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What Is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and How Do You Implement It in the Workplace?

One quick look at your LinkedIn feed will reveal countless articles and posts mentioning three words – diversity, equity, and inclusion. But what do those terms mean for the modern employer and job searcher? How are they distinct from each other?

This blog will speak to how diversity, equity, and inclusion have taken shape in the professional realm over the past few years, what each term means, how it’s shifting, and what employers need to know.

What Is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, or DE&I, for short, broadly defines the movement for policies and procedures that promote fair representation and participation by unique groups of individuals. Categories comprising “unique groups” may vary, and though DE&I initiatives aim to improve work outcomes and experiences for every employee, they especially aim to promote minority groups.

In a recent CNBC survey, 78% of employees said it is important to them to work at an organization that prioritizes DE&I, with more than half of respondents adding that they highly prioritize a DE&I-centered organization when choosing a place to work.

Why Diversity Is Important

Diversity looks at differences and approaches variation with respect and appreciation. You might see diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, body size, ability, belief system, or a variety of other aspects. Appreciating diversity is by no means enough to fulfill the needs of a varied workforce, but it lowers surface-level barriers.

For example, if a recruiter asks the now-ubiquitous interview question: “What does diversity mean to you?” or mentions at some point that the company has diversity in its core values, a candidate might feel relieved if they also value difference or identify with any minority group. In fact, a 2020 Glassdoor survey found that nearly one-third of employees and job seekers would not apply for a job at a company where there is a lack of diversity among its workforce.

Why Inclusion Is Important

Unfortunately, some companies will hire diverse talent but miss the opportunity to encourage inclusion once they’re on board. Inclusion moves diversity out of the philosophical realm of appreciating differences and into the more practical world of giving everyone within the company “a seat at the table.”

In practical terms, this means not only allowing people to share ideas authentically but also demanding that decision-makers respect and value every individual’s contributions while promoting an environment where everyone knows that diversity is respected and praised.

Inclusion understands that minority issues will always impact those with lived experience more deeply than majority groups outside that experience, so inclusion demands minority input at every stage of decision making. It could look like gathering LGBTQIA+ individuals to provide feedback on organizations the company could donate to during Pride Month – or asking autistic employees to share accurate resources for Autism Awareness Month – and then making reasonable strides to follow their guidance as closely as possible.

Why Equity Is Important

While diversity lays the groundwork for DE&I initiatives and inclusion gets the movement running, it’s equity that attracts and retains diverse talent. Where inclusion gives everyone a voice, equity calls us to challenge workplace norms so that everyone gets to participate in the company equally.

For example, what if a manager demanded that every employee work the same hours – from 9-7 each workday? A single parent who needs to arrange for childcare can easily work their preferred schedule, 6 to 4, especially considering that their job can be worked remotely. One reasonable scheduling accommodation could make this employee feel like an equal, valuable member of the team. Whereas denying it impacts their finances, family’s well-being, and mental health. In turn, failure to allow an earlier schedule could tank performance at the company, yielding less productive output. Equity creates continual wins for everyone.

Tips on How to Make DE&I Real for Your Organization

Now that we’ve determined what DE&I is and how to implement it let’s talk about how to bring these powerful initiatives to work.

Applications and Job Descriptions

It all starts with the application process. An internal report from Hewlett Packard has shown a gender gap in how men and women apply to jobs:

Men will confidently apply to a position for which they meet roughly 60% of the qualifications, whereas women won’t apply until that number is much closer to 100%.

So closing the gap might look like eliminating specifics from your job description. For example, “7-9 years of experience in project management” might change to “provable experience leading projects from ideation to execution” to engage more applicants.

Your Company’s Hiring Process

Your diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts should continue throughout the interview, onboarding, and employment lifecycle too. So, let’s say the project management candidate above received an interview. You may ask them about diversity in your meeting to let them know what it means to your team and make sure their answer aligns with the company’s vision. It does, so they get the job. Then, in the employee onboarding, you’ll introduce your new hire to the DE&I program at the company.

Include Your Team in DE&I Initiatives

Ideally, your work doesn’t stop there. Hold your teams accountable to keep up with DE&I meetings. Listen to individuals from all protected groups and the allies who support them. Include everyone by being mindful of who your decisions, policies, and procedures benefit – and who they exclude. Then, reform your policies to be more inclusive.

Looking for a Happy, Productive Workforce?

If you take the right steps to encourage DE&I, you’ll see returns on your investment with a productive, happy workforce. Are you looking to bolster your DE&I efforts? At TeamSoft, DE&I is very close to our hearts, and we partner with various organizations to help our clients find qualified talent from all walks of life. Contact us today to let us help you find diverse talent to enhance your team!