DEI Policy—Are Companies Just Trying To Check A Box?

DEI Policy—Are Companies Just Trying To Check A Box?

DEI policies are aimed to welcome diverse populations to a discrimination- and harassment-free workplace. But are companies being performative, simply treating DEI policies as a checkbox and not so much as a real responsibility?

About half (49%) of job seekers feel discriminated against during the hiring process and 55% continue to experience discrimination after being in the job. Employers are equally challenged by DEI practices. Over half of employers look toward hiring efforts to meet DEI goals but 43% say they cannot find diverse applicants.

DEI is the evolution of affirmative action, anti-discriminatory laws against race, creed, color, or national origin. Diversity, equity, and inclusion policies are aimed at welcoming and empowering diverse populations in the workforce. Diversity is broadly defined to include different genders, races, ethnicities, abilities and disabilities, religions, cultures, ages, and sexual orientation. It also includes people from diverse backgrounds, experiences, skills, and expertise. DEI policies are company-wide initiatives to create a well-rounded workforce where employees have a sense of belonging.

One of the challenges, according to 36% of employers, is managing the concept that diversity means different things to different people.

Employees are equally dismayed by DEI practices. Some feel that diversity was no more than a buzz word during the hiring process. And others feel that they’re advantageously promoted on company assets to satisfy appearances.

Regardless, there is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusionary workplace. But some of the challenges may be from an incomplete understanding of the three core components of DEI: diversity, equity, and inclusion.

  • Diversity describes the range of differences between people. It includes but is not limited to gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, race, religion, and culture. Diversity is about inviting all people to the party.
  • Equity is a concept of equal opportunity for all the invites. Each person deserves the same opportunities to grow and develop in the workplace. Equity is acknowledging that there are certain advantages and barriers faced by different groups that create imbalances and adjusting practices to meet people where they are or where they come from.
  • Inclusion ensures all employees feel welcomed, valued, and engaged (heard). Inclusion means feeling like part of the team with the same rights, responsibilities, and voice. It is a sense of belonging and ability to be authentic.

While diversity is relatively easy to understand, the other two components — equity and inclusion — have broad interpretations. To responsibly effect a DEI policy in the workplace, everyone needs to share in the responsibilities. It is more than writing a policy and managing it through HR. Employees, managers, leaders, and employers collectively create a workplace of inclusion.

DEI practices make a significant impact on the company. They create a positive work environment, boost productivity, and help companies recruit and retain top talent. More importantly, a successful DEI policy creates a rich and creative company culture that is innovative.

Here are four steps to create an effective DEI policy:

  1. Data collection. Conduct interviews and surveys to discover how your workplace views DEI and to determine the status of your current company culture. Get a perspective from every voice, including those in groups that are the most impacted.
  2. Communication. Maintain open communication among employees and managers during the implementation and refinement stage. A lot of this has to do with emotional safety– really making it safe for workers to share their experiences, and perspectives. Understand that different aspects of the policy will be interpreted differently by different groups.
  3. Accountability. This is where a lot of companies are checking boxes and missing the mark… It’s a must to establish metrics to determine whether the program is working. Metrics should include both qualitative and quantitative measures. This should not be about hiring a predetermined number of “diverse” workers. Find ways to measure “belonging” and “empowered.”
  4. Transparency. Transparency doesn’t end once the process has been established. Companies that maintain transparency report greater satisfaction among workers. Institute company-wide transparency to show the progress and company’s commitment to the DEI policy.

Creating a diversity, equity, and inclusion policy doesn’t happen overnight. Nor does it get checked off the “done” list. DEI is an ongoing process that requires commitment on part of everyone involved.