (also 25.5%). Mentorship programs and targeted development are most likely to be planned in the future (21%). Affinity networks (33%), company audits (29%), and mentorship programs / targeted development (28.8%) are top choices by respondents as having no plans in place for those items.

Popular action items supporting DEI initiatives

 

“Moving forward, we will adopt more company-wide data that, when separated by minority groups, show declining or ideally no statistical difference amongst groups to measure our progress.”

By industry, we found that those in Accounting / Finance had the most action items in place prior to 2020 on average (53.5% compared with 43.4% overall), with those in Manufacturing most likely to not have plans for each action item on average (29.7% compared with 21.5% overall).

Popular action items supporting DEI initiatives (Accounting / Finance)

Popular action items supporting DEI initiatives (Manufacturing)

Popular action items supporting DEI initiatives (IT / Technology / SaaS)

 

CHAPTER 5

DEI in the recruiter’s eye

A core component of increasing diversity within a company starts with recruitment. After all, your company is comprised of the people you hire. The potential for implicit bias in hiring teams when screening and evaluating candidates is also a factor. So, we wanted to understand the initiatives related to improving DEI specifically in recruiting and hiring.

Across the board, 56.1% say yes, they do have initiatives related to DEI in recruiting and hiring, while an additional 23.9% say they didn’t have initiatives yet, but plan on it.

Does your company have initiatives related to improving DEI in recruiting and hiring, specifically?

When breaking down the numbers by industry, we found that 28.7% of those in IT / Technology / SaaS are more likely than average to not have hiring-specific DEI initiatives but plan on it, while those in HR / Recruiting (67.7%) and Consulting / Business Services (66.1%) are more likely than average to have a plan in place.

The numbers also differed starkly by company size and geographic area. Those in the 500-999 FTE (71.2%) and 5000+ FTE (62.5%) buckets stated that they have initiatives in place, while multinational companies are far less likely than overall to not have DEI initiatives in their hiring and recruiting (15.4% versus 20% overall).

Does your company have initiatives related to improving DEI in recruiting and hiring, specifically? (by industry)

In recruiting and hiring specifically, what are the top measurable data points your company uses to measure progress towards DEI initiatives and goals?

Measurable data points

When asked about top measurable data points for measuring DEI progress in recruiting and hiring specifically, the top data points were all based on demographics, with demographics in final pool of candidates / actual hires (46.6%), demographics in existing workforce (43.8%) and demographics of applicants beyond compliance (43%) highlighted.

Demographics in hiring teams is further down the list at 24.8%, while feedback from employees (31.9%) and candidates (12.2%) is also not as highly rated.

Again, the numbers differ starkly by industry. Those in Accounting / Finance are more likely to look at demographics of applicants (56.7% compared with 43% overall), while those in Manufacturing are much less likely (30%) to prioritize that as a metric. Strikingly, those in Manufacturing (40%) highlighted demographics in hiring teams as much more of a priority than overall (24.8%).

In recruiting and hiring specifically, what are the top measurable
data points your company uses to measure progress towards DEI initiatives and goals?

Action items

When it came to identifying action items supporting DEI initiatives in recruiting and hiring and when those were implemented, benefits / perks / policies led the way in already-established items before 2020 with 66.8% of respondents checking that box. Training for hiring teams was a leader in action items planned for future (17.1%).

Leading the way in terms of “no plans for this item” are AI-driven shortlisting (56.6%), talent market segmentation (43.9%), and blind evaluation (41.7%).

2020 saw a significant paradigm shift towards remote work as a result of COVID-19 as found in our New World of Work report published in August 2020, and that was evident in a very specific area: remote hiring. Perhaps concurrently, two out of five respondents (39.7%) in our DEI survey cite remote hiring to broaden their talent pool as an action item that had been introduced in 2020.

Promoting a DEI company culture (28.4%), training for hiring teams (24.8%), and diverse hiring teams (24.2%) are other popular action items introduced during the course of 2020.

Popular action items supporting DEI initiatives in recruiting and hiring

 

“It’s about sourcing out of my network to ensure it’s diverse. We are a seed company and don't have a HR team that can recruit.”

However, when breaking those numbers down by industry, the numbers differ from the overall baseline. Those in Accounting / Finance are more likely to have already established action items in place before 2020 on average (55.1% vs. 43.3% overall), whereas those in IT / Technology / SaaS are more likely to have no plans for specific items on average (26.9% vs 23.3% overall).

Popular action items supporting DEI initiatives in recruiting and hiring (Accounting / Finance)

Again, those in Manufacturing have very different priorities than others: 24.1% introduced blind evaluation in 2020 compared with 13.4% overall, and 27.6% plan to have more diverse job sites going forward compared with 13.9% overall. They are also much less likely than the overall to pick AI-driven shortlisting (34.5% vs. 56.6% overall) and talent market segmentation (36.7% vs. 43.9% overall) as non-action items. At the other end of the spectrum of non-action items, IT / Technology / SaaS are much more likely to have no plans for AI-driven shortlisting (67.2% vs. 56.6%) and affirmative action (43.2% vs. 32.6% overall).

Popular action items supporting DEI initiatives in recruiting and hiring (Manufacturing)

Popular action items supporting DEI initiatives in recruiting and hiring (IT / Technology / SaaS)

 

“I think putting a number on it, a percentage, or offering ‘perks’, is the wrong way to look at it. People should be treated equally yet completely differently at the same time. I believe people should be treated with respect and as equals and, as far as recruitment goes, the person best equipped for the job should be successful.”

 

CHAPTER 6

But there’s a lack of
real ‘know how’

Despite all of this, what really stands out is an overall need to learn more about how to build a DEI strategy and put it in action.

As stated above, nearly a fifth of respondents say that they are interested but either don’t know where to start or hadn’t started yet (17.6% combined). Combine that with the two out of five respondents (39.1%) who cite “creating a sustainable strategy that lasts over time” as a major challenge in their DEI strategy (leading all other challenges, including talent and buy-in), and it is clear that lack of “know how” is a significant hurdle.

What is the current state of DEI in your company?

When we broke down the state of DEI by industry, we found that those in Manufacturing are significantly more likely to be interested in DEI but don’t know where to start (22.4% versus 9.1% of all answers).

In short, our respondents say that they’re ready and willing, especially in making DEI a permanent, sustainable business strategy – but they indicate that a playbook or road map would be helpful.

What is the current state of DEI in your company? (by industry)

 

CHAPTER 7

Conclusion

 

“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.”

The voice in our dataset 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.

Including DEI 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 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 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.

 

“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.”

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.”

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

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

Equity

At its most basic level, equity is also measurable 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.

 

“I believe [2020] 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.”

Inclusion

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 action items.

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, we’ll all get there.

Methodology and Firmographics

We received 788 complete responses to our survey, mostly in the 10-499 FTE size range, primarily in the IT/tech industry (31.5%), headquartered in US / Canada (68.7%), and predominantly managers and directors (51.5%) working in HR or Recruitment (32.7% combined). On a personal level, 40.6% self-identified as a minority, and 57.6% identified as female. Most respondents are in the 21-29 and 30-39 age brackets (65.7% combined).

The survey was live during the period of October 6-20, 2020. It was distributed to Workable customers and prospects via email, newsletters, social media, and website announcements. It included a total of 30 questions.

How many full-time employees work in your company?

Which of the following best describes your company’s primary industry?

Which economic region is your company headquartered in?

Is your company:

What best describes your primary job function?

Which of the following best describes
your current job level?

Select the option that you identify with:

Which category below includes your age?

Do you identify as a member of a minority group (be it race, ethnicity, language, religion, country of origin, or another characteristic)?